By Vicki M. Daughdrill
Small Business Resources LLC
Did you and a companion decide where to go for dinner last weekend? Did you and your teenager discuss driving rules or curfews? Did you interview for a position recently and discuss salary requirements? Or did you make a presentation to a prospect and close a sale? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you engaged in negotiations.
Are you surprised? According to Merriam-Webster Inc.'s online dictionary, "negotiate" means "to deal with (some matter or affair that requires ability for its successful handling)" or "to arrange for or bring about through conference, discussion, and compromise ..."
Negotiation occurs in all aspects of life, including the commercial, nonprofit, government, education, personal, legal and international relations spheres.
Most of us negotiate daily without recognizing that we are doing so. It may be an uncomplicated negotiation such as where to go for lunch or a complex contract negotiation to close a sale.
Many of us do not anticipate the situations that will require negotiations, and most of us simply don't know how to negotiate well. We did not learn negotiation skills in school. Many people believe negotiation is an intuitive art, and if we didn't get the gist of it in kindergarten, we are destined to be mediocre negotiators, at best, throughout our lives.
However, if you can come to view negotiation as merely something you practice on a daily basis, you can improve your skills and become highly proficient at it, no matter what your background.
Good negotiators all exhibit certain characteristics. Following are traits that skilled practitioners of the art share:
They understand there are three basics to the negotiation process: preparation, negotiation and closing. They recognize a cooperative attitude can create a cooperative opponent and a smooth resolution to business negotiations.
They plan every phase of an offer, detailing an introduction, an offer and a close. They understand exactly where they are willing to end the negotiation and focus on that result throughout the entire process.
They do not allow their minds to wander or focus on unimportant things because they know this creates an environment in which they could lose control of the discussion. They explore options and find the proper solution to achieve a win-win resolution.
An accomplished negotiator understands the three basics to the negotiation process: preparation, negotiation and closing. Following are several actions you can take to prepare for a negotiation. These steps can be used equally well in many contexts: formal and informal, simple and complex, and business and personal.
If your upcoming negotiation is a sales closing, educate yourself about the prospect. Determine who the decision maker is and how you will conduct the negotiation. Does he or she currently use a service or product similar to the one you are selling? If so, obtain all available, useful information on the merchant's current vendor.
Next, identify your distinctive competencies. Will you sell on price, service, a combination of both or some other feature? Identify where you will meet with the decision maker, the type of sales pitch you will use, what your initial offer will be and what final offer you are willing to make to close the deal. Obviously, the goal is to close the sale, but identify other expectations you have as well.
Finally, during the closing phase, identify what documents will need to be prepared, and determine who will prepare them. Then implement the final resolution. If it is a simple negotiation, remember, the process is not complete until the paperwork is finalized and the agreement is executed. Execution means equipment installation, staff training and acknowledgment of the sale.
The next time you are faced with a situation that requires discussion and decision making, consider using your negotiating skills to achieve your desired outcome. Whether it is bargaining with your spouse, your child, a prospective employer, a potential employee or a client, a skilled negotiator can always achieve win-win results.
Vicki M. Daughdrill is the Managing Member of Small Business Resources LLC, a management consulting company. E-mail her at email@example.com or call her at 601-310-3594.
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