Do you ever feel as though you have to put on your armor when you’re negotiating with a prospect or client? Have you ever wished you could find a way to negotiate that was strong and firm — yet creative and consultative at the same time? Would you like to be able to state what you want … and still be seen as a partner? If so, read on.
The negotiation phase really can be a time to build a relationship and speak honestly and directly with the other party. Even if with a one-time negotiation, you don’t need to use tricky “lines” or similar tricks to get what you want. Most people are willing to be flexible during negotiations ..if they believe the other party perceives them as knowledgeable, honest and able to make a deal.
Here are three key strategies to keep in mind when negotiating.
- Have a game plan or strategy.
Your game plan or strategy is a starting point — a brief outline of what you’d like to accomplish and how. It is not a rigid rulebook to be appealed to throughout the negotiation, no matter what. You are working with another human being, someone who doesn’t appreciate being “backed into a corner” any more than you would. Set a strategy, with clear goals and possible tactics, but be willing to revise it as circumstances and your most important interests warrant.
- Begin with the right mindset.
Most people go in to negotiations thinking one of two things:
“I have to win at all cost. I don’t want to look stupid. I have done my homework and, by gosh, I know what X, Y, and Z cost. I am not going to be taken advantage of!” “Please, please, just be reasonable and give me X, Y, and Z without a hassle. I really don’t want to fight with you over this.”
Do you see any problem with these approaches? Each one has faith in you but not the other party. That immediately makes negotiation difficult. If you believe the other party will try to take advantage of you, then you lose you biggest edge-the perception that the other person will do anything they can do to help you. That’s the mindset you have to start with. Believe me: People can tell whether you believe in the best or worst of them. They will try to live up to either expectation.
- Know what kind of person you’re dealing with.
This is the biggie, and it’s the subject I will spend the most time on here.
Most people make the mistake of assuming there is a single list of “tough negotiating tactics” that works with everyone. When I first started negotiating multi-million dollar deals, I really felt I had to have all these “hardball tactics” in place. I practiced saying, “Is that the best you can do?” in a mirror with a serious face. Hardball was my style. I liked to negotiate fast — and I liked to win!
But there was something missing. I noticed that every time I went to negotiate I had to roll up my sleeves and outthink my opponent again. The process got combative, it just plain wasn’t fun, and I don’t believe I always got the best deal I could. I was leaving out the human equation — what makes different people tick.
What I am about to share with you works whether you love to negotiate or you hate it with a passion. It works whether you know whom you are negotiating with ahead of time or you are surprised on the spot. It often results in your leaving the table with more than you came to ask for! (That’s what my clients have told me, and it’s also my personal experience.) The challenge is that what you’re about to learn does require practice and thought to execute well.
Ask yourself: What is the personality style of the other person and how does that affect how he or she negotiates?
Not every person negotiates from the same point of view. Each person has a different stake in a negotiation and you need to know what concerns the other party the most. You also need to know what your own style is. Most people negotiate in the style they are most comfortable with and they try to bring the other party around to their way of thinking.
This doesn’t work, for reasons that will become clear to you shortly.
Let’s briefly run through the four main negotiating styles. (A word of caution–use all the following information as a guideline-not as absolute truths about people. You don’t want to box others in or simplify things too much.)
Connecter. The Connector is down to earth, warm, friendly and caring. Connectors are people-oriented; they want you to like them. They usually have very open body language, are congenial, have a nicely decorated office with family photos and plants, and are neatly dressed and friendly. They will usually focus directly on you during the negotiation.
Their hot button is stability, and they get stability through personal courtesies. These people will offer you coffee, ask if the room is all right, and make certain you are comfortable during the negotiation. Atmosphere and style will be most important in connecting with this person. Connectors often have a hard time with conflict and tend to crumble or to become very brittle when “called on the carpet.” They hate to feel used or unimportant. If you don’t say hello, if you cut people off, if you become snide or pushy, you will lose in negotiations with Connectors. They want to connect with you personally. The more they like you and the better you make them feel, the more flexible they become.
To interact effectively with Connectors, be open, honest and start with some small talk. Get to know them as people. Don’t try to “fast forward” to the negotiation itself. Be open when they aren’t meeting your needs — but don’t be accusatory. For example, if the price is high, be straightforward and say, “That is quite a bit more than I planned on. I realize you are a very reputable hotel and I would love to be able to work with you. What can we do together creatively to get that rate down?” Get Connectors thinking about ways to help you.
Connectors often don’t tell you what they are really thinking. Since they don’t like conflict, they will tend to keep strong disagreements or key points to themselves. They will often end the conversation with a “We’ll get back to you,” meaning you will never hear from them again. They can often harbor a grudge if they feel you have belittled them or treated them disrespectfully.
Networkers. Networkers desire fun, excitement, and applause. They like to win arguments. They like the big picture, and they are usually not good at details. Their office will be decorated with pictures of trips, fun events and family. They will be congenial and friendly and may spend 70% of the negotiation focusing on small talk. Over the phone, they will be chatty and make you feel connected right away. They will often jump around in their conversation with you.
Their hot button is recognition, and they get recognition by being people-oriented. They are great at networking and are usually well connected in their industry and company. They will negotiate from their gut, and their positions will be based largely on how they feel about you. The more they like and trust you, the more flexible they will be. If you ask them to focus on too many details, or try to get them on nitty gritty points they will shut down. Remember, Networkers like the big picture, so hit on your key points first … and then bundle your small points together. For example: “So we are in agreement that we can get the ballroom along with 4 meeting rooms for xyz price for our event. Great. Okay, then the details of what we need for food, room set up and equipment can those be bundled in that price also? I imagine we will need ….(and here give an overview of what you need.)”
To interact effectively with Networkers, show them how this negotiation will benefit them and their company. Even when you are asking them to make tough decisions, point out why it is better to make this difficult decision now than to wait. You might say something like this: “I realize that it may seem I am asking you for a lot. And in fact, I am. There is also a lot of value in putting this together as we have laid the project out out. First, it gives you guaranteed occupancy of rooms with an association that has been around for 20 years. Second, most the people attending are from large Fortune 500 companies, and this gives you marketing exposure to all of those companies without you having to spend any advertising money. Third, if everything goes well, I will be happy to write a recommendation letter that you can use with other prospects to show your company’s skill in coordinating a large event.” Notice how many times you have emphasized why the other person is smart for wanting to secure the advantages of closing this deal. This is recognition.
Networkers like to close the deal on the spot. Remember since they are not usually good at details, they are probably not your best contact people once the negotiation is done. You want to leave with the name of the person you can contact to follow up on all the details. Be sure to get everything in writing immediately; Networkers often change their mind and/or forget what they just agreed to.
Producers: This is probably the best known — and most feared — style for negotiation. Producers are direct, to the point, goal oriented and frequently in a hurry. They think fast, move fast and talk fast. Over the phone, they will be abrupt and cut to the chase. They may well interrupt you Their office is usually neat with several strong stamps of personality-golf trophies, work trophies, elegant pictures or statues. They usually dress with an eye to presence or force. They don’t walk into a room, they stride in and offer a strong handshake. They make great eye contact and can almost seem to bore in to you.
Not surprisingly, their hot button is power, and they get power through control. They tend to shoot straight and not mince words. They want you to give the big picture and they will rapid-fire questions at you to get the answer. They want the best deal possible, and pride themselves on their ability to get what they want or need. They often enjoy the “game” of negotiating as it stimulates their intellect. They thrive in the negotiation environment.
The good news is you do not need to be mincemeat to succeed with Producers. They are usually not out to eat you up, but they are out to get a good deal. Realize that this is the one personality style that will not usually take the first deal offered. If you offer them your best deal and refuse to budge, you disappoint them, because you don’t give them an opportunity to use their skill. So offer a good deal, but be prepared to make small concessions.
Let Producers talk first. If you feel boxed in, be direct about it. For example, you might say, “Look we both want what is best for our companies; that’s why we are here. I also realize that neither of us wants to take advantage of the other person. So share with me, why if you were me you would take the deal you just offered.” Make them think from your perspective. They will enjoy the challenge and will often chuckle or back down when you say something like this.
If you are a Connector, then a Producer will be the hardest style for you to negotiate with. Producers will give up personal courtesies (in other words, what is most important to a Connector) in order to “get to the bottom line.” They are there to make a deal first and a relationship second. Be open, direct and call them on their bluffs in a friendly way. Don’t try to punch back.
I once had a client call and say they wanted to book me for a speaking engagement but they could only pay 1/3 of my fee. Now, I had been working with this prospect for almost 2 years so I knew she knew our pricing and value, yet she was insistent. Instead of being angry or trying to justify my pricing, I said, “Look, I know you realize the value of our programs, because you have been working with me for two years. I also realize you might be working with budget constraints. I want to work with you and I also want to be fair to my clients across the country. Quite frankly you have stumped me. I am having a hard time rationalizing how to do this event at the pricing we are talking about. Can you brainstorm with me on how we can make this work?”
By using that approach, she never had to defend her offer and I never had to defend my pricing. Instead we took our energy and focused it on how to get the event done. We ended up finding some creative budgeting ideas that made the deal work!
Analyzers. Analyzers tend to be straightforward. They desire accuracy and want the details first … then the big picture. They generally don’t like a lot of chitchat. They want to get to the meat of the discussion. Their office is likely to be bereft of any personal touches, but it will probably feature stacks of data and information. Over the phone, Analyzers tend to talk slower than the other three groups, and may insert long pauses during the call. They are likely to remain non-emotional during a negotiation.
Their hot button is accuracy and they get this by collecting data. They want to make sure all the facts are in place before they make a decision. They don’t like “fluffy” negotiations. Broad, sweeping statements annoy this person. Give them the facts — and make sure they add up. Whatever you hand them will be read closely, either on the spot or after you leave. Analyzers do not like to finalize a negotiation on the spot. They like to be able to mull the decision over and give you an answer by email, letter or phone. They need space in order to make a decision.
If you try to “strong-arm” an Analyzer during negotiations, you will lose. Remember accuracy is vitally important to this person. They want facts, figures and yes, it does matter if you need fifty widgets rather than fifty-two. Come armed with as much factual information as possible. If you don’t have it, say so up front. Say, “I realize that you would probably like more information then I actually have on me today. So what I recommend we do during this meeting is find out whether we are in the same ball park to look at speaking further about how we might work together.” Then give the facts you do have and let the Analyzer proceed from there. If you end up working with an Analyzer, always have your information ready before you call or visit.
Analyzers will often focus on what could go wrong, even if it’s unlikely to. They may seem to make a mountain out of a molehill. Actually, they are just trying to be accurate. Appreciate that desire for accuracy; show why the risk is worthwhile, or demonstrate why it’s worth taking. Focus on the positive and emphasize “hard numbers.”
Putting it all together
Once you start noticing and looking for the personality styles, you will be able to spot them easily. And once you stop worrying about you and focusing on what the other person is trying to do, negotiations become less about winning and more about connecting.
The bottom line: Make sure you add value to the other person. This is why it is so important to be able to read the other person’s personality style and speak from his or her perspective. If you ignore someone’s hot button or try to pull him or her over to your style of communication, you will lose. Have a game plan and be flexible with it, read the other person effectively, and add value by speaking from the other person’s perspective. If you do this, you will find that negotiations are really “brainstorming sessions” with another party.