10 tips for successful business negotiation

Negotiating is an important part of every business owner’s life. Whether you’re dealing with suppliers, managing employees or contracting with prospective clients, you are negotiating. The quality and success of your business can be directly affected by your ability — or inability — to negotiate.

Use these 10 tips to sharpen your negotiating skills:

  • 1. Know what you want. You can’t get what you want from others if you don’t know what you want for yourself. Establish a specific goal for negotiation. Consider what it will take to satisfy your interests, needs and objectives.
  • 2. Develop a game plan. Once you know what you want, establish a strategy to achieve your objectives. Before presenting your first offer, consider where you want to start and where you want to finish. Give yourself some room to move.
  • 3. Know what the other party needs. It takes two to negotiate. To reach an agreement, all parties must feel that some, if not all, of their interests have been satisfied. Your negotiating partner also has motivations and concerns. Ask open-ended questions to gather information and understand the other side’s position.
  • 4. Be an empathetic listener. There are hundreds of courses about public speaking, but very few teach you how to listen. Attentive listening is a powerful negotiating tool, which enables you to understand the motivations of others.
  • 5. Attack the problem, not the people. Focus on finding solutions to your shared problems. Screaming at the other party may let off steam, but it isn’t conducive to effective joint problem-solving.
  • 6. Treat the other side as your ally, not your enemy. Your negotiating partner may have to persuade others in his or her organization to agree to your deal. As a friend, this person can sell your deal. As your enemy, he or she can sink it.
  • 7. Educate, don’t intimidate. Be prepared to explain, document and justify to your negotiating partners why they should accept your proposal. Help them understand your position.
  • 8. Be patient. Don’t be angry or insulted if the first offer you receive is not what you hoped. Treat this proposal as the first of several in the negotiating process. Slow but steady movement creates momentum, which can lead to agreement.
  • 9. Consider the consequences of no agreement. Think about what could happen — both good and bad — if you are unable to agree. Can you afford to “walk away” from the table, or are you desperate to make a deal now?
  • 10. Be flexible and creative. Rolling Stone Mick Jagger made the line “You can’t always get what you want” famous. In negotiations, this is often true. Always have a fallback position — some alternative that satisfies you and the other party enough to make a deal. Be imaginative, patient and persistent, and “you just might get what you need.”