As business owners, we are regularly faced with the choice of having to or needing to negotiate. It’s a skill one has to learn, it doesn’t come natural to everyone, but it gets easier with practice.
It’s also a cultural thing. Some cultures are very good at negotiations and do it all the time, wherever they are, while in other cultures negotiating over certain things is frowned upon.
Many years ago, on a dance tour of North Africa, I think it was in Casablanca, I went to a Suk, a traditional bazaar, with a colleague who was wearing a very interesting looking but not an expensive watch. Even though he had no intention of selling his watch, he was approached by a merchant and then asked the merchant how much he was willing to pay for it. The negotiation started and kept on going until we had left the Suk, the price kept on going up, but my colleague never sold it.
All of us, probably have observed some new Canadians trying to negotiate in large stores like Walmart or Loblaw’s over every day items such as groceries or clothes. And we, as more “experienced” Canadians, kind of laugh at it, knowing that it’s not going to work.
I went to the internet and found the following list of Ten Tips for Successful Negotiating by Ed Brodow, a keynote speaker and negotiation guru:
- Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. Successful negotiators are assertive and challenge everything – they know that everything is negotiable.
- Shut up and listen. I am amazed by all the people I meet who can’t stop talking.
- Do your homework. Gather as much pertinent information prior to your negotiation. What are their needs? What pressures do they feel? What options do they have?
- Always be willing to walk away. In other words, never negotiate without options. If you depend too much on the positive outcome of a negotiation, you lose your ability to say NO. If you are not desperate – if you recognize that you have other options – the other negotiator will sense your inner strength.
- Don’t be in a hurry. Being patient is very difficult for North Americans. We want to get it over with. Anyone who has negotiated in Asia, South America, or the Middle East will tell you that people in those cultures look at time differently than we do in North America and Europe.
- Aim high and expect the best outcome. Successful negotiators are optimists. If you expect more, you’ll get more. A proven strategy for achieving higher results is opening with an extreme position. Sellers should ask for more than they expect to receive, and buyers should offer less than they are prepared to pay.
- Focus on the other side’s pressure, not yours. We have a tendency to focus on our own pressure, on the reasons why we need to make a deal.
- Show the other person how their needs will be met. Successful negotiators always look at the situation from the other side’s perspective.
- Don’t give anything away without getting something in return. Unilateral concessions are self-defeating. Always tie a string: “I’ll do this if you do that.”
- Don’t take the issues or the other person’s behavior personally. All too often negotiations fail because one or both of the parties get sidetracked by personal issues unrelated to the deal at hand.
So personally, I have never been very good at negotiating. I tend to want to please others too much by giving them what they are asking for. Also, while building your small business, you need to grow and you need more sales, so you might agree to things you later regret. And I do!
With age, comes experience and patience, and fortunately my company has grown to a size where I can now say: No Thank You, I am not interested at that price.