By Rieva Lesonsky
Negotiating is a near-daily part of life for a small business owner. In any given week, you might be negotiating with a job candidate you hope to land, a retailer you hope will carry your product or another entrepreneur with whom you hope to form a strategic partnership.
In short, negotiating is essential to small business success. But if you’re negotiating with someone you hope to create a lasting relationship with—whether that’s a client, a vendor or another business owner—you can’t negotiate solely with an eye to what you want out of the deal. You have to consider the other person’s interests, too, so they’ll want to keep doing business with you. Here are some tips to help you create “win-win” negotiations that leave everybody happy.
Before the negotiation….
- Start by figuring out what you want. What’s your ideal result? Next, consider what you’re willing to be flexible on and what is non-negotiable. Maybe you can accept a lower price for your service, for example, in exchange for better terms or faster payment. Never enter into negotiation without considering what you are and are not willing to give up.
- Think through as many possible outcomes as you can. The better you know the person or people you’re negotiating with, the easier this will be because you will know their attitudes, history and goals better than if you’re dealing with someone you’ve never negotiated with before. Try to envision what might happen, what objections the other party may have and what offers or counter-offers they may make.
- Decide what your options are. If you can’t come to an agreement that is satisfactory to both of you, what options do you have? Can you regroup and schedule a future negotiation at a later date? Do you have the power to force the other party to accept your terms? Even if you can do this, what will the effect be on your future relationship?
During the negotiation…
- Listen more than you talk. Often, we’re so busy planning our next move or what we’re going to say next that we don’t listen to the other person. This is especially common in stressful situations like negotiation. Make it a point to actually listen to the other person and consider what they are saying instead of rushing in with a response.
- Be polite. Never let the other party force you to lose your cool. If you feel you can’t continue in a productive fashion, see if you can table the negotiation and continue at another time. Never give up more than you want to just to “get it over with” or because you’re worn down and tired.
- Trust, but verify. Misunderstandings can easily arise during a negotiation. Make sure someone is taking notes or otherwise recording decisions. At the end of the negotiation, clarify the decisions made and any next steps. As soon as possible after the negotiation, put the agreement in writing.