What Makes a Successful Negotiator?

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Negotiation is a skill that many people have naturally. We all know of the child who can manipulate her parents easily leaving the bewildered mom or dad to wonder where they went wrong. It’s also a skill that can be learned.

Skillful negotiators follow certain basic rules that lead to a satisfactory deal. Planning is essential for successful negotiation. Through planning, you study your needs and decide what you really want. Is it a new car that shows off your sporty side, or are you looking for an SUV to schlep the kids and their friends to practice? Do you really need a huge kitchen makeover, since you rarely cook, or do you need a modern bathroom to take care of the growing family? With good planning, you can analyze your needs, wants and desire, both in business and in your personal life. Knowing what you really want is 90 percent of the deal.

Analyze the Problem
Your next step is to analyze the problem from both perspectives. If you are asking for a raise, you need to know what you are worth to the company and be prepared to walk away if your needs are not met. If the company is undergoing financial difficulties, it’s probably not a good time to ask for a raise. By understanding where the other party is coming from, you can avoid inflaming the situation by making demands that will cause you to get fired, not get a raise.

Take Your Time
The best negotiators are never in a hurry. They know that the longer they can sit at the table, the better chances they have of getting what they want. Impatience leads negotiators to give in to a lesser benefit than they would otherwise achieve. If you are patient, the other negotiator may realize that you want the best deal and are willing to sit at the table until you get it. They may begin to give you concessions to move the deal along.

Expect a Benefit if You Make a Concession
The golden rule of negotiation is to never give away something without getting something in return. Ask for a discount if you pay cash or state that you will buy 500 extra pieces if they throw in free delivery. If you give away something without receiving a benefit in return, the sharks on the other side will have a feeding frenzy.

Check Your Emotions at the Door
Successful negotiators never get emotional. Negotiations can get contentious, but the side that doesn’t get emotional usually gets the better deal. When the discussion becomes heated, focus on the problem and ignore the personal conduct of your negotiating partner. If they are unreasonable, don’t negotiate. Instead, ask them to call you when they can offer you a better deal.

Listen Actively and Use Silence as a Weapon
A good way to listen actively is to focus on you negotiating partner. Let her do the talking 70 percent of the time while you speak only 30 percent of the time. You must learn to read body language as well as listen carefully to what is being said. While you are listening, try to find points that mean more to the other side than to you. You can use these points as bargaining chips.

You can also use silence to your advantage. If the other side makes an offer, wait a bit before responding. Flinch and use body language to indicate that you are not satisfied. They may offer you a better deal because they are so uncomfortable with your reaction and silence.

Keep a Closer or Two in Reserve
When negotiating, always have something that means a lot to you but not to the other negotiator. When you sense the other side is ready to agree to the deal, this fact could push them over the edge into making a deal. If they need to sell 50 cars by the end of the month, say you’ll take the deal if they can sweeten the deal with extras such as new tires, free oil changes for the life of the car or a new set of floor mats.

Be Prepared to Walk Away
You don’t want to walk away too soon, but having this option means you are negotiating from a position of strength. If you aren’t desperate to settle and close the deal, you have other options. There’s always another interview, dealership or house on the market. It’s better to walk away, if necessary, than to settle for a deal you don’t like.

Many of our negotiations in life require us to continue interacting with our negotiating partner, such as our boss, so never let your negotiations become acrimonious. Always aim for a positive discussion and be prepared to walk away if it isn’t. ■

Sources: brodow.com, chron.com, slate.com, thebalance.com and wikihow.com.