By Anne Warfield, President, Impression Management Professionals
Do you ever feel as though you have to put on your armor when you’re negotiating with a prospect or client? Have you ever wished you could find a way to negotiate that was strong and firm – yet creative and consultative at the same time?
Do negotiations naturally need to be difficult?
Actually, the negotiation phase can be a time to build a relationship and speak honestly and directly with the other party. Even with a one-time negotiation, you don’t need to use tricky ‘lines’ or manipulative tricks to get what you want. Most people are willing to be flexible during a negotiation if they believe the other party perceives them as knowledgeable, honest, and able to make a deal.
Three key strategies to keep in mind when negotiating:
1. Have a Game Plan or Strategy
Your game plan or strategy is a starting point – a brief outline of what you’d like to accomplish and how. It is not a rigid rulebook to be applied throughout the negotiation. It is instead a guideline that allows you a place to start.
Remember, you are working with another human being, someone who doesn’t appreciate being backed into a corner any more than you would.
Set a strategy with clear goals and possible tactics but be willing to revise it as circumstances and interests warrant.
2. Begin with the Right Mindset
Most people go into negotiations thinking one of two things:
“I have to win at all cost. I don’t want to look stupid. I have done my homework and, by gosh, I know what X, Y, and Z cost. I am not going to be taken advantage of!”
“Please, please, just be reasonable and give me X, Y, and Z without a hassle. I really don’t want to fight with you over this.”
Do you see any problem with these approaches? Each one has faith in you but not the other party.
That immediately makes negotiation difficult. If you believe the other party will try to take advantage of you, then you lose your biggest edge – the perception that the other person will do anything they can do to help you.
That’s the mindset you have to start with. And trust me, people can tell whether you believe in the best or worst of them. They will try to live up to either expectation.
3. Know What Kind of Person You’re Dealing with
This is your most important step…
Most people make the mistake of assuming there is a single list of ‘tough negotiating tactics’ that works with everyone. When I first started negotiating multi-million dollar deals, I really felt I had to have all these ‘hardball tactics’ in place. I practiced saying, “Is that the best you can do?” in a mirror with a serious face. Hardball was my style. I liked to negotiate fast – and I liked to win!
But there was something missing. I noticed that every time I went to negotiate, I had to roll up my sleeves and out-think my opponent again. The process got combative, it wasn’t fun, and I don’t believe I always got the best deal I could.
I was leaving out the human equation – what makes different people tick? What is it that they want not what is it that I want? This small shift will actually make a major difference in how you negotiate.
What I am about to share with you works whether you love to negotiate or you hate it with a passion. It works whether you know whom you are negotiating with ahead of time, or you are surprised on the spot. It often results in your leaving the table with more than you came to ask for! Clients are continually amazed by how much more they get and how much stronger the relationship is when they use the ‘Outcome Focus Approach’.
Not every person negotiates from the same point of view. Each person has a different stake in a negotiation and you need to know what concerns the other party the most. You also need to know what your own style is. Most people negotiate in the style they are the most comfortable with, and they try to bring the other party around to their way of thinking.
Let me walk you through a brief example so you can see how all the different styles might negotiate the same situation:
This person usually hates to negotiate and often walks in wanting to do what gives the least amount of friction in a negotiation. This means they may often give up too much. They often become uncomfortable in the negotiation.
- The Networker
This person tends to be funny, energetic, and may seem to be very easy-going during the negotiation, but if it doesn’t work their way they quickly flip to being a barracuda. This style likes to generalize key things, is easy going, may seem light and fluffy, and prefers not to put anything in writing.
- The Analyzer
This person tends to want all facts, figures, and everything laid out in a slow methodical manner. They want to make sure you go through everything in a precise order and they often may not want to give in on a point they feel is critical to them. Sometimes, a style just wears you out because they go item by item by item.
- The Producer
This is the one style that loves to negotiate. If you give them your very best deal right off the bat they will actually feel disappointed. They will actually leave the table feeling they could’ve gotten more. So with this style you don’t want to offer your very best upfront, you want to go back and forth until you come to a solution that you both feel is agreeable.
Now each of these styles approaches negotiations very differently because they each try to protect something different for themselves. You need to figure out what it is that they’re protecting and how to make it easy for them to actually reach the negotiation with you.
Always remember that people are not trying to do something to you but they are instead trying to protect themselves. This is so true during a negotiation. No one likes to feel like they are being taken advantage of, so it is your job to show why each point is beneficial to the other party as well as yourself.
I once had a client call and say they wanted to book me for a speaking engagement but they could only pay 1/3 of my fee. Now, I had been working with this prospect for almost 2 years so I knew she knew our pricing and value, yet she was insistent. Instead of being angry or trying to justify my pricing, I said, “Look, I know you realize the value of our programs, because you have been working with me for two years. I also realize you might be working with budget constraints. I want to work with you, and I also want to be fair to my clients across the country. Quite frankly you have stumped me. I am having a hard time rationalizing how to do this event at the pricing we are talking about. Can you brainstorm with me on how we can make this work?”
By using that approach, she never had to defend her offer and I never had to defend my pricing. You see – I realized that it was not me she was trying to attack or my pricing, it was actually that she is trying to protect herself. So we took our energy and focused it on how to get the event done. We ended up finding some creative budgeting ideas that made the deal work!
Putting It All Together
Once you start noticing and looking for the personality styles, you will be able to spot them easily. And once you stop worrying about you and focusing on what the other person is trying to do, negotiations become less about winning and more about connecting.
The Bottom Line
Make sure you add value to the other person. This is why it is so important to be able to read the other person’s personality style and speak from his or her perspective. If you ignore someone’s hot button or try to pull him or her over to your style of communication, you will lose. Have a game plan and be flexible with it, read the other person effectively, and add value by speaking from their perspective. If you do this, you will find that negotiations are really ‘brainstorming sessions’ with another party.