This column is part of Globe Careers’ Leadership Lab series, where executives and experts share their views and advice about leadership and management. Follow us at @Globe_Careers. Find all Leadership Lab stories at tgam.ca/leadershiplab
Being a successful leader requires the ability to navigate through business transactions with confidence and a sense that one’s decisions are sound.
Having a systematic approach to negotiating is the key. A good and proven negotiating system delivers control in any environment. It enables you not to feel defeated or taken advantage of. It keeps you focused on the right elements, and not distracted by the wrong ones. A smart system of negotiation helps you make the best deals for your side every time.
Here are a few negotiating strategies that can help steer you in consistently right and advantageous direction when dealing with various stakeholders, from board members and clients, to suppliers and employee groups.
1. Reject the compromise mindset
Negotiations are based on human nature and are highly emotional. The side that’s needy and shows his or her feelings will lose. When you go into a negotiation knowing you’ll have to give up something, you project the aura of a person in a weak or unstable position. This makes it easy for your adversary (respected opponent) to sense your fear, weakness, and lack of strong commitment – leading them to demand more than you offer. Compromise, or the willingness to give up something important, limits your level of success in business by taking resources away from future opportunities.
2. Welcome the word ‘no’
Instead of compromising, say no and invite the other party to say no, too. That’s where a true discussion can begin. All true agreements are based on both parties having the right to veto, or say no, if they don’t like the decision. Tell them you won’t take no as a personal rejection. Learning how to start with no, rather than starting with yes or maybe, will not only boost your business success, but it will cure you of chronic compromising that’s crippling your effectiveness.
3. Know what you’re bringing to the table
Determine what your mission and purpose is for this negotiation. What benefits might you bring to this person or group? For example, how might you positively influence their potential growth, advancement in technology, product development? If you really flesh out a well-developed scenario of how this agreement can benefit them, then you can eventually help them see it also.
4. Be ready for anything
Before you ever get to the room, do exhaustive research on this other party or business. Write down, in advance, all the problems you foresee, based on what you know. Write down your own baggage that you carry into this negotiation. Be prepared to discuss the “elephant in the room.” For example, if there’s something you feel uneasy about discussing it’s better to get this out into the open than be preoccupied the entire time about when the topic might come up. Being armed with impeccable research enables you to ask intelligent questions, understand nuanced answers, and not be caught off guard.
5. Keep an open mind
First of all, avoid assumptions. Have you ever said to yourself, “I’m not going to suggest such and such because I already know what they’re going to say”? Instead, enter every interaction with the goal of finding out what the other party wants and who they really are. All of this information you’re able to gather will become the building blocks of the vision you will soon create for them that presents a detailed picture of their problems and situation, and places your proposal and the benefits you offer as the obvious solution.
6. Manage roadblocks deftly.
If your opponent is name dropping and acting superior, that’s great. The more humble you are, the more confident the other party will be. They will start making mistakes, handing you valuable information you can later use. If your opponent uses a classic block, such as “This is my final price/decision/offer and I’m not going to budge,” steer him back on track with a well-structured question. For example, “What’s the biggest problem you see with our price/solution/offer?” This gets the discussion moving again. Remind him, of course, that he always has the right to say no, as do you.
Negotiating is the most critical human performance event in your world. You are never fully the master of the event. But with a true system that is faithful to the rules, principles, and laws of humanity, you can constantly improve your results.
Jim Camp (@startwithno) is an internationally known negotiation coach and creator of Negotiator-Pro (www.negotiator-pro.com), a complete negotiation platform for individuals and corporations. He has written two business bestsellers, Start with NO, and NO: The Only Negotiating System You Need for Work and Home.