Whether we know it or not, negotiations are a normal part of our lives. We regularly negotiate in our personal lives, but in the business world, negotiating is critical to you and your company’s success.
Poor negotiating tactics can damage your reputation and cost valuable clients. That is why your approach to dealmaking is so significant. We all want to get what we want from a negotiation, but not at the expense of key business relationships.
Here’s how you can drive a hard bargain and keep valuable relationships intact. So, read on to find out how to succeed in negotiations––and start by being nice.
Master the art of negotiating
Negotiating is the art of resolving differences by reaching an agreement or compromise without ugly arguments or disputes.
You can get what you want without being ruthless, overbearing or demanding. In fact, you can be fair, agree on mutually beneficial terms and leave negotiations with relationships intact. Think of the art of negotiating as a “courtship or a dance” that builds relationships in the business world and can be a key to your success.
Negotiating is not a life skill everyone is familiar with often because it’s not taught in school or by many parents. But, strong negotiating is inherently valued in everyday life—and it starts with simply being nice to others. Even expert negotiators know that honest communication and fairness set them apart from the novice negotiator.
Keep lines of communication open
First, negotiations can’t happen without open lines of communication between all parties. Communication is the life-blood of the deal. Negotiating is not a rigid process. If you do not establish a rapport and build on that relationship, you may lose your leverage and the deal as well.
Start by making small talk. Don’t just rush into the substance of negotiations as soon as the meeting begins. Take time to get to know each other, so you have time to assess their demeanor and body language.
That extra time will help you decide how to approach a negotiation. Studies suggest those who make small talk before the deal are more likely to come to an agreement that those who jumped right into the meeting. Retired Harvard Business School Management Practice professor Michael Wheeler says “Making smart small talk is where the great negotiators really shine.”
Harness the power of mutual benefit
Prioritizing mutual benefit creates trust in any relationship, and it shows that you are amicable. If you are generous and fair, the other party is more likely to reciprocate. However, that does not mean you should be a pushover. Don’t give in on issues because you want to win favor later in the deal.
Richard Shell, author, and Professor of Legal Studies, Business Ethics, and Management at the Wharton School of Business has said “Generosity begets generosity. Fairness begets fairness. Unfairness ought to beget a firm response. That’s the norm of reciprocity in relationships. … Always take turns. After you make a move, wait until the other party reciprocates before you move again.”
Put yourself in their shoes
Don’t assume their position is designed to provoke a negative emotional response from you. People may be under pressure to act in a certain way. Maybe they are desperate and under a mandate to meet their budget or lose their job. Don’t take their position personally but instead try to figure out why they are taking a certain approach.
Authors of Getting to Yes, Roger Fisher and William Ury, suggest “The ability to see the situation as the other side sees it, as difficult as it may be, is one of the most important skills a negotiator can possess.”
Show how you will meet their needs
This mirrors the art of seeing the deal through their eyes. Instead of playing “hardball,” try to get the other negotiator to see how your proposal can satisfy them. This is an example of “one hand washes the other.” In the end, you may be able to side-step their demands and get them to agree to what they need from the deal. That way, everyone ends up satisfied. Wheeler adds “…you don’t have to compromise and settle for less in order to maintain good relations.”
The power of nice negotiating
The negotiating tactics described in this article highlight the fact that you can succeed in negotiations by adopting “the nice factor.”
According to Garths Vickers, Founder, and CEO of Vickers Financial Group, it starts with positioning. This means the tone of negotiations established in the beginning may dictate how the deal goes. What do you do if your counterpart tries to intimidate you and act like they are not to be taken lightly? Vickers says this about negotiators who try to play the formidable opponent “If it does happen, try to mollify them by adjusting your demeanor a bit – by being nicer.”
If tensions run high, many feel they need to become more assertive. If you are in this situation, again, think about using the nice factor.
If your approach is not easing the conflict, try resetting the negotiation by inserting an “if” statement into the talks. Try saying “If I do this, will you reconsider your position?” Infusing the nice factor into the meeting may ease the mood and reset negotiations to a point where you can succeed in getting what both you and your fellow negotiator want from the meeting. According to Vickers, you can “start winning negotiations by carefully reading your opponent’s body language and using a nice factor at the best time.”
Leveraging the tactics and strategies described in this article can help you succeed in any negotiation setting. Contrary to popular opinion, you don’t have to be ruthless to get what you want.
Luke Pitman, Vice President, Lending Officer at NBC Oklahoma, is a results driven, highly collaborative professional with a successful track record of originating relationships and closing deals; well-versed in all facets of sales, marketing, branding, and managing complexities from concept to delivery.