negotiationNegotiation Skills

3 Basics of Negotiation

3 Basics of Negotiation


Everything’s Negotiable

So, what is negotiable?  At the risk of sounding cliché, how about EVERYTHING?  In our society, we place a great emphasis on order.  That means that in stores, things have a price, and we are expected to either pay them or not pay them.  However, in most other societies, the printed price is irrelevant, or in any case it is a starting point for negotiation.  Westerners going to these societies and operating in their environment, frequently are on the lose end of a win-lose negotiation.  We end up paying far more than items are worth.  Yet, remember what we said about win-lose negotiations – someone in the long run usually regrets their result.  Who would you rather be, the merchant in one of these shops, or you?  Actually, I can tell you a little secret of the merchants: they practice win-lose, but make you feel like you won.  Ah, the secret to a good negotiator: he makes you feel like you won!

Good negotiators make you feel like you won.

So how do I know that everything is negotiable?  If you can find something wrong with an item, you can get a better price.  If you can change the price or the terms of a deal, it is negotiable.  If you can change the follow-up, the delivery or the service, then it is negotiable.  Again, so many variables involved in any agreement lead to one of them being changeable.  That changeability makes everything negotiable.  Remember this fact.  It could save you money someday.

Negotiating is more than price

Most of the time, when inexperienced negotiators think about the ‘definition’ of a negotiation, they believe that it is getting a better price than they would have received had they not “negotiated.”  This could not be farther from the truth.  In marketing, the marketing mix comes down to four things, four Ps, if you will: the product, the promotion, the place (distribution), and the price.  The price is regarded as the least important aspect of the marketing mix.  If it were not the least important, we would all be driving the least expensive automobiles and there would be nobody willing to purchase a Mercedes, a BMW, or even a Ferrari.  All cars get you to the same place, but there are some that are priced much higher.  So, there must be other important aspects to cars than simply transportation or price.

For example, assume that you want to take a trip to Mexico.  If you had a choice of taking two airlines to Mexico, Airline A and Airline B, and Airline A had a reputation for crashing on 50% of its flights and Airline B had never crashed, you would probably always opt for airline B, no matter how high the price, wouldn’t you?  So there is always more to a negotiation than price.  Consider the delivery, the service, the relationship, the quality, the comfort, and the convenience of any item or deal in any negotiation.


Everyone is different

When entering a negotiation, you might choose to view your adversary as “the enemy.”  You might try to build up a hatred of your enemy and all that he stands for.  However, this is usually not the best way in which to approach a negotiation.  It builds up unnecessary emotions, which surface during the negotiation and impede progress. 

A better way to enter a negotiation is to understand that it is not issues, it is people.  People are all different.  We have different genetic codes, we were raised by different parents, in different environments, with different experiences – all of which make up who we are.  And as people, we must work with other people in order to arrive at a harmonious plane of existence in life.  People see the same thing in different ways.  Two people can see a red apple and one of them can see the apple as a fruit that is sweet and full of nutrition, while another may see it as a symbol of sin since Adam and Eve ate the apple in the Garden of Eden.  It is still an apple, it is simply the meaning that we place on the apple that determines our outcome.  The same is true with issues in the negotiation.  Start to view people’s positions on the issues as neither right nor wrong – just different, and you will be way ahead when it comes to achieving your result.  Remember, that we all have different views on the issues, yet as people, we want to work to achieve some level of harmony.

Negotiation is people, not just issues.

Just think about all of the people whom we don’t know and are not negotiating with that we trust implicitly on a daily basis.  When you are driving down the street, you trust that the oncoming driver will not swerve his or her car into yours causing your untimely death.  When you buy a banana at the store, you trust that it has not been laced with poison.  When you go to the doctor, you trust that she knows the right treatment for your ailment.  So, why wouldn’t you trust someone with whom you are trying to negotiate?  Probably because they are too close or you have seen something in their past which causes you to distrust.  Or, could it be that it is simply because they are your adversary and you are “not supposed to trust your adversary?”

Because of the differences in people and their perceptions of the issues, you must never assume that the other party desires what you desire.  Seek first to understand the other parties’ desires before making your own determinations.

You must start by changing the way that you view your adversary if you want to have a better negotiating experience.  In 2006, I was helping a client negotiate her divorce settlement.  At our initial meeting, she was emotional and told me everything that she could think of about her husband that would portray him in a negative light.  She had a goal to get everything that she could from him – no matter the cost.  This was a true win-lose strategy.  After listening to her speak negatively about her husband for 45-minutes, I told her about my philosophy of win-win negotiating.  She looked at me as if I was an alien.  I asked her to take me back to the time when the two of them met and fell in love. 

“What did you love about him then,” I asked.  She told me how he would hold her hand and make her feel special and safe.  She told me how handsome he was. She told me that he became a good father.  Upon seeing that look in her eye, I asked her if it was possible to try to seek an outcome for her husband that came from a positive place in her heart rather than a negative one.  I asked her to imagine a situation where both parties could win. She did, and that is what we steered towards in the discussions.  They eventually agreed to what I consider a win-win outcome and are still on speaking terms today.  She recognized that the cost of making him wrong would deeply affect her and the kids for a long time to come. Remember, when emotions go up, intelligence goes down.

Negotiation is predictable

In any game, there are actions and reactions that are predictable.  For example, if a quarterback drops back to pass, there is a good chance that linebackers will rush the passer and secondary players will cover the receivers.  If the quarterback hands the ball to a running back, most linebackers and secondary players will abandon the quarterback and the receivers and put their emphasis on tackling the running back.  The reactions are predictable.

In the game of chess, even at the most advanced levels, there are usually a limited number of moves and counter-moves that will advance you to the desired outcome and prevent you from losing the game.  The same is true of negotiation.

Once you understand the structure and moves of a negotiation, it is easy to predict what may happen next.  For example, if you make an offer, there is a likelihood of your opponent making a counter-offer.  If you can gain rapport with your adversary, there is a better chance of a positive outcome than otherwise.  Failure to gain rapport will cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars over a lifetime.  See to enhance your rapport skills.


3 Basics of Negotiation:


Everything is Negotiable


Everyone is Different


Negotiation is Predictable