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The secret art of business negotiations

The Secret Art of Business Negotiations

Negotiation is one aspect of business which the vast majority of people dread. The very idea of trying to negotiate a price or position, to reach a business agreement, close a deal, or agree a contract strikes fear into otherwise very successful people. Yet, often, this fear is based on several misunderstandings as far as the art of negotiating is concerned. So many people wish good luck to those who are about to start negotiations – yet luck is the very last thing which should be entering into the fray. Luck has little or nothing to do with negotiating – preparation and the understanding of what negotiating is all about are the skills or attributes necessary.

One of the first common assumptions people make is that when it comes to negotiating a price or contract, there is always a winner and a loser, or at least, a runner up. To suggest that negotiating is in some way a competition between two sides, with one side coming out on top, beating the other side, is ridiculous. Unfortunately, if you enter into a negotiation discussion with someone with this idea in your head, the chances are you will lose out, possibly losing the client into the bargain.

Negotiating is rather more similar to the word discussion than the word competition, and if you understand this, you will already be in a more powerful position. Any successful deal will not result in one winner, but two. For a negotiation to be considered successful, both sides should be able to walk away satisfied that they have a good deal. Anything less than this and clearly something has gone wrong – very often as a result of one side being under-prepared or taking assumptions into the discussion which prejudiced them against pursuing all possible options.

Considering all possible options is another aspect of negotiating which must be borne in mind. The trouble with many people is that they seem to assume that any negotiating will center on price. So many business people see dollar signs in front of their faces, and see any negotiation focussing on the price of the contract, deal, service or product. The truth is that there are many other possibilities, and it is in preparing for the discussion properly that these advantages will portray themselves.

For example, what else can you as a business offer which will make any possible deal seem better? If your price is fair, but higher than the client would like to pay, there may well be other factors that you can bring into the discussion to make the price seem more appealing.

For example, is the client in a hurry, and can you manage to deliver within a tight timeframe? This advantage may well make little difference to you, but could make all the difference in the world to the client, helping you to clinch the deal without moving on price. In this way, the client is happy because they will be able to get the delivery much sooner than they might have expected, whilst you are happy because you got a good price.

There are other aspects which might be brought in to a discussion as well, such as on-site support, on-going support, updating, related products or services – the more you know about your client and their needs, the more you can consider bringing other options in to the negotiation other than price. Remember – price is only one aspect, and the client may well not even be aware of other related services and options which you can provide.

Another assumption many people make is to believe that people can be divided into two camps – those who are born negotiators and those who couldn’t negotiate their way out of a paper bag. This is also quite untrue. Certainly negotiating is a skill, and like any skill, it needs to be practiced and developed and learnt before you’ll become really proficient. However, at the same time, you can’t learn or improve if you never try.

It’s like learning to ride a bike. Almost anyone can do it, but you have to expect a few falls and a few near misses to start with – but you’ll soon pick it up, and discover that it needn’t be anywhere near as terrifying or difficult as you once thought. As with riding the bike, it might seem terrifying and almost impossible to begin with, but eventually it becomes so easy and natural that it no longer becomes a challenge, and is merely a way of getting somewhere you want to go.

The essential key with any negotiation is to be well prepared, remembering not to view it as a competition, but as a discussion, with two winners, and more to play for than merely a dollar figure at the end.

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