CARY, N.C.—Negotiating a business deal is a lot like buying a car, according to professional skills instructor Samuel Brown.
You want to go in high, never accept their first offer and do your research beforehand.
Those are just a few of the 11 rules that every manager should follow when negotiating, says Brown, who has consulted hundreds of directors from small companies to large organizations.
He spoke recently in a webinar hosted by the business training firm, Global Knowledge in Cary, N.C.
“Whether we’re functional managers or project managers, we find ourselves needing to negotiate on a regular basis,” Brown says.
Negotiations range from deciding where to go for lunch to arranging work schedules or defining project deadlines.
In an ideal negotiation, Brown says each side will meet in the middle or as close to it as possible. But there are some situations in which one person will walk away the sole winner.
He calls this the “winner takes all” outcome and says managers should avoid it unless they’re sure they’ll never need to deal with the other person again.
“Be prepared to give ground in one area in order to gain some in another. You want to let them win something every time,” he advises.
Another mistake managers can make is not winning gracefully.
“We see this sometimes with union negotiations when one side will later brag about what they won. It reduces the other side’s willingness to cooperate the next time around.”
Immediately after reaching an agreement, managers should smooth the waters, thank the person in writing and emphasize what each side has gotten —rather than given up— in the deal.
“This is very important when negotiating internationally in countries where there’s a lot of importance placed on honour,” Brown says.
Reputation is another reason why companies should negotiate in private.
“Privacy allows us relief from the pressure of an audience,” Brown says.
In private, parties can also strike secret arrangements that don’t need to be publicized after.
Other negotiation rules:
Keep it close
Whenever possible, have the negotiation on your turf and face-to-face.
Know your stuff
Be aware of what the other side wants, what they can offer and what you’re willing to take. Speak with uninvolved contacts who have negotiated with them before.
Don’t get caught off guard
Never enter a discussion at the last minute. If you get a phone call, tell them you will call them back at another time.
Cast a big shadow
Confidence, whether real or imagined, helps. Make the other side aware of the authority you’re bringing to the table.
Generate multiple options
There’s always more than one way to get what you want. Come with several scenarios that you can explore.
Learn how to handle the antagonist
“Sometimes we end up with uncooperative people, folks who are just there to prove a point,” Brown says. Be prepared for how you’ll deal with an antagonist and refrain from stooping to their level.
Don’t reveal too much about your company and never use statements such as “if we don’t get this, it’ll ruin us.”
“Always have a partner,” Brown says. They can help you spot important details that you might miss and take over for you if emotions get too heated.