The Missing Keys to Great Negotiation Skills

Would you agree that your success, in business and in life, is determined by your ability to successfully ask for, and get, what you want? It may have begun when you first asked for a cookie. Today, you may be asking for a $50,000 contract or a higher discount on supplies. The principles are the same. Yet I find people often miss the mark. Clients tell me that they fear negotiations will result in anger, so they never even ask for what they want. Or their negotiations bring about a stalemate. In every instance, we find that four specific keys are missing.

Good negotiation skills can actually increase your credibility, your communication and your business. These simple steps will make all the difference:

Begin with a clear understanding of what you want from the negotiation. Dig below the surface. If you are negotiating for a higher sale price or a discount, you could get stuck on a line item; instead, consider the total picture. What gets you the highest return? Are there tax considerations? Are there costs the other side could absorb? Are there other requests such as timing, financing or down payments to consider? Understand WHY you want what you say you want. Creativity could result in getting a vacation at the end of a conference – with your client picking up the travel cost to the event. Or you might take an equity interest in a company as part of your compensation for potential long-term return. When you recognize your short- and long-term objectives, you are in the best position to negotiate.

State your intention for a win-win negotiation up front. Remove any potential adversarial positioning by addressing it clearly. You might say, “I want to discuss some additional areas where I would like to see changes. My intention is that we reach an agreement that is unquestionably fair to both of us. Is that OK?” Get agreement for the discussion and the ground rules for openness and fairness before proceeding.

Ask questions to elicit the underlying needs of the other party. As you probably discovered in the first step, there may be many important points requiring discussion. If you were negotiating to purchase real estate, you might ask what the sellers intended to do with the money. Knowing whether they had already purchased another home, or whether they wanted ongoing cash flow from an investment, would dictate entirely different approaches to handling the transaction. Keep asking questions until you have a very good understanding of what will satisfy their needs. You are then ready for the next step.

Be flexible in meeting both parties’ needs while making small concessions. If you have done the first three steps, you now have a significant list of possibilities…and it is time to be creative. Do you have services or connections that would assist the other party? Can you offer discounts or timing flexibility? Be prepared to expand beyond your original request. Make small concessions one at a time in order to keep the conversation moving forward. Never give your final offer until you have already conceded many small points. Why? If you give a final offer without first realizing that you are giving something valuable, you may reach an early impasse. And it is entirely possible that by using this method, you will reach an agreement far more favorable to you than you originally imagined – while also satisfying the other party.

By following the four keys above, you will enjoy significantly greater success in negotiations. However, if either party is doing one of the following, the negotiation has little chance to succeed.

FATAL APPROACHES IN NEGOTIATION

Fixating on the impossible. There are times that a past event becomes an issue. Perhaps a deadline has passed, or an event was ruined. In a recent negotiation, the mother of the bride repeated the statement that her daughter was crying on her wedding day. It is important to acknowledge that YOU CAN’T CHANGE THE PAST. The point of negotiation is to agree to something that is in the present and carries forward. Both parties must agree to consider only the options available at this point. Fixation on the past can be a no-win tactic because it puts greater emphasis on the currency of emotion.

Negotiating for power or pain. In divorces or other emotionally charged situations, there is often little possibility of a win-win outcome, because one or both parties care only about bringing pain to the other side. Money is simply a vehicle for distributing the hurt – and as a result, no one can really win. If you find yourself in this situation, go back to step one. Get to the bottom of what you really want and encourage the other party to do the same.

Mastering these principles requires great introspection, listening skills and clear communication. But they can make you a skilled negotiator. Not only that, skilled negotiations can increase the confidence that people place in you.

Ready, set…negotiate!

Limit Your Presentation to a Few Key Points to Reduce Stage Fright

One of the big challenges that we have to overcome as speakers is that we tend to think that if we don’t get the audience to understand EVERYTHING that we know about the subject that we are speaking on, then we have failed as a speaker. That is an impossible standard to live up to, but it is what most of us have in mind when we are designing our presentations.

For most people, we begin to design our presentations by thinking about everything that we know about the subject, and then trying to catalogue that information either on paper or into a PowerPoint slideshow. Once we get everything written down, the next step is to try to figure out how to get ALL of that information into the timeframe that we have for the speech.

This type of preparation makes it very difficult for your audience to come away with a concise understanding of what you covered, and makes it extremely difficult to deliver. (By the way, it makes you BOOOOORING too.)

One of the things that we know about the human mind is that we like to compartmentalize things, and the brain likes to focus on just a few key pieces of information at a time. So instead of trying to pack your presentation with a ton of data, focus on just a few key items at a time.

The brain can comprehend one item pretty easily. Two items are not so tough to remember. Three items give a balance between variety and precision. Four or five items in one sitting are okay, but make it more difficult to retain the information. Once the information that you are covering exceeds five key points, it will be extremely difficult for your audience to remember the items that you covered. Since that is the case, limit your talking points to just a few key concepts, and then back up those key points with data, stories, analogies, etc. to add some meat to your presentation.

If you have a lot of information that you HAVE to present to your audience and it is critical that the audience remembers the information, then it’s a good idea to give them the information in bite-sized pieces. A good way to do this is to take breaks from time to time to limit the data that is being delivered in one sitting. For instance, if you have ten things to cover in a morning meeting, cover three points and take a ten-minute break. Then come back and cover three or four more points, and take a ten-minute break before coming back and finishing the talk. When you design your presentations this way, you’ll get your audience to retain much more of the material that you deliver.

If you are limited on time, and you have to deliver a bunch of data, then you have to manage your expectations. Your audience is much less likely to remember the information, so you might want to prepare a handout with a summary of the data. Regardless, realize that no matter how good of a presenter that you are, if you data dump on your audience, they will be fairly distant from you and likely to be bored.

In public speaking, less is more!

Negotiating Skills – Dealing With ‘em Smart

Kevin Spacey made it seem like very serious business in “The Negotiator” and we agree with him! It is important that budding entrepreneurs equip themselves with a strategy for effective negotiation. Why, you ask? Its simple… every one thinks about their own selves, avers Dale Carnegie of “How to Win Friends and Influence People” fame. Doing smart business is often a question of striking deals that are attractive to others while serving one’s own interests. This is where good negotiating skills come in handy.

Negotiating skills are needed during all business interactions, be it acquiring a new client, striking deals with suppliers, hiring new employees or even keeping the ones you have. Bear a couple of things in mind to negotiate well:

The personal touch: Whatever be the deal you are trying to negotiate, keeping in contact with the other party is essential. By this we do not mean fixing appointments over the answering machine! Ideally, one should make an effort to meet the client or vendor in person. This will not only secure the other parties’ attention but also give you a chance to assess them closely.

Understand the terrain: The strategy you employ during negotiations will depend upon the other party as well. For instance, if you have common interests, collaboration is the most likely outcome. Compromise is yet another outcome, wherein both parties settle for something a little short of their individual targets. But if your groundwork is strong, you could be calling the shots. Be a patient listener and try to get as much as possible out of the other person; this will put you in the driver’s seat. Prepare and play your cards well, else you could find yourself accommodating more and more concessions.

Aim high: While the idea is to make the deal as beneficial as possible, that’s probably what the other person is going for as well. So, define your targets and keep them high enough to ensure that you do not lose out in the bargain. Ensure a fairly large margin to play with. While setting goals, stick to what is best for your company, (reputation included) rather than that which merely enhances profits. Remember to be discreet about your own goals while negotiating; keep the opponent guessing about what’s on your mind!

Keep the ball rolling: Good negotiating skills require adopting an active stance. For every problem the other party comes up with, discuss possible solutions. Be enthusiastic and persuasive; emphasize common ground and stress on the benefits of the deal to the other person. Unexpected opportunities might emerge during the dialog; hence be prepared to request for more time, if you need to consult with others. Likewise, if dispensable clauses seem to be getting in the way, compromising on them is probably the best thing to do.

See which way the wind blows: Don’t hesitate to make or seek clarifications as this will avoid confusion later. Think twice before you agree to anything new on the spot; there might be more to it than what is obvious. Keep your ears and eyes open for any changes that might not be in the best interest of your business. Calling off a deal that is a no deal is just as important as negotiating well.

Face roadblocks head on: While conflicts are common to all negotiations, they need to be handled with caution. Suggest temporary solutions to problems until they can be discussed at length later. This way you could buy more time to tackle those difficulties efficiently. If there are more than two people on either side then call for a vote to resolve the setback.

The devil is in the details: Once you see the deal through, take care to outline the terms and conditions carefully. Specify the validity of the contract and clauses addressing compensation if the deal falls out among other things. Do this meticulously to avoid loopholes. Attention to minute details will help save precious time and money, should the tide turn against you. Look before you leap; don’t make any commitments before the deal is down in black and white.

There might come a time when it seems like the discussion is headed nowhere; stay patient and focused through it. “Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement without Giving In” by Roger Fisher, William L. Ury and Bruce Patton , could be a good start for those of you wanting to nail the deal at top speed . “Interviewing, Counseling, and Negotiating: Skills for Effective Representation” by Robert M. Bastress and Joseph D. Harbaugh, could improve your negotiating skills a great deal. If poor communication has been getting in the way of your negotiating skills, solve your problem .

Finally, be confident about yourself and your offer; most importantly, end the discussion on a good note, whether you decide for or against the arrangement. With our tips to guide you, “The Negotiator” could well be your second name!