How many times a day do you engage in negotiation to achieve something you want? Do you see it as something that other people do?
The fact is that all of us are negotiating, constantly. Whether it is with our loved ones, our employees / employer, our suppliers, our customers, the supermarket cashier, the taxi driver, the member of Customer Care Staff at our utility company… all of us are utilising learned behaviour and experiences in negotiating with others constantly throughout our waking moments. The problem is that we rarely stop to think and give negotiation the due consideration it deserves.
Negotiation is seen by most as something that others do, especially at work. Others believe themselves to be born negotiation experts. Still more confuse negotiation with selling, and few realise the fundamental importance negotiation has in our lives.
There is plenty of material and academic study on the importance and psychology of negotiation in our everyday lives but I want to focus here on more traditional ground – negotiation in business.
To explore the subject in detail I would thoroughly recommend Negotiation Genius by Deepak Malhotra and Max Bazerman. It’s a very enjoyable, and enlightening, read. However, to set out some spoilers and encourage you to think about negotiation in your working life more critically, here are some catalytic thoughts:
- Many consider negotiation as a method of getting what one wants, at the expense of someone else. Rarely is this the truth. Most negotiations involve the opportunity to create value, as well as claim it. When you enter your next negotiation, consider what the other side wants and see whether it is possible to satisfy the needs of both sides. Not everyone is interested just in price or cost in every deal.
- Ask why. If you are faced with a rejection, an intractable demand, an irreconcilable situation etc., just ask why. You’ll be amazed at the results and what you can achieve. Take this classic example: two vendors who require 50 eggs each satisfied with just 50 eggs between them when one bright soul asked why they needed the eggs, discovering that one needed the whites and one needed the yolks.
- Don’t assume. Aside from making asses of everyone at the table (sorry), assumptions poison clear thought and lead us down blind alleys. If you assume you know what the other side wants, you assume you know why they want it or – worst of all – you assume skill and talent in yourself as a negotiator, you will miss opportunities to create value between those at the table. At best you’ll be inefficient, at worst you’ll lose the deal.
- Selling is not negotiating. Selling is about pushing your product or service onto a client: its benefits etc. without truly considering your client’s unique needs.