Learn to Negotiate
Negotiate Like Someone’s Life Depends On It
Every business person needs to know how to negotiate well. Yet we don’t learn how to negotiate in high school, college — or ever, for the most part. Yet it is a valuable skill that can save us money, effort, our careers and sometimes even our lives.
Tips from a Hostage Negotiator
I’m not being dramatic on that last note; we can learn a lot from hostage negotiators. Sue Williams was a Scotland Yard detective and the most senior ranking officer in charge of the Kidnap and the Hostage Crisis Negotiation Units. She offers these four critical steps in attempting to negotiate for something important:
- Prepare well. Don’t try to “wing it.”
- Listen more than you talk. Learn the other party’s priorities.
- Build rapport. It has to be sincere, and your genuine efforts to understand the other person have to be apparent in your tone of speech and body language. Keep a positive mindset.
- Identify the decision maker. Use his or her first name.
These are wise tips for any negotiation situation, whether you are hiring a key team member, selling your business, merging with another business, buying property or purchasing supplies from a vendor.
Deflect the Other Party’s Negotiation Tactics
Sometimes, the best offense is a good defense. Skilled negotiators sometimes use sneaky, underhanded tactics to try to win by bullying. Be prepared for these scenarios, and stand firm. Here are tips for countering five negotiation ploys.
- Beat the other party to the first offer. This is known as anchoring. It’s a negotiation term that means the first offer given in a deal. The first offer usually has a very strong influence on every other offer or transaction made in a negotiation. By making the first offer, you increase your chances of controlling the outcome. Anchor as high as you can when it comes to pricing. Build in a small additional margin that you can use to create a discount later.
- Ask a lot of questions. When the other party gives you vague answers, changes the subject or attempts to downplay something you think is important, ask a lot of questions. Get to the bottom of the important points of negotiation by dragging the details out of the other party. Ask for proof of his or her claims.
- Trade concessions. The person you’re negotiating with might try to get you to budge from your original offer. One way to counter that effort is to discover what his or her top priority is and then agree to concede on that aspect of the deal but get something of value in return. Don’t concede anything without getting anything in return, and don’t concede too often.
- Stay calm. Another way bullies try to win negotiations is by becoming aggressive and belligerent. If that happens, keep your cool. Remain unemotional. When that happens, the bully will look ridiculous and unprofessional. You win simply by remaining calm.
- Negotiate only with the decision maker. Often, people will say they can’t accept an offer before checking with a supervisor. This goes back to Sue Williams’ hostage-negotiation technique no. 4: identify who the decision maker is. Talk with that person only, from the beginning.
Negotiation requires practice, and it requires that you know exactly what you need, want and will and will not concede. It requires a delicate balance between being firm and confident while being flexible and friendly. If you can negotiate well, it will elevate your reputation as a leader, save your company money and enhance your personal and professional relationships.
So how do you get good at negotiation? Take a course. This isn’t the type of skill you can master by reading a book. You need to practice, get feedback, learn to anticipate objections and overcome them, and learn how skilled negotiators think. Many universities and training organizations offer negotiation courses. Also, if you Google “negotiation courses,” you will find plenty of in-person and online courses to take. But of course we recommend our own highly effective negotiation training from RedRock Leadership.
Do this now, before you need it. Learn negotiation skills as if someone’s life depends on it.
Founder of RedRock Leadership