10 Keys to Successful Negotiation

Whether you are negotiating for a salary, the terms of a new job, or who is taking out the trash at home, negotiating is as much art as skill, and it can be learned. We naturally negotiate every day. So why not do it better? Ten keys you need to negotiate effectively:

  1. Know yourself. What’s your own style? Are you the type who likes to meet in the middle, play hardball, or bluff? Examining these questions can supercharge you to the next level. Negotiation often has unspoken rules, and people expect you to engage in a certain way. Knowing your comfort levels can inform how you behave. For example, should you make the first offer? When it comes to salary discussions, the authorities say “No.” Hold your cards close to the chest. “He who makes the first offer loses” is the general rule here. Even if an employer asks what you will accept, smile and defer the question. Ask what range the company is offering so you can respond from a position of power. If it is higher than what you expect, you win, and there may be room to negotiate even higher. If it is lower than you need, then start with the high end of the range and tell the company salary is a bit lower than you were hoping for. Don’t neglect to explain how you bring extra value. The employer probably expects you to negotiate. Don’t negotiate against yourself by coming up with the first number. You should not just “cut to the chase” and come out with your lowest number in other scenarios. An employer likely will view this as an opening number in the game of negotiation and work you down from there. This is the social norm and expectation.
  2. Know your opponent. This can be cultural in a global context. Sung Tzu said, “. . . He who exercises no forethought but makes light of his opponents is sure to be captured by them.” How has the person or organization been known to negotiate in the past? Does he it play fair? Does he use emotional, good cop/bad cop, bluff, leaving the table (which I advocate can be very effective), screaming and crying, or chip-away tactics? Knowing this in advance can work to your advantage. Furthermore, what are his interests? An individual may espouse he wants one thing, but if you can find out, either in advance or by asking great questions, what really matters to him, you can understand better how he is likely to move his “chess pieces.” Why does an organization want what it asserts? It’s the “why” behind the assertion that truly matters. There may be several ways to get to a stated goal. This is an opportunity to explore ways that advance your own interests, known as the win-win. For example, if a raise is asked for and not forthcoming, find out why. It may be the budget just doesn’t exist. But if you explore how you can take on new responsibilities to bring more income, then no may not really mean no. Be creative and explore.
  3. Knowledge = advantage, so get it in advance. There is no replacement for good research. The Internet has a wealth of data on almost everything you need to know. Research businesses with which you are considering doing business. Research pricing and standards in a market. Work your network and own sphere of influence for more information (refer to #2).
  4. Ask lots of open ended questions to fill in the blanks. Establishing repertoire with the opposition can be invaluable. We all like to do business with people we like. We are more likely to share information with people we like. Look for commonalities. This may seem fundamental, but while making a connection, we also can be fact gathering and gain insight into the other party. This helps expose the other side’s interests and may give you information you can pull out later to close a deal. Listen more than you talk!
  5. Consider the relationship. If the relationship matters in the future, think carefully about how you advance that relationship. Don’t seek to win at all costs. A discussion or negotiation with a family member or business partner comes to mind. If your girlfriend wants Chinese for dinner, you would not fight to the death for Mexican. Sometimes there is a middle ground. (Pan-asian, anyone?) The win-win comes into play here, and finding the win-win sweet spot can be very rewarding. It says, “I will not prosper at your loss but will seek to find a place where we can both benefit.” This builds the trust bank and seals future deals and negotiations.
  6. Know what you want before you go in. And do not wander. Perhaps this should be the #1 key to negotiating success. You should always begin with the end goal in mind. Don’t fall for diversions, side streets, and tactics. Do not go in wishy-washy about what you want and need. Write it down. Yes, write it down and keep it with you. Continue to refer to it if you need to. People with no destination in mind often get nowhere in particular.
  7. Women and men may negotiate differently. Statistics prove that women often leave money on the table, particularly when it comes to salary negotiations. They may tend to cave faster and expect less; they have been conditioned to be “nice” and “not rock the boat.” Women need to learn to negotiate with grit. There are many resources to guide you. Get comfortable with negotiating now. It will serve you over and over.
  8. Set an agenda. Do not be subject to somebody else’s view of the world. As a Chinese proverb says, “Everyone pushes over a falling fence.” Control the table while appearing prepared and helpful. Type it out; this actually helps everyone.
  9. Don’t leave money on the table. I repeat: Don’t leave money on the table. Just because you heard a number that works for you, you shouldn’t stop negotiating. What else is the other party willing to give? If you are negotiating on behalf of someone else, it can be malpractice not to extend your exploration further. If you are negotiating for yourself, you’ll want to maximize full value and have the opportunity to consider the number and offer “concessions” later in the negotiation.
  10. Strategically timed concessions can matter. Compile a list of what matters to you and your opponent, rating them from top to bottom. You shouldn’t communicate to other party that certain things matter less. However, don’t be dishonest. If you negotiate harder for the smaller things and then “let them go,” the other side thinks it has won. Everyone likes to feel like he has succeeded in some way, and the other party may be more likely to give you something you need. It’s just human nature. For example, think how happy you are when you negotiate for a car and convince the seller to take some money off or throw something in. Chances are the seller is still making money and really hasn’t given you anything. But we all like to drive off the lot feeling ahead. In the words of the Rolling Stones: “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometime, you just might find you get what you need.”