Negotiating to Arrive at the Outcome You Want
Negotiating with someone else for desired outcomes is an everyday activity, though most people don't consciously notice it. Everyone engages in negotiations with other people over everything from where to buy dinner to more involved subjects, such as the details of a sales contract.
If you have to negotiate for business needs, though, it's a good idea to have a solid understanding of the mechanics of realizing desired outcomes from the process and when it may be necessary to walk away.
In a modern marketplace where business is more dependent than ever on forming constructive, long-term relationships, negotiation isn't just about dominating your counterparty and getting the most short-term value possible. It's about understanding the interests of everyone at the table and seeking out and defending outcomes that are consistent with a mutually beneficial deal.
To engage this kind of process effectively, a negotiator needs:
Empathy. Being able to genuinely understand a counterparty's needs and perspective is key to shaping your own negotiation strategy.
Preparation. You simply can't reach your desired outcomes if you lack even a clear understanding of what they are and how they benefit you. Clearly understand your own negotiables and nonnegotiables, and know the details of the short- and long-term objectives the negotiation needs to satisfy.
Flexibility. If you know what's negotiable among your desired outcomes and have an understanding of what alternatives to your "plan A" you can live with, you can engage in give-and-take with the counterparty.
Assertiveness. If you know what your nonnegotiables are, you come equipped to push back firmly against any attempt to override them. The most basic nonnegotiable of all in a truly collaborative, "win-win" negotiation is mutual respect: an understanding that no matter the respective size of the firms involved, both are bringing value to the table.
Clarity. The result of a successful negotiation needs to be clear and transparent about what services or goods each party is bringing to the table. The terms of providing those goods or services must be defined in sufficient detail that there can be no misunderstanding.
Despite your best efforts, not every negotiation ends up satisfying these conditions. If you have nonnegotiable outcomes that prove to be out of reach or you can't find sufficient clarity about what implementing an agreement looks like in practice, you've hit a walk-away point. It's better in such cases to seek out a different vendor than go forward without an outcome that delivers real mutual benefit.
The ultimate outcome of business negotiation is a contract. The presentation of any contract must be every bit as detail-oriented—and clear about its provision of mutual benefits—as the process that led to it. It needs to look attractive to the counterparty. Even the mundane details of its presentation need to be accounted for, don’t forget to convert JPG to PDF for electronic documents.
Plan For Success
You can hone these and other details of negotiation through more contact with your local business community.
Joining your local chamber of commerce is a good first step toward elevating your ability to find the outcomes your business needs.