Neil Bromage has run his own small business and is a freelance business writer working on a range of newspapers including The Times, Sunday Times, Telegraph and Financial Mail on Sunday. This book is based on a wide range of columns and Q&As written and answered by Neil for Business Link over a number of years. He is based near Preston, Lancs.
Everyone has some experience of negotiating, even if it’s just organising the family holiday or buying a secondhand car. It’s about reaching agreement on an issue between two or more parties with differing points of view. It could be anything from haggling over the price of a souvenir whilst on holiday to a complex international agreement.
Most people are afraid of negotiating, often because of the fear of losing what they already have. But negotiation is voluntary and nobody forces you into it – you can also walk away at any time. Nor does it require a tough or aggressive nature. Often, the best negotiators are understanding and conciliatory, good listeners who are willing to compromise.
The most important aspect of any negotiation is preparation. If you fail to prepare, prepare to fail. You should list the things you want to get from the negotiation – your objectives and ideal outcome, ranking these into high, medium and low priority. Then decide which objectives are fixed (i.e., not negotiable) and which are variable (i.e., you would be willing to make concessions). Decide how far you are willing to go on each issue and know your ‘walk away’ position.
There are potentially three possible outcomes to any negotiation but anything other than a win/win situation is always going to be ultimately unsatisfactory. It’s only where both sides feel that they have got a fair deal with which they are satisfied that a win/win is achieved and future business likely.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want but try to get the other party to make the first offer.
- Compromise (but never concede) and make sure that you get something in return.
- Trade things that are of low value to you but high value to the other party.
- Treat every concession as important. Listen carefully and make notes, observing people’s reactions to what you say.
- Summarise regularly during the negotiation to ensure mutual understanding.
- You don’t have to conclude the deal in one go; if necessary call a recess and regroup.