Recently, I read “Successful Negotiating” by Julia Tipler. It’s a pretty quick read (just under 100 pages) but has some interesting info. Here’s some titbits from the book:
Try to build long term relationships based on win-win deals rather than scoring points / grinding down opposition.
Use precise language with dates rather than “ASAP” or “when you have time”. Use simple language, and do not assume both sides hold the same assumptions and clarify often with questions.
Prepare well by deciding your objectives (needs & wants), non-negotiables, what you can compromise on and limits. Research your opposite number – what do they need and do they have power to sign off?
Create agenda and send to other party in advance of the meeting, emphasising that it is a draft and they can add items to it (aim to create a climate of agreement even before discussion begins). Place items that you think will be easy to reach agreement at the top to get momentum.
If you are selling, you should go to the customer as you are making the most effort and people feel more comfortable/polite on their “home ground”. Second meeting could be on “your territory”. If there’s a history of conflict, “neutral ground” may be best.
Make sure you’ve had time to prepare. On the phone, check that now is a convenient time for the other person.
- If person says they need or want something, ask why and encourage them to explain.
- “If I can’t meet that condition, is there something else that would make this deal work for you?”
- Identify mutual interest.
- Chunk down to find out the details of what people want and also chunk up to find out the big picture of why/when. With this understanding, you can then negotiate solutions which meet the needs of both partieis.
- Show you understand the reasons that lie behind wants/needs as this may reduce resistance to alternative suggestions.
- Once understanding is reached, move to middle ground of bidding and proposing. Both sides will need to compromise to some extent. At this point, you are asking the other party to consider what a good deal is, rather than firm agreement.
- Ask “what if” questions (eg, “what if I could offer you slower delivery but lower costs”?) and ask “why not” if they do not agree. Ask direct questions if this fails (eg, “what is the minimum delivery size you would agree to?”).
- Aim to uncover variables in the negotiations and come up with possibilities based on these.
- Don’t concede, exchange – doesn’t need to be of equal value however.
- Summarise and restate after each point is agreed on. Eg, “We’ve agreed on W, X and Y. That only leaves Z to be decided”.
- Ask series of questions which are closed/leading, where the answer to each is yes, leading to the final question which closes the deal.
- Always put agreement in writing (start with a draft framework for discussion).
- Agree on review and complaint handling processes.
- Agreement should be specific, measurable, agreed, realistic and time-bound.
When interpreting somebody’s body language (or projecting your own), consider these aspects in decreasing order of importance:
- Eye contact (around 70% of the time ideal, too little suggests disagreement or disinterest, too much suggests aggression, looking up suggests thinking, looking down suggests discomfort)
- Facial expression (smile, make sure you show what you are feeling, don’t be deadpan, that’s unnerving)
- Posture (Relaxed and upright, leaning forwarding slightly, crossing legs are all signs of interest. Folding arms or turning body away suggests discomfort with the proceedings. Mirroring other person suggests agreement.)
- Hand gestures (open hand gestures suggest open mind, fiddling or doodling suggests disinterest or nervousness)
If body language is unclear, clarify. Eg, “Is this still all right with you?”
- Do make listening noises such as “uhuh” and “mmm”.
- Do not finish other people’s sentences for them, as they may find this irritating.
- Take notes to show you’re interested and to help you summarise the agreement as you approach the close.
- Keep cool and respond, rather than react. Stay adult and detached and offer time out if the opposite part is losing it.
- Show respect at all times.