Whatever your trade or level of engagement with commercial processes, at some stage almost everyone will have to negotiate, whether on the sale of an item or a house or for a work-related matter.
There are a number of grave misconceptions about how to handle the process, though, many of them related to the popular imagination and representations in popular culture as to how the negotiating process should be handled. Thought, preparation, planning and a willingness to compromise cleverly are the keys to successful negotiations.
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One of the largest misconceptions in the popular mind about negotiating successfully is the ‘no compromise’ mindset.
In films, books and news stories about famous people, especially athletes, we hear about how people handled negotiations for new contracts or similar deals. There is nearly always a theme of ‘no surrender’ and walking away if your terms are not precisely met.
In the real world, this attitude will wreck your negotiations before they have even begun.
One of the very worst manifestations of this mistaken belief occurs when inexperienced negotiators make a single issue and agreement on it the basis of their entire negotiating position.
This shuts down the possibility of reaching a workable deal almost immediately. The stance is usually accompanied by bullish statements about ‘it’s this or nothing!’, none of which is helpful. Indeed, if you want to ensure that your negotiations are unsuccessful, this is the best way to begin.
Don’t Force Agreement
Forcing an agreement on someone about a single issue is also inadvisable. While you may be able to bully someone into a single-issue agreement, the likelihood is that you will have terminally damaged the relationship that you have with the individual concerned.
They will resent you and the ‘deal’ that you have created. While you may bask in a bullying glow of short-term success, the chances of the individual concerned doing business with you again in the future have been diminished.
This could be very important, especially if you are negotiating with a supplier of essential materials and resources for your business. Always take a long-term view when it comes to negotiating and think about the effects of your actions on your future business.
While it may appeal to your ego to come across as assertive and aggressive, you are more likely to alienate rather than engage people. This will not be a successful approach over the long term and could well negatively affect how you and your business are perceived in the wider world.
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In addition to this, it is also unwise to concede nothing, especially when the opposing party believes that you should in order to keep the negotiations going. Never being able to concede or give anything away creates an impression that you are not interested in seeking a negotiated solution, but regard your side of the bargain as immovable and unchangeable.
Taking this approach will only result in negative reactions and is unlikely to make the other party want to trade or deal with you in future.
Proceed with Care
Shying completely away from confrontation and debate, though, can also be a bad thing. It is necessary to stand up for your own interests on occasion and you are likely to get more respect and collaboration by being assertive in the right way when the occasion calls for it.
The key is not back yourself into corners, or come across as bigoted and narrow-minded about the situation. Maintain a positive outlook at all times and when you reach a point when there is likely to be conflict, state your case clearly and politely. A gentle approach, even when contesting a situation, can often be the best one to take.
Force will always create resistance, however you might perceive its application. This is also why it is important not to mask your intentions and desired outcomes, as a way of conceding nothing and giving nothing away.
This will just make the party with whom you are negotiating suspicious about your intentions and also perhaps pessimistic about the likely outcome. If you give an impression of rock-like, poker-faced suspicion, then you will create a similar reaction in the party opposite. This means that they too will be less likely to want to compromise, which could prejudice the whole process and make it impossible to come to a deal.
Flexibility is always the key concept when it comes to negotiating in any situation. Sticking rigidly to one position will never bring success. While being aware of what you want from a situation is always good, you must allow room for both yourself and the other party to compromise and give things up when appropriate. That way, the deal you conclude is likely to more satisfactory to all parties and will improve your long-term relations rather than detracting from them.
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This guest post was contributed by The Gap Partnership; a negotiation company providing business negotiation, skills training, consulting, strategy and planning.