A negotiation isn’t a dispute or a confrontation. Great negotiators don’t fight.
When the bully on the boat in Enter the Dragon asks Bruce Lee to describe his kung fu style, Bruce says, “You can call it ‘the art of fighting without fighting.’”
That’s a great way to think of a negotiation. Negotiating isn’t really about competing well – negotiating is about communicating well. (That’s especially true if, for example, you’re asking for a raise.)
Want to be a better negotiator? Here are some simple tips.
Use timing to your advantage.
Often the best time to buy a car is at the end of the month; salespeople need to hit their quotas, dealerships want to ‘make’ their month, etc.
The same is true with real estate; house sales (and property leases) are generally weaker in the winter months in the United States, which means owners are more likely to negotiate.
And you can also use back-end timing to your advantage.
Say you want to lease a property starting in March. If you sign a 12-month lease, the owner will have to find another tenant next March.
But if you ask for a 15-month lease, the property will be open at the start of prime rental season, which means he/she should be happier to accept a lower rent amount.
Find the right way to frame the negotiation.
In Negotiating the Impossible, Harvard Business School professor and author Deepak Malhotra shows how properly framing a negotiation means finding the best perspective from which to view the negotiation. Maybe the frame is money. Or time, delivery schedule, or quality.
In my house-buying example, price was a frame – but so was time, and so was the seller’s risk if I couldn’t come up with the down payment.
Frame a negotiation correctly and you can make it easier to negotiate on the points that matter to you.
For example, you need a certain service performed. If you’re willing to wait for that service to be performed – or to be performed more slowly than normal – the provider may be able to accept a lower price, since your job can be fit into the margins of the provider’s schedule.
(Think of it this way: If a customer asks you to perform a rush job, you’ll probably need to raise the price to accommodate the additional work as well as the impact on your schedules and your other customers. The same applies in reverse: Giving additional time should allow the provider to make concessions on other terms.)
Be willing to walk
Granted, sometimes that’s not possible. If your delivery truck has broken down and you need to make deliveries today, walking away from the truck rental counter isn’t really an option.
But that’s a practical need, not an emotional need. In most cases, your need is emotional: You want this building; you want this car; you want this house. Even though there are other options, you want this one.
When you’re negotiating, never ‘want this one’ – at least not unless the price, terms, etc., are also what you want.
How will you know? Decide those things ahead of time. Know your numbers. Know the terms you’re willing to accept. Know the value of what you’re getting – and of what you will provide.
The best way to be a great negotiator is to take emotion out of the equation.
When it’s objective – when it doesn’t feel personal – you won’t get hung up on winning or losing. You’ll just calmly work toward getting the best deal you can.
And this means, you’re much more likely to 'win'.