Become a powerful negotiator in all areas of your life
We all negotiate on a daily basis. Whether it is with our family, friends, business partners, or tax officials.
Negotiations are ubiquitous, though. So you’d better start to developing your skills in negotiations, it will serve you well in life.
Know whom to talk to
The first thing to look for when you are trying to accomplish something is whom to talk to. Who would have the authority or power to give you the desired result? When talking to someone at an organization, you often do better by talking to the manager or director. Every organization has some type of hierarchy, the higher the person you speak to, the more power they will likely have to accomplish what you are trying to negotiate.
The author of this book once he showed up at a Mexican Hotel where there were no free rooms for him. He calmly asked for the manager and examined:
— “Would you have room for the President of Mexico if he shows up?”
— “Sí señor.” Answered the manager.
— “Well, he’s not coming, so I’ll take his room.”
When should you negotiate?
Before you enter into a negotiation, you should ask yourself whether the negotiation will meet your needs, whether you will feel comfortable negotiating to obtain your end goal and whether the negotiation will be worth the effort.
Don’t mistake negotiations for battlefields
Try not to see negotiations as a zero-sum game. The type of negotiations where one party’s gain is another party’s loss is best to be avoided.
One signal of such negotiators, also called Soviet-style negotiators, is the unwillingness to make concessions. They tend to set high initial positions and show an unwillingness to change their position.
Another tactic is to use emotional tactics such as bullying or even crying. Although crying is more often employed in personal relationships for example in spousal arguments.
Using limited authority can also help to avoid having to make concessions. If a person with no power to make concessions on his or her own is sent to make a negotiation, the other party has no choice but to accept the deal as-is.
Win-win deals happen when everyone’s needs are satisfied
Trust is very important in negotiations. You should first build a relationship with the other party. The reason is that in order to meet everyone’s needs, each party has first to be willing to communicate its true needs and make concessions if necessary.
Sometimes both parties have to give up something that they want in order to reach a deal, this is called making a concession and is part of the win-lose negotiation mindset. But win-win negotiations are possible and much better.
For everyone’s needs to be satisfied, they first need to be harmonized. And in order to harmonize, one has to understand their true needs first. Often the exposed desire does not represent the true need, let’s see an example.
Consider a situation where your family is planning to go on vacations. Your spouse wants to go to Texas. Your son wants to go to the Rocky Mountains, while you crave for the beautiful Great Lakes. At first, there seems to be no possible reconciliation for this situation. Each place is mutually exclusive with the other ones, so it appears that this negotiation will end in a deadlock.
It is when you look beyond the apparent demands that you see the true needs are in reality different. Your spouse just wanted to go to a warm place. Your son just wanted to see mountains, and you wanted to swim and snorkel. After identifying the real needs, you decide that going to a resort in Colorado can fulfill everyone’s needs. An at first unsolvable negotiation has ended with a win-win deal.
Tap into sources of power to negotiate successfully
Negotiations often depend on the sources of power each party has at their disposal. An example of the power of authority in negotiations is a boss who has the power to reward or punish his employees through the assignment of different types of tasks.
The power of alternatives
Another often used source of power are alternatives. Imagine you walk into a sales department with the intention to get a discount on a refrigerator. Your could just tell the salesman that another store across the street sells the same refrigerator for less money. The alternative of another store would give you more power over the negotiation.
The power of precedent
Another example is the power of precedent which you could employ by telling the salesmen something like “Look, my brother bought this same fridge with a discount.”
The power of expertise/credentials
Another option is to present yourself as an expert in fridges and telling them something like: “I’m an expert in fridges — here is my card — that fridge over there is overpriced!”
The sales clerk will most likely have several counter arguments like pointing out a sign which says “No discounts.” Usually, the one with the most apparent, not actual power will win the negotiation, because the other party’s power is mostly based on perception, not actual verification.
Let the other party invest time and effort
If you let the other party invest their time and energy in a negotiation, they are more likely to compromise their interests. Let’s see an example. Suppose you go to a store, but instead of directly going to the model of fridge you want, you ask the sales clerk to show you every single fridge in the store.
Furthermore, you could ask him lots of technical questions, forcing him to dig up manuals for each model, then you say you have to think about it and leave. The next day you come back with your friend who “knows fridges” and you ask the sales clerk to demonstrate each model again.
After all this rigmarole you finally ask for a discount. The sales clerk — after having invested so much time — will be likely to make such a compromise on the deal to at least get a sale out of hours of time.
Before entering into a negotiation set a goal with your party
If you enter into a store with your family, in contrast, it is the sales clerk who could easily get you committed to buy a product. Once he gets your spouse and children interested in a fridge, he has more power over your decision to buy that fridge.
That’s why it is beneficial to discuss your party’s shared goals before entering into a deal with someone else.
Gather information about your counterpart
Information about the other party can give you big advantages in the negotiation process. If you know what the constraint, goals, needs and desires of the counterpart are, you will be able to focus your negotiation better.
For example if you want to buy an item, you’d do better if you have some knowledge about the true value of the object. By doing so, you will be more qualified to reach a sound deal. Also when offering your price, for example, 100$, and the seller rejects it angrily, don’t jump to 500$ immediately. Doing so will tell him that you probably will go much higher still.
Or before negotiating a raise with your boss, you could look up next year’s salary budget to see if there is leeway for another rise.
When dealing with experts, it can be useful to play a little dumb and ask lots of questions. Let them explain everything in layman’s terms, doing so can reveal valuable information about their interests to you. Of course, you will probably have to counter with some information too. It would be best if you consider beforehand how you will divulge your information without revealing your constraints.
Deadlines are powerful negotiation influencer
The author once tried to negotiate a deal in Japan on behalf of his employer. He stayed for a full two weeks, but instead of starting the negotiation right away, his hosts insisted that he experienced the Japanese hospitality and culture first. Only the last day they started to discuss the deal seriously. As the author couldn’t return empty handed, he had to compromise to reach a deal on the way to the airport.
When you find yourself in a similar situation, just consider what the consequence of not adhering to the deadline will be and whether it is worth exceeding it.
Don’t get emotionally involved but make the other party do so
Whenever negotiating something it could be easy to take things personally. Try to stay cool instead and imagine you are negotiating on someone else’s behalf.
Sometimes playing emotionally can help your situation, for example when a cop calls you over, you’d be better off playing a confused tourist in a hurry and at the brink of tears than to enter into an argument.
Being likable is powerful, if you like a sales persona at a particular store, you are more likely to shop there. Even courtrooms are not immune to likeability, sometimes the juries will absolve someone of guilt despite overwhelming evidence, simply because the prosecutor seems unpleasant.
Also published on Medium.