I believe that traditional negotiating training is intrinsically flawed and we need to evaluate educational practices of business negotiations. The problem is that in any traditional teaching, it is often assumed that the purpose of negotiating is reaching an agreement in the end. But that’s not how I look at it at all! I know that people don’t want to work hard, or work at all, if they know the results may never come. But being professional doesn’t mean treating a job as a means to an end (a partner agreement). It means doing the best you can every step of the way.
In negotiations, conditions can be good, normal and bad; sometimes you can turn things around. But if you know that bad conditions will never be normal at the very least, leave the negotiations as soon as possible. Instead of looking for compromises and strange solutions, engaging in long-winded conversations, just get up and leave. This brings me to my dos and don’ts:
You don’t have to agree in the end. And not agreeing in the end doesn’t mean failure either. Success is making decisions that are beneficial to you first and foremost. And whether it took five seconds or six days to make them does not really matter. And even if, just because you know how to negotiate, find others’ soft spots, put pressure on people and bargain, you managed to make a terrible offer a little less terrible, it does not change the overall result. The result matters, not the process.
First, determine the point where you are willing to accept, then try to move from that point in the direction you need. Compare the result with the original purpose and if it’s not worth it, say goodbye. But never burn bridges in case conditions change and you may want to reconsider and renegotiate. Save all your positions, and in six months you can pick up where you left off. It is important to keep in mind that many sales people are often well trained to persuade, call back, pressurize, use guilt, twist facts and so on. Hence, the second principle.
Business is numbers. Numbers speak for themselves. When you ask about a cost of a service and the answer is a metaphor of growth – that’s not a number. Something is fishy here. And it applies to everything else: if it’s not backed up by numbers and examples – that’s a red flag.
So translate every dialogue into Math. Find out what you gain exactly, over what period of time, under what conditions, what you need to do to get there. Numbers will sober you up instantly.
I have a wonderful friend who always listens carefully to sweet promises of “large profits,” makes careful notes in her pad and, always with a charming smile, checks if she understands everything right. When the negotiator confirms that she does, her smile becomes even more charming as she says, “Then let’s put all this into the contract in specific terms.”
You don’t have to smile, of course, but do remember this trick. It works every time.
Almost in any transaction, there are things that cannot be directly expressed monetarily. For example, speaking of printed media advertising, it may be one’s ego (best to leave it out of the equation altogether); the need to get first publications in order to be noticed; gaining prestige to please vendors who gage success by press coverage; the need to get into a niche magazine to gain more target audience, and so on. The question is how much you would spend on the same marketing effort using a different channel.
In any transaction, you mentally draw a table with two columns of pros and cons. And then you analyze everything, even though not everything can be measured in money. It’s important to clearly see what you gain and what it costs you.
Sometimes you don’t get a profit but can gain an advantage: a good move in chess does not necessarily lead to the capture of a figure but it can win you an excellent position for a future move in the game. The same is true in negotiations: often you gain an advantage at the moment of negotiating that will be realized as such only in a year or two.
Next time we will talk about how to scrutinize ‘stellar’ portfolios in negotiations, deal with unprofessional behavior and demonstrate how passionate you are to future partners.
What do you think about our dos and don’ts so far? Do you have anything to add? Leave your comments below and let’s start this conversation!