Whether you covet a new job, a raise, or a business deal or you need to rectify a problem with a loved one, the ability to play dealmaker is your secret weapon to getting the result you want. Negotiating doesn't need to be back and forth, point-counterpoint banter. I've found that the most proficient negotiators manage these conversations in such a way that the other party likely does not even know they are engaged in a bargaining process. The bottom line is simple: if there is something you want that is in someone else's control, knowing how to negotiate will stack the odds in your favor. The key is to be tough but fair.
Note: These tips are based on an entry in our Career Management blog.
1: Be prepared to walk away
This is single most important strategy to getting what you want out of life. If you aren't prepared to say, "No" and mean it, you are likely to end up settling for a lesser outcome. Before entering into the negotiation, know in advance exactly what you are and are not willing to concede, so that you do not need to process this information on the fly without adequate time to weigh the pros and cons of each.
2: Know when to forego all together
A good deal comes together quickly. A bad deal takes way too long. Take a clue from the amount of time it's taking to get what you want. If you have to force it, chances are it will come back to bite you later on.
3: Deal at the right level
Nothing is more frustrating than trying to do a deal with an individual who can't make the final decision. It's like negotiating against yourself. You address an issue and try to come to a conclusion and then the other person takes that to someone else behind the scenes, only to come back and say it can't be done on those terms. It's far more efficient and effective to find the right person to negotiate with directly.
4: Come prepared
The more information you have surrounding the circumstances of your endeavor — the marketplace, for example — the more likely you are to not only prevail, but to get the best deal possible. While you may actually prevail by shooting in the dark, not knowing the extent of the opportunity could result in your leaving a lot on the table. Whether it's the average pay for a given job, the price typically paid for a product or a service, or who you're competing with for a new position, knowledge is truly power.
5: Don't take anything personally
To maintain objectivity, treat every negotiation as if you are doing a deal for someone who has hired you as the professional closer. When you allow yourself to get emotionally involved, rational thought often goes by the wayside and you're far more likely to concede to your later regret. Cool heads get the best, and most, out of what they are seeking.
Bonus tip: Anticipate objections
Prior to the negotiation, brainstorm all the reasons or objections that may prevent you from getting what you want and prepare a thoughtful counterpoint for each one. During a negotiation, people conjure all sorts of reasons why something can't be done, many of which are often bogus. Until you know the valid sticking point, you're just spinning your wheels.
John M. McKee is the founder and CEO of BusinessSuccessCoach.net, an international consulting and coaching practice with subscribers in 43 countries. One of the founding senior executives of DIRECTV, his hands-on experience includes leading billion dollar organizations and launching start-ups in both the U.S. and Canada. The author of two published books, he is frequently seen providing advice on TV, in magazines, and newspapers.