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Effective Negotiating Skills

Effective negotiating skills could be the key to your business success in the '90s and beyond, believes Roger Dawson, a former real estate broker and author of Roger Dawson's Secrets of Power Negotiating (Career Press).

Effective negotiating skills could be the key to your business success in the '90s and beyond, believes Roger Dawson, a former real estate broker and author of Roger Dawson's Secrets of Power Negotiating (Career Press). But how do you get what you want? Dawson and author Nicole Schapiro (Negotiating for Your Life, Henry Holt and Co.) offer 10 tips that will put you in the driver's seat.

1. Understand the difference between negotiating, bargaining and arguing. "Bargaining is usually tit for tat," says Schapiro. "Arguing is when you're not listening to each other. Negotiation is about the psychology of relationships; it's mutual education."

2. Know what you want. Both parties must be clear about specifically what they are negotiating for. Is it price? A delivery date? Special treatment from a supplier? A combination of all three?

3. Be prepared. Determine what you want, what you are willing to give up and under what circumstances.

4. Consider what the other side wants. In any negotiation, Schapiro contends, people look for four things: control, safety, respect and inclusion. If you fulfill these needs, you will be able to close any deal.

5. Partner with the other side as soon as possible. State the purpose of the negotiation in "we" terms ("We both want to come to a satisfactory agreement on this") rather than "I" terms. This creates trust and the feeling that you are clearly working toward the same goals, says Schapiro.

6. Get the other side to commit to a position first. If you don't, cautions Dawson, you are at a serious disadvantage. It's common for customers to say, "Give us your best price, and we'll tell you whether we'll take it." In this instance, remain noncommittal by saying, "In most cases, XX price is the best we can do. However, if you make me a proposal, I'll see what I can do for you."

7. Use a vague higher authority. Even as a business owner, Dawson says, you can often negotiate better deals by delegating decisions to someone else. If you're not satisfied with an offer, say something like, "Let me check with my marketing people."

8. Ask for more than you expect to get. After all, you just might get it. This also gives you a negotiating range because you can always come down in price, but you can't go up.

9. Have other options, and be prepared to walk away from the negotiations. If you're negotiating an equipment purchase, for example, Dawson suggests researching two other pieces of equipment you would be just as happy with.

10. Maintain a sense of humor.

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