What do you need right now?
A new car, a working refrigerator…or a vacation?
Perhaps it’s about the people you live and work with. Are you arguing with a neighbor right now…trying to get your teenager to help out more with the chores…begging a favor of a good friend…or asking for time off from your job?
That’s where negotiation comes in — the art of getting what you want. And in the most successful deals, your fellow negotiator also comes out of the process with something they want.
“The modern American dream is having what you want, right now,” says, Roger Dawson, author of You Can Get Anything You Want (But You Have to Do More Than Ask). “Learning how to negotiate is very difficult…and they suffer for their inexperience every time they buy a house, or a car, or even a suit at the clothing store down the block.”
Mr. Dawson is British, by the way, and not too big on Americans’ skills at anything. But that’s his job — to teach the gentle art of negotiation. And he’s had decades of experience at it, especially with impatient Statesiders.
WHERE TO BEGIN
Recognize that getting what you want is going to take both patience and time. First,
Find out what the other side wants.
Dawson calls this clarifying the objectives. What does the other person want to get out of this — a raise in allowance, taking over a special project, a full hotel?
Next, gather information. Why do they want it?
Is the seller just clearing out extra stuff — or desperately gathering money because the rent is overdue? Obviously, he’ll be more interested in making a quick sale for the latter — but he also may need more than the minimum amount you’re willing to spend. Knowing for sure helps you tailor your approach.
Finally, the process concludes with an agreement, “where compromises are made and a mutually satisfactory conclusion is reached.” Rushing to that decision, though, usually means that one (or both) parties feel they got the worst of the deal.
If you’re running a business, you definitely don’t want customers feeling that way….because they won’t come back. (And they certainly won’t tell their friends nice things about your company, either.) If you feel like the cheated one, you likely won’t be very happy, either.
MAKING THE BEST OF IT
You can get the best deal — if you’re open to working for it. Patiently, carefully…and above all, ethically. First, deal with any shyness and fear you have about all this. You can’t speak effectively if you’re fighting your own worst instincts about all this. Be willing to ask for what you want.
Then it’s time to get going: “Always be reluctant,” Dawson says. “Remember, you are not being forced to buy or sell…you want the other negotiator to know that.” One of the worst mistakes he made, while purchasing the house of his dreams, was the tour his wife and daughter made of the property without him alone. Once the buyer caught their enthusiasm, his price didn’t budge. (Dawson estimates he paid about $30,000 more because of that tour. Ouch.)
OTHER HELPFUL TIPS
*Have a mental price range, including the absolute minimum and maximum, before you start negotiating. Do not reveal this range to the other person.
*Talk about other subjects first. Or don’t talk at all. My father, a master at getting the absolute best price, would take the farmer’s approach: he’d talk about the weather. Or crops. Or he’d kick the dirt around with his toe. And he’d wait. Because:
*The person who makes the first offer ‘loses.’ What if you make an initial offer that you think is ridiculously low (or high)…and they accept? You’ll be kicking yourself for not starting at a better place, before discussions really begin.
If the other person sets the price, instead, they’ve given you an idea of the margin they want to work in. It may be far lower than you’d hoped. Even if it isn’t, now it’s time for you to:
*Practice ‘flinching:’ acting surprised at the first offer made, “no matter how good it looks.” If you want to sound like the Nice Guy, blame it on your family or staff instead: “Gee, I’m not sure my wife/husband/partner would go along with that price.” Then stall a bit. You might have to discuss this with your board (i.e., you) first. Or the family. It may be a little while before you can respond. (It’s the same tactic a car salesman uses when he says, “Well, I’ll have to talk to my manager about that.” Dawson calls it the Higher Authority. Whether the ‘boss’ actually exists is irrelevant.)
*Be nice when you counter-offer. In other words: be agreeable, and you’ll be agreed with more often. No one ever got exactly what they wanted by being obnoxious. (Though plenty of people have tried.) It won’t hurt you to be different.
*Throw in a ‘nibble’ at the last moment. Have you almost settled on a price? Add something extra — an item or service that won’t cost much: a free oil change for the car you just bought, or asking your son to trim the hedges, as well as mow the lawn. Make it easy for your fellow negotiator to throw it in. They’ll feel generous doing it, and you’ll get extra value.
Case in point: our daughter loves a certain semiprecious stone, larimar. While on vacation in St. Maarten, we found a table at the local merchant’s fair that featured only this rare blue crystal. The jewelry was beautiful, and raw slabs of stone (Daughter’s favorite) were available, too. But the vendor announced up-front that prices were not negotiable. I ‘agreed’ with her, until we’d picked through the slabs, and chose a necklace we wanted, as well. After all, her prices werereasonable. But just on a whim, I said at the very end, “Will you throw in an extra piece?” She looked hard at me — then laughed. “Sure,” she said, “but pick out the smallest slab.” (I didn’t. She was okay with that, too.)
“Whatever the person you’re negotiating with says to you as he begins his proposal, don’t argue with it,” Dawson says. “Agree with him instead…[otherwise] the other negotiator feels honor bound to prove his point.” Use what Dawson calls the “Feel/Felt/Found” principle:
*’I understand how you feel.’ (Even if you don’t agree.)
*’Other people have felt this way.’
*’I think, however, I’ve found a solution that will work.’
“Not only will the effort pay off many times over,” Dawson urges, “but the person is much more likely to return to your negotiating table again and again.”
And that, in business and personal terms, is exactly what you want.