How to Dominate Every Business Negotiation

Business Skills

Do you have what it takes to negotiate?

Walk into the boardroom, look the other party in the eye, state your demands and see who scores a point after each rally. Game, set, match — right?

That’s the question professionals, senior leaders and C-suite executives take to the negotiation table. We are told to ask the five “W’s” (who, what, when, where, why) and “how” questions to avoid “yes” or “no” responses.

But is there more to the art of negotiating? Staying with the tennis analogy, fans will agree that Nick Kyrgios and Rafael Nadal have different temperaments. It’s no secret the Australian professional doesn’t play “nice” when juxtaposed with the Spanish clay-court king.

However, it’s imperative not to misinterpret Kyrgios’ chutzpah as boorish behavior. The Aussie’s negotiation tactics with umpires have not only divided his birth nation, but also global opinion. Chutzpah is a Yiddish word for shameless boldness to state one’s case with total disregard for others. It often carries an undesirable connotation, but it need not be that.

In business circles, chutzpah denotes a boldness that borders on rudeness and ultimately, wins others’ admiration. The audacity or nerve to put one’s points across a negotiation table without offending others is a desirable attribute. Moderation is the key and don’t be apologetic.

Astute negotiators park their egos outside the boardroom door. They know serving an ace wins applause, but the points earned from marathon rallies draw standing ovations. Patience and persistence eclipse the need for an abrupt end to negotiations.

While the art of negotiating in the entrepreneurial landscape is more intense, the basic principles of having a game plan are critical to coming away from a successful negotiation.

Know how to close your endgame

Having an endgame is as good as having a parameter of engagement where negotiators can tick off their boxes of accomplishment. Quite often negotiators trip over the small details lurking in the shadows of the big picture.

Focusing on the small details can drag out a negotiation to where both parties will continue to quibble over minor matters and never finalize the negotiation. Establishing a deadline is crucial for negotiators to find a middle ground and for not letting the talks stray into unproductivity.

Become familiar with the other party’s values

Savvy negotiators always do their homework on the other party. They visualize what it’s like to walk in their counterparts’ shoes. It is not a superficial ritual, but a genuine curiosity to comprehend their needs. This practice will not only benefit your relationship with negotiators but will benefit your relationship with the people you represent.

Understanding the other party’s values brings into play the transactional versus relational values of the other party. Transactional values use a fiscal yardstick to gauge success. The weight of the paycheck determines the establishment’s pecking order.

Relational values embrace a social currency, even if it is a complex one. Individual prosperity gives way to the enterprise’s mission statement, although individuals receive their just rewards. Employee relations, both within the company and with its customers and suppliers, become the threads that form the fabric of a quality company.

A successful boardroom broker factors the other party’s relational and transactional values into their negotiations to find the best deal for all sides of the negotiation.

Don’t let the other party smell desperation

Like a poker player, there’s a time to keep a straight face and a time to express snippets of emotion to call the bluff of rivals around the table. Degrees of desperation are a given when negotiating but never let the other party perceive that as a sign of weakness.

Be loyal to your agenda. Have the willpower to walk away so you don’t show desperation. It requires fortitude to bail out while compromising, but to lose one’s bargaining sway is selling one’s party short.

Before entering the boardroom, good negotiators plot the coordinates for a walk-away point should the other party stray from the negotiations. This impasse to see who bails out first may become obvious, but try not to be the initiator in creating a no-win situation.

In the event of walking away graciously, keep open channels of communication with the other party and remind them that your offer remains on the table should they wish to revisit it.

Leave the boardroom with reputations intact

When embarking on a negotiation, discerning negotiators immediately click the seatbelts across “reputation” and “trust” in the front seats. In planting reputation behind the wheel and trust in the shotgun seat, they cut to the chase in yielding mutually beneficial outcomes.

This means when negotiating parties take stock after an eventful negotiation, they identify a sound agreement — not a win-and-loss balance sheet. This raises the bar of trust, keeps reputations intact and raises the likelihood of any future negotiations.

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Sola James
Feature Writer & Interviewer


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