How to Negotiate Like a Professional

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Whether you’re trying to scale your start-up, get some new clients on board or secure investment to help you grow, here are nine ways you can negotiate like a professional.

Be sophisticated

In the movies, negotiations are often presented as fraught, fractious affairs, with both ‘sides’ driven to stress and desperation. But in the daily reality of doing day-to-day business, it’s rarely like that. Modern negotiation tactics are nuanced and sophisticated – they’re about being open, honest and, yes, friendly. The people you are negotiating with are not the ‘other side’; rather, they are important connections who could benefit your company, and vice-versa. When negotiating, likeability, not aggressiveness and hard-bargaining, is key.

A handshake and eye contact go a long way

Having a firm handshake and making eye contact when dealing with other people is a sure sign of a gentleman, according to the Gentleman’s Journal, but it’s a tenet that can apply to anyone. “Weak grips and averting gazes are huge no-no’s,” they assert. When negotiating for business, a little bit of old-fashioned tradition never did anyone any harm. A strong grip on first meeting and respectful eye contact throughout a negotiation sends a strong, positive message: that you’re honest, that you’re firm, that you’re fair.

Environment is crucial

This is Home Business Magazine, so if you’re reading this then it’s likely that some, if not most, of your work takes place in your very own home. Environment is crucial to successful negotiations, so it’s important to take an honest look at your home and ask if it’s a conducive place in which to meet current, and potential, clients. If your desk is cluttered with week-old coffee cups and sandwich wrappers, perhaps it’s not. Consider renting a serviced office for the afternoon or, if the meeting is going to be a little more informal, going to a local cafe or hotel bar.

Don’t go in blind

It’s crucial that you know as much as you can about who you’ll be negotiating with. For one thing, you need to know what they want, as this will help you get what you want, but you’ll also need to know a bit about their background and what they do in their jobs. Thanks to the internet you can find an awful lot of this information out, and don’t be afraid to email any questions you might have in advance, or make a quick phone call. Going in with plenty of information about the other party will help you structure and frame your negotiation a whole lot better.

Be clear about what you want

Think holding your cards close to your chest will result in a successful outcome? Sadly, you might be more likely to walk away without a deal. Withholding information – from what you’re looking for to specific financial information – is more likely to make you look guarded and withdrawn in a negotiation situation. On the other hand, being open, honest and clear – willingly disclosing information – means you are being fully transparent, a highly-prized currency in the world of negotiation tactics. Openness is much more likely to help people believe in you, and in turn, do business with you.

Tricky negotiation? Be positive

Got an awkward meeting coming up? Here’s a proven tip: going into it with positive expectations is more likely to result in a positive outcome. In an experiment, university researchers in the Middle East had 34 undergrads negotiate with a postgrad over the division of university funds between the undergrad and post-grad student populations. Half of the participants were told that previous negotiations had managed to reach an agreement (that’s the ‘positive expectations’ bit); the other half were simply told to try their best to reach a mutually acceptable agreement. The result? All 17 of the first group reached an agreement, while just five out of 17 in the other group did.

Stalemate? Give a little

Reached an impasse in proceedings? Neither side willing to give an inch? If a stalemate happens, experts suggest a give and take strategy is the way to go. Writing for Harvard Business Review, Anthony Tjan recommends giving in to the other side on something that’s important to them, in return for them giving something that’s important to you. For example, if a client won’t agree to a price increase, honor what they’re looking for but also ask if they’d be interested in a discount on one of your new products. “Bottom line – there is usually negotiation currency outside of the last area you are focused on negotiating,” Tjan writes. “Use different “currencies” and you might get there.”

Focus on specific numbers

A scenario: you’re negotiating for a contract renewal, and you want to up the price a little. Research from Columbia University suggests that offering a specific figure rather than a general, broad-brush one could help you succeed. For example: $76,675 for another 12 months’ work, rather than a flat $75,000. Why? Well, this tactic could make you more likely to secure the specific figure, because, the researchers posit, it could be that your client thinks you’ve put more thought and research into it, making them less likely to challenge you.

Have a plan – and stick to it

Sometimes reaching an agreement after a negotiation doesn’t always work in your favor, particularly if you sign up to something half-heartedly or if, deep down, you’re actually not all that sure about it. Go in armed with a plan – what you want to achieve, what you definitely don’t want to achieve – and walk away with a smile if it just doesn’t feel right. Sometimes no deal is better than just any deal, so agree on an exit strategy and execute it if necessary.

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