Shy Entrepreneurs Can Use the Power of Silence and More to Master Negotiating

Learn how to leverage your strengths if you fall toward the introverted side among the deal-makers.

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By Larry Alton

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

As an introvert, you may feel like you have some disadvantages that your extroverted counterparts don't have to deal with. However, this isn't exactly true. In reality, you merely operate best under a different set of circumstances. And, when it comes to negotiating deals and making sales pitches, you may have to take a unique approach in order to be a successful entrepreneur.

The first thing that needs be clarified is that introversion is not a condition, disorder or weakness. If you're an introvert, you don't need to be "fixed" or "cured."

Related: 7 Ways Introverts Can Become Master Minglers

According to clinical psychologist Dr. Andrea Letamendi, nobody fits perfectly the term "introvert." It's a term that's incorrectly applied to people but actually exists in varying degrees. "Think of it as continuum, in that some people are low on the introversion scale, and others are high, and of course, some of us are around the middle," she says.

Dr. Letamendi is also quick to point out that introversion isn't a clinical condition. It's merely a word that people have applied to distinguish types of people in the world. "Introversion is not a condition, not a disorder and certainly not acknowledged in the psychiatric classification of disorders as a mental health problem," she explains.

In reality, somewhere between 33 and 50 percent of the U.S. population falls somewhere on the introversion continuum that Dr. Letamendi discusses. This means that you aren't alone. Take a look around your office, and there's a pretty good chance that a handful of other introverts are nearby.

Why does this matter? Well, it simply shows that being an introvert isn't a weakness -- or even a strange characteristic. It's totally normal. And, as an introverted entrepreneur, you don't have to struggle with negotiations and sales pitches. However, you do have to take a different approach than your outgoing peers.

As you come to grips with your introverted tendencies, you can start to put yourself in a position to succeed. Here are a handful of negotiation tips to help to accelerate this process.

1. Leverage your biggest strength.

As an introvert, you have a distinct set of traits and skills that extroverts don't have. Namely, you enjoy peace and quiet. How does this help you in the business world? Well, silence is your best friend when it comes to negotiating.

"I've often heard professional negotiators tell me that they could accurately predict the outcome of negotiations fairly early on using one simple clue: whoever has less endurance for silence loses," says author Olivia Fox Cabane. In other words, the one who isn't able to relax in silence will instead speak out -- and speaking too much is the worst thing that you can do when negotiating.

The best thing that you can do is to count to three -- maybe even five -- before responding to anything that the other party says in a negotiation. This simple pause is often enough to make the other individual feel uncomfortable and say something that they shouldn't.

For example, let's say that you're negotiating a contract for a monthly service, and the prospective client says, "I'll give you $500 per month in return for one project per week." If you respond quickly, the onus is immediately on you. However, if you count -- one…two…three…four -- suddenly, the client feels like he's offended you and may blurt out something like, "Actually, make it $650 per month." You just won the negotiation by creating four seconds of silence.

Related: 7 Ways to Be a Better Negotiator

2. Identify best- and worst-case scenarios.

In order to be a successful negotiator, you must understand the different outcomes of any given negotiation. While you may not be able to brainstorm every possible outcome, you can usually identify best- and worst-case scenarios -- which gives you some context.

For example, let's assume that you're negotiating a deal in which you're agreeing to write a book for a client in return for monetary compensation. According to market rates, past deals and your understanding of the client's budget, you deem that the best-case scenario is $25,000 for the book deal. The worst case scenario is $10,000.

As you negotiate, you can use these parameters to guide your conversation. These scenarios keep you grounded and help to provide clarity and direction for what can otherwise be a confusing process.

With these scenarios in place, you can then establish strategies that'll allow you to achieve the best case while avoiding the worst case. Using the aforementioned example, this would ideally increase your chances of landing a $25,000 deal and diminish the risk of settling for a $10,000 deal.

3. Do your homework in advance.

Fear of negotiating is often directly associated with a lack of the unknown. If you do your homework ahead of time and become an expert on all issues related to the deal, then you can ward off any hesitancies and anxieties that you may have regarding the content of the deal. Being prepared is one of the best assets that you can have.

Think back to a time in English class, whether high school or college, when you were asked to read a book and give an oral report. How much more confident were you in your three-minute speech if you actually read the book versus if you asked a friend for a synopsis prior to class?

By actually doing your homework, you understood the talking points and weren't hesitant in your delivery. The same is true when it comes to negotiating a business deal.

4. Identify a negotiation style.

There are a handful of different negotiation styles, and you need to make sure that you hone in on the one that best fits your personality and the situation. Mixing too many styles can result in a fragmented approach that yields low results.

Some of the most common negotiation styles include competitive, accommodating, avoiding and compromising. Figure out where you fit in and how it looks for each negotiation situation.

5. Ask open-ended questions.

The final negotiation tip for introverted entrepreneurs is to ask open-ended questions during the actual conversation. Open-ended questions require the other individual to come up with information on the spot -- as opposed to sticking with a strategic script that they may have developed prior to the beginning of your conversation.

As previously mentioned, the more you can get the other party to talk, the better your chances are of securing the deal you want. On a related note, you need to be prepared for open-ended questions yourself. While you may not always be prepared to answer a specific question, you can develop a strategy for tackling the format of the question.

Limit your answer to just a few sentences, and quickly redirect an open-ended question back to the other person. By briefly addressing their question and then redirecting, you avoid coming off as rude and appear engaged instead.

Related: 11 Tips to Negotiate Like a Pro

Contrary to popular belief, introverted entrepreneurs can be good negotiators. Assuming that you'll never be able to facilitate strong negotiations and sales pitches based on the fact that you fall on the lower end of the social-engagement continuum is foolish. You simply need to acknowledge the situation, take inventory of your skills and leverage the appropriate tactics.

Larry Alton

Freelance Writer & Former Entrepreneur

Larry Alton is an independent business consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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