Negotiation – one of the most elusive skills in life. Not many people are good at this, and the most successful people I know are the best negotiators.
As Chester Karass famously wrote:
“In business as in Life –
You don’t get what you deserve.
You get what you negotiate.”
Negotiation is defined as ‘discussion aimed at reaching an agreement’, yet many people don’t realise most things in life can be negotiated – whether it’s a business contract, a price on a house, a promotion, or a better salary package.
Most things in life can be negotiated
Many people fear asking for what they want. Some people think they have no choice but to do certain things, live a certain way, be in a certain job, and …. or never get what they want. Yet, if only people had the skills to negotiate, they would be a lot closer to their preferred outcomes.
My negotiation experience comes from running my own business – a training company, which trains corporate clients on various skills — one of them is Negotiation & Influence.
My husband is the Negotiation trainer, and being married to him has its challenges – imagine how difficult it is for me to get my way on where to eat, or which movie to watch, or whose turn it is do the chores!
I’ve experienced negotiation most days – from dealing with business contracts, staffing issues, to deadlines with suppliers, and so on.
Here’s 6 tips you can use to become a better negotiator.
Tip #1: Set a ‘walkaway’ limit, know your B.A.T.N.A.
In negotiation theory, one of the most important terms is ‘BATNA”.
BATNA is a term coined by Roger Fisher and William Ury in their 1981 bestseller, “Getting to Yes: Negotiating Without Giving In”.
It stands for “Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement.”
Before you walk into your next negotiation, it is important to know and evaluate what your alternatives to the ideal outcome are.
You should also establish the course of action that would have the highest value, and also what is the lowest value agreement you would be willing to accept.
Basically, you should know 3 scenarios: best case, worst case, and one you are willing to accept.
In an ideal negotiation, a collaborative win-win solution for both parties is best.
Tip #2: Good Cop, Bad Cop (try at your own risk!)
You’ve watched this in many crime TV shows, and you’ve probably experienced this more than you realise. Sometimes playing ‘Good Cop, Bad Cop’ helps.
In negotiation, sometimes 2 people can take opposing approaches to the subject.
For example, in a setting where you are negotiating a lower rent for your apartment or office, the ‘bad cop’ could be the person who seems unwilling to accept the landlord’s price, whereas the ‘good cop’ seems more cooperative to acceding to the landlord’s demands.
The result is usually a happy middle ground.
P.S. You shouldn’t try to do ‘good cop bad cop’ routine with someone you barely work with – you need to have a lot of trust between the 2 of you, and it takes a lot of practice, and the ‘bad cop’ must be emotionally intelligent enough to read the client – don’t push the client so hard they won’t even want to do business with you.
Tip #3: Call their bluff
Sometimes you need to call someone’s bluff.
For example, if you are negotiating a price for a new home, a property agent might tell you, “We have already had an offer to buy this house at a price higher than yours.”
Of course there is no way of finding out if this is true – sometimes an agent or salesperson say things to make you think that something is in high demand to trigger a more impulsive decision.
Simply ask the agent, “OK, so why didn’t you sell the house to that buyer?”
This simple question will take the other person by surprise and may help you uncover the real reason (if there was one) for why the ‘higher offer’ was not accepted.
Tip #4: Justifying your position in a price negotiation
Sometimes in a price negotiation, a client might say your services are too expensive, or that your effectiveness is unproven.
If price seems to be the issue, it may help to let your client know about what the market rate is for such services as they may not be familiar.
To prove your effectiveness, share client testimonials and case studies.
Similarly, if you are negotiating for a promotion with your boss, and your boss asks you for justification on why you deserve it, state the Key Performance Indicators (KPI)s you have reached, and the value you have brought to the team.
Tip #5: Throw in a freebie
Sometimes what helps is to throw in a ‘one-off’ complimentary product or service to seal the deal. Your client might see this as an act of goodwill or a sign that you are willing to value-add, going forward.
The only thing for you to remember is that this freebie should be cost-effective for you as well. So it should be of an appropriate value and shouldn’t cost more than the actual product you’re trying to sell!
Also, you should stress that this is a ‘one-off’ freebie — otherwise your client may expect this free service every single time.
Tip #6: Just get to the point, and ask, ‘What will make you say yes?’
Sometimes the best solution to a negotiation is the simplest one. Simply ask: ‘What exactly are you looking for? Which solution fits your budget? What can we do to get to a yes?’
You’d be surprised that most times, clients will answer these questions honestly. Once you know exactly what your client is looking for, this will strengthen your negotiation position.
Negotiations can be challenging but hopefully with these tips in mind, your next one will be a success.
As John F. Kennedy said:
“Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.”