Newbies aren’t always the best negotiators. Certainly, for some small business owners, negotiation comes naturally. Consider those who began negotiating an allowance and extra TV time with their parents at age four.
For most of us, however, developing negotiation skills comes from effort and experience, not formal training. Fortunately, as Denise Louise Jeffrey writes, “negotiation is a skill that can be learned with a little practice, preparation, and adaptability.”
Starting a business requires literally hundreds of negotiations. Some are small, like securing the best price for printing your letterheads and business cards. Others are much bigger deals that can make or break your business startup from the ground up. Sometimes you are the buyer. other times, the seller. Either way, the skills you need to be a good negotiator are the same.
Here are 10 negotiation techniques that can make you a better, more confident negotiator for your startup:
- Prepare, prepare, prepare. Go into a negotiation without proper preparation and you’ve already lost. Start with yourself. Make sure you are clear about what you really want out of the deal. Research the other side to better understand their needs as well as their strengths and weaknesses. Get help from experts like an accountant, lawyer or tech guru.
- Pay attention to the timing. Time is of the essence in any negotiation. Sure, you need to know what to ask for, but also be sensitive when you ask for it. There are times to move forward and times to wait. When you’re looking for the best is the time to push for what you want. But be careful not to push too hard and poison any long-term relationship.
- Leave your ego behind. The best negotiators either don’t care or don’t care projection they care about who gets credit for a successful deal. Their talent is to make the other side feel that the final deal was all theirs idea.
- Improve your listening skills. The best negotiators are often silent listeners who patiently let others speak while they make their case. They never interrupt. Encourage the other side to speak first. This helps establish one of the oldest tenets of negotiation: whoever mentions numbers first loses. While this isn’t always true, it’s generally better to sit tight and let the other side go first. Even if they don’t cite numbers, it gives you an opportunity to ask what they think.
- If you don’t ask, you don’t get. Another dogma of negotiation is: “Go high or go home.” As part of your preparation, set the highest justified price. As long as you can argue convincingly, don’t be afraid to aim high. But no ultimatums, please. Take-it-or-leave-it offers are usually inappropriate.
- Expect compromise. You should expect to make concessions and plan what they might be. Of course the other side thinks the same, so never take their first offer. Even if it’s better than you expected, apply your best look of disappointment and politely decline. You never know what else you might get.
- Offer and expect commitment. The glue that keeps deals from unraveling is an unwavering commitment to delivery. You should offer this level of comfort to others. Likewise, avoid deals where the other side shows no commitment.
- Don’t absorb their problems. In most negotiations, you’ll hear all the other side’s problems and reasons they can’t give you what you want. They want their problems to be yours, but don’t let them. Instead, deal with each one as it comes up and try to solve them. If, for example, their “budget” is too low, there may be other places where money could come from.
- Stick to your principles. As an individual and business owner, you probably have a set of guiding principles and values that you simply won’t compromise. If you find that the negotiations exceed these limits, it may be a deal you can live without.
- Close with confirmation. At the end of any meeting (even if no final agreement is reached) recap the points covered and any areas of agreement. Make sure everyone confirms. Follow up with appropriate letters or emails. Do not leave loose ends behind.
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Our conclusion on trading techniques
When it comes to business talents that mean success in the startup world, the ability to negotiate well is one of the most vital traits you can have. Be sure to develop your negotiation strategies. Some people I think so they are good negotiators, but in reality they are not. From attracting good people, to arranging financing or landing that first big deal, the right negotiation techniques will be essential.
Originally published on June 13, 2021.