At the core of virtually all business transactions is the art of negotiating. Often, revenues are directly tied to the effectiveness of those negotiating on behalf of a company — be it to land a contract, close a sale or acquisition.
BE spoke with Jim Camp, negotiation expert and author of “Start with NO…The Negotiating Tools that the Pros Don’t Want You to Know.”
Here’s the advice he offers:
Start with no. According to Camp, if you want to get another party to really listen to your proposal, start by inviting that person to say “no” to your proposal before you even tell them what it is.
“Inviting the other person to say no in the beginning puts the other party at ease, and it’s an essential part of any agreement,” he says. “So you might say, for example, “Bill, before I lay my thoughts and vision out for you, I want you to be completely comfortable rejecting it. All I ask is that you say no if it is not for you. I promise you that you won’t hurt my feelings. Please feel no pressure as you look at this.”
Don’t make assumptions. If you assume how someone will react, you create a fixed mindset, which will keep you from getting what you want. The way to prevent having a fixed mindset, says Camp, is to simply open your mind, and ask interrogative-led questions (starting with what, how, why, when). “By asking the other party to lay out their position, you can then make smart decisions based on information they’ve provided, rather than assumptions and guesses you’ve made in advance.”
Know your destination. Before any negotiation, whether it’s making a deal with a supplier or wooing a new client, know where you want to go and keep it in mind at all times. Your goal or destination should always be one that’s beneficial to the other party. Camp also advises setting an agenda to discuss the pros and cons of the misalignment between your two destinations and how it might best be resolved.
Get off your high horse. According to Camp, the worst way to get what you want is to lecture, get on a grandstand, drop names, or try to impress the other person with your knowledge, connections, experience, or talents.
“The more humble you are, the more overconfident and superior the other person will feel — and this is to your advantage,” he asserts. “They will more readily say too much, drop clues, and hand you valuable information that you can use to build their vision for them in the negotiation.”
Look for clues. Camp advises using the negotiation to find out what the other party wants. “While they are busy making assumptions about you, you’re gathering information about their problems, needs, wants, and objectives,” he says. “You’ll use this valuable intel to eventually create a vision for them showing that your destination, the one you created above, offers the best solution to the specific problems they’ve revealed.”
Neutralize your emotions; stimulate theirs. Keep your own emotions neutral, says Camp. Stay calm, cool, and collected and speak slowly, in a low tone of voice. Tell yourself that you both have the right to say no at any time and that ‘no’ is OK. This will keep you from feeling or acting needy. “On the other hand, you want them to get emotional about the vision you’re soon going to hand to them, the one that solves their problems and the one you helped them build.”
Navigate around obstacles. They may use a classic block such as, “This is my final price/decision/offer and I’m not going to budge.” To get around such a barrier, you tell them they have a right to say no, and you have no problem with that. “But then steer them right back on track with a question starting with ‘what’ or ‘how,’” Camp suggests. Good questions to ask: ‘What is biggest problem you foresee with my price/solution/offer?’ ‘How do you see this situation going forward?’ This gets them disclosing more valuable information you can use.
Use principles, not tactics. Don’t worry about using clever tactics, Camp says. “You don’t need them. You have a principle, and that trumps tactics every time. You have a destination programmed in already that can’t steer you wrong, because you created it to be beneficial to the other party if they agree.” A false deadline is a tactic. A principle is vision, and that drives decisions in the emotional portion of the brain.
Build their vision for them. Based on everything you’ve learned about their challenges and problems and goals, create a scenario that presents you and your proposal as their best solution. In helping the other person see exactly what they will gain from your proposal, Camp says you will achieve what you want every time.
“Remember, you can invite them to say no. Chances are, they won’t,” he says. “The best presentation you will ever give they will never see. Allow them to discover and describe their vision for you.”