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Negotiating Skills

Master the art of negotiating and you master the ability to get almost everything you want. Negotiating is considered the number one business skill, and one we all perform daily.

However, some do it better than others. So, what does it take to become a negotiator? The following ten tactics will point you in the right direction to negotiate the best deals for your business.

1. Know What You Want

Skilled negotiators start with a detailed plan of exactly what they want from their negotiations. Why should you defy what works? Take plenty of time to thoroughly understand what you want and need from the potential supplier. Formulate lists of items that you're willing to compromise and concede if necessary. Know your budgetary constraints and how they will affect your discussions.

2. Do Your Research

Doing research is a key strategy in your negotiating arsenal. Find out as much as you possibly can about your potential supplier. Know what your business is worth to them. Understand their business - the peaks and valleys. The more they want your business during a slow period, the greater you're negotiating clout.

3. Rehearse Your Opening

Your opening words set the tone for the discussions that follow. Just like an actor with his opening lines, the first words out of your mouth set the stage for the rest of the performance. Make certain that you know exactly what it is you want to say. Craft the words so that your message is clear and concise. Then spend time rehearsing your lines. You want your opening lines to be word perfect.

4. Ask Powerful Questions

Asking powerful questions is an essential skill for every negotiator. It not only provides you with strong information on which to build your case, it also creates opportunities for breakthroughs in your discussions. Questions are the most powerful search engine to help you tap into critical information, make evaluations and finally decisions. But, like everything else, they need planning. Each question you ask directs the action that follows it. Take the time to map out what question you need to ask to get the results you want from your negotiations.

5. Become an Information-Monger

Even though you're asking powerful questions to get some heavy-duty information from your opponent, you want to continually be probing for more. Listen to what's being offered and at every opportunity, be curious, ask for clarification and more information. Become an information-monger, never being satisfied until you have exactly what it is you want from the discussions.

6. Become a Champion Listener

So much of successful negotiating comes as a result of great listening. Listening to what people do and don't say. People often tell you a lot about themselves. Problem is that we just don't hear them because we're so caught up in our own thoughts. When you take time to listen to people they'll tell you about their positions, problems, qualities, likes and dislikes. And, you don't even have to ask them. They do it naturally just in the way they talk. Listen for any sense of urgency to close the deal. Perhaps they want your business to fill quotas. We were given two ears and one mouth; use them in that ratio to help your deal making.

7. Create A Positive Mood

Negotiating in a friendly and congenial atmosphere helps create a more receptive mood. Set the stage with some "getting to know you" talk. Make direct eye contact as you speak to your potential supplier. Tell them one or two personal stories that they might relate to. Your goal is to establish an atmosphere of trust and honesty. Don't just jump straight into your negotiating babble. Rather, take time to develop a friendly rapport so that your opponent feels comfortable speaking with you. You'll both work together more productively in a relaxed environment.

8. Be Prepared to Walk Away

This incredibly potent strategy is possibly one of the hardest for negotiators to actually implement. How it works is that when you really want something badly enough, and you aren't happy with your opponent's offer, you simply walk away from the negotiating table. One of two things can happen. One, your opponent will concede to your wishes, or two your opponent will let you go your own way. Remember that if you want to use this strategy, have a second potential supplier "in the wings." Otherwise, if you don't, you'll likely be left out in the cold fending for yourself.

9. Know the Styles

Read any book on negotiating and you'll quickly learn that there are many different styles and techniques to help you through the negotiating minefield. Make a point of familiarizing and learning ones that fit your style of doing business. In addition, learn about the different behavioural styles, what kind of information they need and how they approach negotiating. For example, an analytical type needs tons of data to help in the decision-making process, whereas a more controlling, dominant type only wants the facts. Recognise people's differences and use them to your advantage - it's all part of the game!

10. Exercise Silence

The old saying "silence is golden" is particularly true around the negotiating table. Negotiating mavens know that when discussing a deal, the first to speak, loses. To be successful it's not wise to dominate the conversation. In fact, the more you talk the more information you're supplying your opponents. So exercising silence will help prevent you spewing out unnecessary stuff. Your silence will also help create the perception that you are a thoughtful and methodical decision-maker.

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