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The Secret to Successful Business Negotiation

 "The most important trip you may take in life is meeting people halfway." – Henry Boyle

On the surface, negotiation can seem more complex than it really is. There are usually a lot of factors to consider on behalf of everyone involved, and our psyches can quickly lead us into the shaky territory of power plays, manipulation, or even fearful submission. Negotiation conversations can present themselves on small and large scales, and deal with anything from individual salary negotiations, to closing a sale, to transitions during big B2B mergers or acquisitions.

A Fierce Negotiation is a conversation between people trying to reach an agreement which yields the best deal and enriches the relationship. There is a way to stand your ground during these conversations without having to take anything away from someone else. The secret to successful negotiation is: meeting needs. That is, meeting the needs of all parties involved. Negotiating in the workplace is no different than negotiating at home with children, a relative, or a spouse. The topics at hand may be different, but fundamentally the process is the same.

What do we mean by needs, exactly? And how do they apply to negotiation?

When a negotiation is underway, it means one or more people have brought a need or desire to the table. It is to say, "You have something I want, and I have something you want." When this takes place, the question to ask is, how can the needs of both parties be met? How can these needs be fulfilled without one party winning and one party losing? The objective is to reach what we call in our Negotiations program "The Zone of Possible Acceptance"—the sweet spot where there is common ground.

Think of needs as the hub of a wheel on a bicycle. Everything and anything else related to the negotiation revolves around the needs of those involved in the negotiation.

Negotiation is not about one person or group winning in the end, and it goes beyond persuasion. It determines what is needed and wanted, looks at the issue holistically, and assesses the capacity or ability to fulfill the request(s).

Knowing how to negotiate effectively is an important skill to have in business. Take Time Warner Cable's negotiation with CBS in 2013 as an example of what not to do. Their conflict with CBS (over cost disagreements) led them to black out the channel from its product offering, causing them to lose 306,000 of their 11.7 million cable subscribers. Although the conflict was eventually resolved, Time Warner's initial attempt to hard ball the station and CBS's unwillingness to back down backfired, and the results were costly.

If navigated skillfully, your negotiation conversations can lead to big gains for everyone involved. Once reality has been interrogated and needs have been brought to the table, here are some tips that can help the conversation run smoothly:

Make sure you've prepped before entering the conversation. Going into a negotiation conversation with no planning, emotions are more likely to run high and you're more likely to get derailed from your intention. Determine your intention and what you would like to walk away with.

Get clear. Do you fully understand what the other party is requesting? Make sure that what you're hearing is what's intended. Listen closely. Ask questions to gain clarity.

Allow silence. Don't expect an immediate yes or no from the other person, or from yourself. You may have to take emotions and logistics into consideration before making a deal. Grant time for processing a swell.

Notice your emotions, but don't let them take the wheel. Our emotions give us important information about what we want and need, but if we become reactive, it can cause a rift in the relationship. Be the master of your emotions, not their slave.

Remain assertive yet flexible. Don't allow yourself to be overpowered, but don't overpower, either. Also keep in mind that your needs or desires may fluctuate or shift as you learn more about the other person's position.

Acknowledge small wins. Having the conversation is itself a small win. Negotiations can take time and may require multiple conversations before a deal is reached, especially when budgets and other logistics are involved.

Here are some things that can put the relationship in jeopardy during negotiation:

• Threats of any kind

• Withholding the truth

• Turning the negotiation into a competition

• Giving up on your own needs—easily giving in

• Dismissing the needs of the other party

• Taking "no" personally

When meeting needs is the focus, negotiation can be a win-win. It allows everyone involved to approach the situation with understanding and the desire to reach a workable deal that enriches the relationship.

Skillful conversations, including negotiation conversations, enhance the bottom line and yield a measurable ROI. Download our whitepaper The ROI of Skillful Conversation to read more.


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