5 keys to successful negotiations

I used to hate negotiating.  I always felt intimidated and often left the negotiation feeling that I lost on the deal.  I didn’t know what I was doing and, as a result, I’d rather give something away than negotiate a price.

Then I became a salesman and quickly discovered that you can’t be a successful salesman without solid negotiation skills.  After two years with consistently increasing sales production, I’ve learned a few tips about negotiations and even learned to enjoy the challenge and excitement of the process.

Here are my top five keys to successful negotiations:

  1. Define what a win looks like before negotiations begin.  It’s often said that beginning with the end in mind is the best way to reach any goal.  Negotiations should be viewed in the same manner.  Take as much time as you need to sit down and write out exactly what you want using as much detail as possible (a bullet list is always a good tool to use for this).  Mark the items you are not willing to give up, mark the items you could do without and still be happy, and include a few extras you would love to have if you could have it all.  It’s important to know what you are trying to accomplish before you set out to accomplish it.
  2. Always counter an initial offer.  Although the first offer made to you might give you everything you want, accepting the first offer shows weakness, and may hurt you in future negotiations with this person.  If you are offered everything on your list, counter with a few of those “extras” and see what happens.  If the other person already agreed to the original list, you don’t have to worry about losing those items by countering the initial offer.
  3. Ask for more than you want.  Since negotiations often result in only getting about 75% of what you ask for, it’s important to ask for more than you want.  In doing so, you will have room to compromise, and you won’t be forced to give up the non-negotiables on your list.
  4. Make the final offer.  What this really means is: don’t be the one to accept the final offer; rather, be the one who made the final offer.  The person who accepts the offer always feels like the loser in the negotiations, and accepting an offer is often viewed as a sign of weakness.  In continuing the negotiations until an offer is accepted, you will feel better about the deal and look much stronger in doing so, which could pay dividends in future negotiations.
  5. Evaluate the experience.  In any activity, it’s always beneficial to look back and learn from what happened.  Consider what you did well, in what skills you would like to become more proficient, and what you should stay away from in future negotiations.  Negotiating, like most other skills in life, can be improved and eventually mastered with practice and evaluation.

One more thought about successful negotiations: When everything is said and done, don’t dwell on what might have been.   In every negotiation, you win a little and you lose a little, sometimes more of one than the other.  It’s human nature to not be satisfied with what you have, but one thing is for sure: dwelling on the past will never change the future.

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