Everything is fair game; whether you covet a new job, a raise, a business deal, a new car, some new bling, or need to rectify a problem with a loved one, the “art of negotiation” is your secret weapon to achieving the result you want. In my experience, among the greatest strengths of very successful business people is their ability to out-negotiate with others to achieve their desired result.
Negotiating need not be back and forth, point-counterpoint banter. Rather, 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. Here are seven tips you can use to improve your own situation:
1. First and foremost, be prepared to walk away. This is the single most important strategy to getting what you want out of life. If you aren’t prepared to say “No” and mean it, then 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 forgo 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. Due diligence to 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 also 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 are in competition 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 else 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.
6. 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 at a time. 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 are just spinning your wheels.
7. Don’t underestimate karma. What goes around indeed comes around. The best deal is one where both parties walk away feeling positive about the result of the negotiation. The worst deal is that where one side leaves the table feeling slighted with the short end of the stick. If you’re the kind of person who “has” to win and is prepared to humiliate or otherwise make someone feel bad as a result, sooner or later the gain is likely to come back to haunt you. Accordingly, consider in advance what would satisfy the opposition and be prepared to pull those “cards out of your pocket” strategically during the course of discussion.
Here's to your future!
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.