Almost every successful business owner will have nurtured a particular skill to the point of it becoming a superpower: negotiation.
Negotiation happens at every level in your business and is most important when dealing with your suppliers. You may be the receiver or executor of the negotiation but either way, you need to learn how to master power negotiation. That is the art of getting what you require, while also leaving the other person with the win.
This game is all about the mindset. Perhaps you walk into a meeting with someone from a large corporation, and you feel like you aren’t going to be able to hold a candle to them. If so, you’ve already lost your power. Never forget, you are dealing with an individual, not the whole company. You and the person you are negotiating with are locked in a 1-on-1 game – you just need to be the best athlete.
Like any sport, negotiating has rules and plays. To win, you’ve got to practice the plays and watch the other player closely to choose the right one to execute at the right time. Learn how to predict the reactions of the other party, and you can steer the outcome to your favour.
Most games are all but decided in the first moments. Just think about a Formula 1 race. Everyone wants to see the first round because it is those first moments that result in accidents big and small that will shape the rest of the championship – and then you can pretty much predict who will end up on the podium with the champagne and the trophy.
Pay attention to how you begin your negotiations, and you will likely find your success rate change dramatically. (I hope you’re testing and measuring it!)
Here are 3 opening gambits of negotiation in business that I have seen make the most difference to business owners’ negotiation game:
1. Don’t start first and open with less
This is a technique called “bracketing” and is one of the most commonly used and most effective negotiation strategies. The idea is that you get the other party to establish their position first – ask them to state their price. Then you can offer less than you are willing to pay, bracketing your target price between the price they suggested and your opening offer.
With this technique, even if you are facing a master negotiator, you will still come closer to your target price than when you open with your own offer first – or start with your target price!
2. Always flinch at proposal
It doesn’t matter how good that proposal is, the first thing they say must always at least seem like it hurts you. Flinch openly and it naturally motivates the other party to compromise downwards to make you feel better.
It’s not always easy displaying emotions, especially in a culture like that of the UK where we don’t often express things openly. However, if you learn to show how that price hurts, you’ll probably start playing with someone who is much more cooperative in helping you both get over that finish line.
3. Silence is golden
This is such a simple technique, it often surprises and delights my clients at how well it works.
When the other party presents you with a proposal that doesn’t meet your requirements, you just say, “You’ll have to do better than that.” Then you stay quiet.
The silence motivates your other player to come back to you with a better offer. If you happen to be dealing with a veteran player in the game of negotiation, they might then respond with, “Exactly how much better than that do I have to do?” This is an attempt to get you to make an offer first – going back to that first technique above. The game is now afoot!
This whole thing really is a game. Sometimes it is one of chance, but often if you know the plays well and predict the movements of the other player just enough, you will ensure a win for yourself – and for them.
The best negotiators don’t just get what they want; they manage to work out a compromise that leaves both parties satisfied. Reaching that perfect equilibrium is where the skill and the fun happens.
And you don’t need to just apply this to your suppliers – it is for your potential or existing employees, your friends and your family as well. Negotiation is happening in every element of your life at varying degrees.
The final skill to keep in your bag of negotiation tricks is to remember not to take “no” so seriously – that’s just an opening negotiation position! Enjoy the game!
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