7 Ways To Be Successful In A Negotiation

by drjim on October 22, 2008

Successful Negotiating Requires Clear Goals

Successful Negotiating Requires Clear Goals

If only there was some magic formula for being a successful negotiator. You know what I’m talking about, some process that if you followed it from start to finish you could always be assured that you would “win” a negotiation. Well, as we’ve discussed in the past on this blog, the concept of winning a negotiation is a bit unclear. Rather we like to say that you want to come away from the negotiation feeling satisfied. Oh, and since a negotiation takes place between people who are infinitely complex and difficult to fully understand (yourself included), there is no way that any fixed formula is going to yield successful results every time. Rather, you need to be flexible and adapt your negotiating style to the current negotiation.

George Ross, who is Donald Trump’s master negotiator, has come up with seven goals for how you can better your odds of succeeding in almost any negotiating situation. Considering how successful George has been, it sure seems like it might be worth the time to listen to what he has to share with us. That being said, here are the seven goals that you can keep in mind in order to be a successful negotiator:

  1. I Want To Find Ways To Get More Out Of This Negotiation: The act of negotiating is a process of discovery for both sides. If you are able to distance yourself from narrowly focusing on just one point in the negotiation (price) and open your mind to all of the possibilities, then you will have a much better chance of being satisfied by the outcome of the negotiation.
  2. Learn, Learn, Lean (About The People On The Other Side Of The Table): Why are they there? What do they want? Almost without fail what you think are the answers to these questions turn out to be wrong. The only way that you are going to learn about the people who are sitting across from you is to start asking questions. Draw them out of themselves and who knows what valuable information will be revealed?
  3. Where Is The Bottom Line?: At the end of the day, this is the critical question that all negotiators need to find an answer to. The other side has a minimum amount that they MUST get out of the negotiations and you have a maximum amount that you are willing to give up as a part of the negotiation. George calls the gap between these two amounts the “zone of uncertainty”. Establishing the outline of this zone is what good negotiators do best.
  4. What Are The Constraints For This Deal?: You have constraints put on you, the other side has the same. These constraints can be limits on the amount of time that is available to negotiate, how much decision making authority each side has, etc. Discovering what constraints the other side is dealing with can help move you towards a deal much quicker.
  5. Connect With The Other Side: It is one of the great truths of life that we all like others who are most like us. What this means is that you need to find out as much about the other side of the table as quickly as you can. Once you have done this, you can start to interact with them in a way that they will most positively respond to.
  6. Understand The People Who Make Up Your Side Of The Table: Nobody negotiates alone. You have a collection of people on your side while you are negotiating. They may not be in the room with you; however, they are the ones whose support allows you to be there and they all have a stake in the outcome of the negotiations. They may not all agree with the posture that you are presenting to the other side of the table, but it’s your job to hid any internal differences and present a single unified face.
  7. Discover What Is “Fair And Reasonable”: This poor phrase has been so overused by both sides of the negotiating table that it can often be ignored. However, don’t do this. At the end of the day both sides of the table are searching for a deal that they believe is fair and reasonable. Unfortunately, we all define this slightly differently. Your job as a negotiator is to question and probe the other side of the table in order to find out how they define fair and reasonable. Then you will need to make sure that the deals that you propose to the other side meet this criteria so that they won’t be rejected.

Do you agree with all of the goals that are on George’s list? Can you think of something that needs to either be added or dropped off? Which one of these goals did you use in your last negotiation? Which one do you think is more important than all of the others? Leave me a comment and let me know what you are thinking.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Felix Tsodikov June 4, 2009 at 4:02 pm

These are all very good points. I am currently reading a book by Jim Camp, Start with No and it is fascinating. I recommend this book to everyone, not just negotiators. Of the most import parts of a negotiation, he writes, is not to show your neediness to your opponent. It’s so obvious, yet I believe it’s one of the hardest emotions that we have to control.

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Dr. Jim Anderson June 7, 2009 at 4:04 pm

Felix: Thanks for the book recommendation – I’m going to look for that one! Keeping how you feel a secret from the other side of the table is key to negotiating success. But, like so many other things in life, it’s easy to say and hard to do!

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