Whether it’s a contract with a supplier or a deal with an important partner, negotiating is essential to small business success. But if you’re negotiating with someone you want to have a lasting relationship with, a vendor, a client or other business owners, you shouldn’t negotiate to get only what you want out of the deal. You have to consider the other person’s concerns, also, so they’ll want to keep doing business with you. Here are some tips to help you ensure a “win-win” outcome that leaves everybody happy.
Make sure you have done your homework. Plan and prepare for your upcoming meeting just like you would any other important event. If you find yourself about to start negotiations that you didn’t plan for, like over dinner, try to be polite but schedule a future meeting to give yourself time to prepare.
Start your planning by considering all of the possible outcomes. Try to envision what might happen, what objections the other party may have and what offers or counter-offers they may make. The better you know the folks you’re negotiating with, the easier this will be because you will know their attitudes, history, and goals better.
Decide what it is you want. You can’t come out with a win/win if your goals keep changing or you don’t have a firm idea of what a win for you is. Consider what you’re willing to give a little on and what is non-negotiable. Never enter into any negotiations without considering what you are and are not willing to give up. And what, if anything, the other side must give up, for everyone to be happy.
When the big day arrives, listen more than you talk. We all tend to talk too much in stressful situations. Our mind starts to plan and strategize so much that we don’t let the other person finish a sentence. Make it a point to listen to the other person and consider what they are saying before rushing in with a response.
Also, if the other party happens to be the offender, don’t let them make you lose your temper. If you feel you can’t continue in a productive fashion, see if you can table the talks and continue at another time. Don’t give up more than you want just to “get it over with” or because you’re worn down and tired.
A handshake should still be your bond but, make sure someone is taking notes or otherwise recording decisions. At the end of the negotiation, clarify the provisions made verbally and give a good handshake. As soon as possible after the meeting, while everyone is still happy, put the agreement in writing.