What Every Entrepreneur Needs: Eight Traits Of A Champion Negotiatior

By Alison Coleman

Alison write about entrepreneurs, in particular, the disruptive ones.

You don’t have to be a seasoned sales executive to triumph at the negotiating table.

Anyone who’s ever started a business knows that getting the best deal on everything from buying office space and supplies, to selling their end product or service, is fundamental to success. And pretty much everything these days can be negotiated.

But getting the best deal isn’t always about putting on your game face and driving a hard bargain. It is a subtle art form that requires you to engage with the other party, work out what makes them tick, win their trust, and anticipate what they want to get out of the encounter, before you even think about starting the negotiations proper.

Plan for action 

The most successful negotiators are the ones who not only prepare well, working out their objectives, fallbacks and cost-benefits in great detail, but also plan well. In other words, they ask: when we actually get in the room with the other party, how are we going to use this information, what are we going to say, what do we expect them to say, and what is our range of possible responses? And having worked that out, they need to be conscious of the verbal behaviours they employ.

Listening? Then show it.

Business people who believe they are always right and refuse to listen to others invariably end up with a one dimensional business, and it’s that ceiling that suppress ideas and collaboration, and consequently holds you back, says Tony Hughes, CEO of Huthwaite International.

“It’s always better to sit back and listen, rather than trying to dominate a conversation or acting bullishly,” he says.

A skilled negotiator knows how to show that they are really listening to the other party’s underlying objectives. They don’t greet each proposal with a counterproposal; ask the right questions to expose information and weaknesses, or use irritating, self-praising phrases like ‘I’m making you a very reasonable offer here’.

“They stick to one or two really strong arguments, rather than arming themselves with a plethora of successively weaker ones,” adds Hughes.

Get emotional

Negotiations start much earlier than anyone thinks. The key to successful negotiation can be found in the link between personality and communication; knowing what makes that other person tick, so play the emotion.

“One of the mistakes that often people make is to assume that the process is a rational and logical one, says power coach Agnes Cserhati. “In fact negotiation is almost always an emotional play, so effective communication and relationship building are key to success.”

Ask the obvious

A lot of customers, whether business or consumer, are not all that sure about what it is they need. That’s why they’ve come to you. You are the expert in your field; so your first task should be to determine the specific needs of the other party.

“With that information you can match the benefits of your product or service to their requirement,” says Alison Edgar from Sales Coaching Solutions. “If it is a true match, negotiations are kept to a minimum as the buyer understands the value of your product.

Share the vision of a successful deal

Forget the idea of negotiating as an adversarial process that concludes with a winner and a loser. Anyone who takes that approach is more often than not the loser anyway. See negotiating as a partnership where the two parties share information and create trust. The fact that you are prepared to consider other possibilities while negotiating might just allow you to win.

To err is human…and potentially a deal breaker

Your goal throughout the negotiation process should be to minimise any so called cognitive bias; the human fallibility that can derail any negotiation at pretty much any point.

“Most negotiators have difficulties processing all of the information they receive correctly,” says Cserhati “They therefore have a tendency to make systematic errors when they process this information and can negatively influence negotiation outcome.”

Adding value

Negotiation doesn’t always have to be about price, customers appreciate “added value” by including something the customer needs rather than dropping your price you are ultimately giving the customer a better service.

Openness pays dividends

It might not fit the traditional cliché, but describing how you are feeling about the negotiation as it happens openly and honestly is a behaviour very closely correlated to successful outcomes, adds Hughes.


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