Saturday, August 16, 2008

How to Be a Better Negotiator

Everyone hears about the million dollar verdicts. But what about the million dollar settlements? Though not as glamorous, they require no less skill to achieve.

Do Your Homework. Learn everything you can about the other side. Do they have a take-no-prisoners attitude toward negotiation or are they friendly and cooperative? Are they the type to blow their top and walk away from the table, or are they dedicated to solving problems and reaching resolutions? You can get this information from other executives who have dealt with them, from news story articles or possibly from the internet.

Think Win-Win.
So often, we think win-lose. For us to win, it must come at a cost to the other side. However, with a little thought, you can think of solutions that benefit both parties. Why help the other side? Because to the extent you can help others reach their goals, they will be more open to helping you reach yours.

Think Outside the Box.
Think of new, innovative approaches to negotiation. There may be alternatives to simply paying the other side more money in order to reach a deal.

Know Your Bottom Line. Go into a negotiation knowing what your bottom line is and be prepared to walk away if your minimum needs are not being met. Otherwise you may reach a deal on terms you cannot live with.

Know the Other Side’s Bottom Line. Just as you need to know what your bottom line is, try to discover what the other side’s bottom line is. That way, you don’t force the other side into a deal that they can’t live with. A deal does not mean anything if its only on paper.

Put Yourself in the Other’s Shoes. Do your best to learn what the other side’s needs and wants are. Try to understand what motivates them, what they seek to get out of the negotiation. That way, you will be able to devise solutions that will satisfy those needs and in turn, will encourage the other side to meet your needs.

Be Patient. Reaching a deal takes time. Sometimes, it takes a lot of time. Be prepared to negotiate, to haggle, to go back and forth until a resolution is reached or until it’s painfully obvious that it will never be reached. If you’re going to sit down with the other side to work something out, take the time to do it right.

Be Honest. You may be tempted to lie during negotiations. Don’t. A successful negotiation is built first on trust. If the other side can’t trust you, he never will be willing to settle on your terms. When you say something mean it. If it’s your last offer, take it or leave, be prepared to walk away if they reject it. Otherwise, you’ll lose credibility.

Don’t Assume the Other Side Will Be Honest. Just because you’re honest does not mean the other side will be. Take everything you hear with a grain of salt.

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