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When Does the Negotiation Begin?
When most people think of a negotiation, images of polished conference tables and poker- faced participants immediately come to mind. There is no doubt that if you walk in on some negotiations, you may see some of those images.
There is also no doubt that if this is where you come in, you are probably arriving late. What goes on around the bargaining table is certainly important, but it is only a part of the entire negotiation process. But in many cases, it is not even the most important part. If you want your chance of success to go way up, you have to start the negotiation process much sooner.
Here is a rule to remember: the best prepared negotiator is the most successful negotiator. Notice, I didn’t say the most persuasive, the most passionate, or the most intimidating; I said best prepared. When all is said and done, the negotiator who does the most research and who does best job of planning a negotiation strategy will usually come out with more of what he or she was hoping to achieve. It is not enough to know what you want, you also have to be able to clearly justify why you want it and how the fairest way to achieve it is as well as what you will do if you can’t achieve it. You need to determine in advance what kind of concessions you can offer to smooth the way to success and the specific concessions you will ask for in exchange for the concessions you offer. It can never hurt to study up on the needs and issues that are important to the other side so you can better identify solutions that will benefit or appeal to them. You can’t just show up with an opinion and hope to carry the day.
For instance, a friend of mine was recently approached by a telecommunications company that wanted to put a wireless transmission tower on top of a building he owns. His first impulse was to just be excited for the fact that someone wanted to give him money every month basically for him doing nothing. However, I suggested that he might want to do a little research first. How many other installations similar to the one this company had proposed to him were already operating in his general area? How many other companies had such installations? On average, what were the owners being paid? Would the company make any alterations to the appearance of his building? Would they restore the building to its original appearance in the event they removed the tower? These were just a few of the questions he decided to dig into.
As a result of doing his research, my friend found out that the original offer he had received was rather on the low end of what other owners in his area were receiving. He also found out that some other property owners were receiving other benefits, including free cell phones and cell phone minutes, and even regular maintenance on their buildings. In one instance, the telecommunications company was even picking up the owner’s monthly utility bill!
By putting in the extra time to research and prepare, my friend ended up with a much better deal than the original offer, and the negotiation didn’t degenerate into one of those stone-faced staring matches, either. Once the negotiator for the company realized that my friend was well-informed and could make a clear case for a fair deal, they swapped a couple of minor concessions (both suggested by my friend), and everyone left the table happy.
Don’t wait until the last minute to start your negotiation. The sooner you get to work, the happier you will be with the outcome.
James A. Baker is the Chairman and Founder of Baker Communications. Baker is a sales training and development company specializing in helping client companies increase their sales and profits. He can be reached at 713-627-7700 or at Jim.Baker@BakerCommunications.com.
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May Negotiation Quick Tip of the Month – The Best of the Worst
When preparing for a negotiation, it is not uncommon to think in terms of getting your dream deal vs. having to settle for your bottom line, while hoping to come away with something in between. However, do you have any idea what your options might be if you end up with no deal at all? Actually, sometimes it might be preferable to end up with no deal, rather than be saddled with a definite losing proposition. In order to know for sure, you need to think ahead. If you aren’t able to negotiate an acceptable deal, what is the best alternative you would have? Maybe it would be just keeping your money in your pocket and waiting for a better deal to come along. What would be the worst alternative you could face without a successful negotiation? You might be letting a one of a kind opportunity slip away just because you weren’t willing to stretch another 10%. A negotiation can either be smart or foolish based on the alternatives you might have chosen instead. Knowing in advance what those alternatives are, will help you make a winning decision at the negotiating table.
Learn more about the author, David Kalstrom.
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