Negotiating is one of the hardest aspects of business and learning how to do so properly requires preparation and follow-through. To stand a better chance at negotiating you must plan ahead and try to account for all the possible outcomes.
To help you become better at this practice, we reached out to business leaders with years of negotiations to discuss strategies for finding success in business negotiations.
“Don’t be a jerk. It sounds simple, but every so often people think that they need to be rude and uncompromising. In the real world, you attract more bees with honey than vinegar. Keep in mind that nobody wants to be in business with a jerk. Acting in an unfriendly manner could pay off, but remember, you might want to do more business in the future with this potential client. If you are impolite, they may want to steer clear. Don’t ruin your long-term relationship for a short-term gain. A good relationship should be the main goal in a business decision. After all, if the deal falls through, you want to be the person they come to in the future if there is ever another opportunity.” – Rob Bartlett, CEO of WTFast.
Identify All Possible Scenarios.
“Having enough conversations beforehand around what those scenarios really are and making sure that everybody understands what we are trying to accomplish is really important,” McQuilken said. “If everybody understands what the goal is and what the maximum and minimums are that we’ll accept, it helps with improvising during the negotiation.” – Lucy McQuilken, Chief Financial Officer at Whoop.
Take a Break.
“It’s effective to take a break between negotiations in cases when it may get a little heated. We strongly encourage not reacting to the other side’s emotion … and [instead] figuring out what our true differences are so we can negotiate on differences and not on emotion. You’ve got to make sure that you pull a team together that doesn’t want a win-lose outcome, but a partnership with the other side.” – Robert Nealon, District President of Professional Staffing Services at Robert Half.
Listen and Understand.
“Don’t try to control the conversation and talk your jaw off. Listen and listen hard to what the other side is telling you. Try to understand what their issues are and formulate a response that addresses their concerns. They are coming to you for a solution, you need to understand their problem so you can determine whether or not you or your company can help them. The only way to do that is to listen and hear what it is they need so you can figure out how you fit into the equation. People also tend to feel like conversations go better when they are doing the brunt of the talking.” – Jorge Vivar, Creative Director of mode.
Listen to Body Language.
“70 to 93 percent of all communication is nonverbal, so when you are negotiating, what the other person isn’t saying plays a big role. Understanding and taking the time to learn about body language will help you out at the negotiation table. You can garner a lot of information by reading what people’s bodies were telling you in those meetings. Making the proper adjustments can sway the negotiation in your favor.” – Phillip Akhzar, CEO of Arka.
Always Reject the First Offer.
“Many inexperienced negotiators are quick to jump on the first offer that is thrown at them from the other side, but that is a mistake you want to avoid. They want to do business with you and if they are in the room, they are invested in making it work. If they throw out an offer, counter with better terms and a more agreeable price. Accepting the first offer too quickly can make the other person or company feel like they went too high. This can make them reconsider the deal altogether and they might pull out as a result. Moreover, people expect the first offer to be countered and often budget for or have been granted up to an additional 15% for such cases. Negotiating on the offer makes both parties feel like they got the best deal in the end.” – Julie Harris, Co-CEO and Head Of Coaching at Tim & Julie Harris Real Estate Coaching.
Don’t Overly Concede.
“You never want to come off as desperate in a business negotiation. If you do this, the buyer will sense it and hit you with more and more demands to test how far they can push you. If you keep giving in to the demands in the hopes that doing so will close the deal, the opposition will start to realize that they can get away with anything and start asking for increasingly unreasonable terms knowing that you will give in. Instead, go the other direction and keep a firm stance. When they get cocky and ask for something unreasonable, tell them that you are no longer interested in that asking price or those terms. Always make sure you are getting something agreeable in return if you are conceding.” – Chris Bridges, CEO of VITAL Card.
Keep Time in Mind.
“Time is your enemy. The longer you spend working out a deal, the more likely you are to lose it. Respond promptly and stay on top of your team to ensure that momentum is kept. Don’t confuse this with rushing, however, and don’t overly compromise in the interest of time. Try to understand the difference between deals where time is of the essence and those that will benefit from a slower approach.” – Jared Hines, Head of Operations at Acre Gold.
Control the Terms of the Agreement.
“One of the simplest ways to remain in control of the agreement is to have your team draft up the first version of the proposed contract. Why? Because this allows you and your side to frame the terms of the deal and make it clear to the opposite side what points are important to you and how the future contract should be structured should you want to go into business with them. This helps control the narrative because they will be reluctant to make huge changes to a legal document and therefore you will be coming to the table with an upper hand. Be careful not to get too crazy, though. You don’t want to lose out on a deal by being too one-sided from the start. A good legal team will help.” – John Berry, CEO and Managing Partner at Berry Law.
Don’t Be Afraid to Walk.
“Before you enter into a negotiation, mentally prepare yourself to walk away from it at any point if the deal is not to your liking. It’s a lot like playing cards; you have to know when to pack it up and walk away. That’s not always going to be easy when you are thinking about the money that you could be losing, but it’s necessary and it’s a part of the art of negotiation. Before you begin the negotiation, figure out what your target number is for the deal and what the walkaway price will be. Use market data and research on the company to figure out both. If they aren’t willing to agree to a price, get ready to fold your cards and walk away.” – Jeremy Gardner, CEO of MadeMan.
Business negotiations are hard work for everyone involved, but using this guide will help you and your company get the best deal on the table.