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First, ‘negotiate’ with yourself

Negotiation touches every part of our lives. Relationships in business and in our personal lives are negotiated. And the skills to do it effectively can often mean the difference between getting what you want or losing out. You don’t get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate!

In the first section of the book, How to be a Great Negotiator, written by property economist, investor and developer Neville Berkowitz, the characteristic traits of a great negotiator are explored in short, bite-sized nuggets of advice.

Over the next few months, we will bring you the traits needed to succeed at the art of negotiating.

(Courtesy of PersonalEmpowerment.co)

110 Strategy

All negotiation – from the initial smile and handshake to the carefully orchestrated pitch, friendly small talk, and carrot/stick lures and pressures applied at various points along the way – is a series of strategies and tactics designed to help you achieve your objectives. Even your personality is, to some degree, a strategy with an arsenal of tactics you have unconsciously developed to get through life, to survive, and hopefully to succeed.

Once you know your objectives in any negotiation, you need to map out a strategy for attaining them. Strategising is creatively thinking through a negotiation from beginning to end before you start, anticipating what might occur, what might go wrong, what objections or demands the other party may present, and what strategies and tactics they may use. By thinking through a negotiation in-depth and in advance in this way, you can come up with workable solutions and alternatives that will help you effectively address various scenarios that may occur. A good strategy encompasses all of your strengths and resources, as well as those of the other party, and has a set of options or tactics for dealing with various contingencies at any point in a negotiation.

Thorough strategising in advance can help you avoid unnecessary difficulties and embarrassing moments during a negotiation. If you don’t have all the resources or information you need to effectively negotiate and may be unable to meet the other party’s needs or expectations, it’s better to know and resolve these things before the negotiation begins.

If you can’t solve the problem in advance or come up with an acceptable default solution, you can at least be prepared to address the glitch in a way that reassures the client that you are on top of things and will resolve the matter in a timely fashion. You don‘t want to discover in the midst of a negotiation what you should have known beforehand. This makes you look unprepared and unprofessional.

6 points to ponder

In developing a strategy for a serious negotiation you want to consider the following:

  1. What are the potential obstacles you may encounter along the way?
  2. What possible requests or demands might the other party make or what objections might they raise?
  3. What are you willing to offer them at the start, in the middle if things get difficult, or as a last-ditch effort to revive a stalled negotiation?
  4. What are you unwilling to give or accept?
  5. What are your deal breakers?
  6. What carrots and sticks can you use at various points along the way, and in what manner will you present them, so that you don’t seem weak or too eager, or heavy-handed, rude, or offensive?

For example, an old negotiation tactic is to mention a competitor with whom you are also negotiating in order to create apprehension in the other party and sharpen their interest in the deal. The competitor may be real or imagined but the threat of competition can be a highly motivating factor. (However, if they are imagined and the other party can contact them to verify then you are treading on very thin ice!) This tactic works both ways, whether you’re trying to sell to or buy from the other party.

Yet not all strategy can be worked out in advance. Part of strategy is trusting your ability to improvise. Strategy and tactics are often spontaneous and creative, applied intuitively according to the needs and opportunities of the moment. How do you warm the other party up at the beginning of a negotiation? How do you soften them up in order to seize the moment and the advantage later on? How do you reassure them or calm them down when things get awkward or tense? Do you tell them a story to shift the mood and introduce a new perspective? Do you make a joke to engage them or lighten the atmosphere? Do you soften your tone and gently touch an arm or shoulder to connect more personally? Some things can’t be scripted and must be improvised in the moment.

Some tactics are slipped in surreptitiously to put the other party off-balance or catch them wrong- footed. Some tactics are designed to appeal to the other party’s sense of self-importance, ego-image, insecurity, or pride. This is very common in commercials where advertisers imply that their product will make you more glamorous, beautiful, manly, sexy etc. Subtle tactics of persuasion can sway the other party to your purpose or point of view. This is the diplomatic, creative or friendly approach.

Sneaky, manipulative or underhanded tactics can put the other party in an awkward or disadvantaged position and should be avoided at all costs by you. Your reputation and credibility are worth more than any deal. However, if you are the victim of such sneaky, manipulative or underhand tactics then the other party has opened the door for you to adopt an attitude of shock and surprise. “Are you seriously telling me that…”. This will put the other party on the defensive allowing you to extract something from them to keep you at the negotiation table. It helps to write down your strategy in bullet points and then commit it to memory. Make sure your tactics are appropriate for the nature and stakes of the negotiation – gentle and friendly for small stakes but shrewd, subtle, and, if necessary, forceful for great stakes. Two sayings apply here: “Don’t use a cannon to kill an ant” and “don’t bring a knife to a gunfight”.

And, finally, don’t go into a negotiation with only one option; always prepare an alternate strategy, just in case. The old adage which applies here is that “those who fail to plan, plan to fail”.


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