If it’s Thursday then this blog must be about how to negotiate more effectively and so it is.
Now negotiation is one of those skill sets that everybody can benefit from. Indeed negotiation is part and parcel of everyday life whether we are negotiating a good deal on a hotel room, the best price in a shop or a mutually satisfactory solution to a customer service problem.

The starting point for any negotiation has to be clarity on the type of outcome you want. The key questions you need to have thought through are:

  1. What do I want?
  2. Why do I want it?
  3. What am I prepared to trade in order to get it?
  4. What can I do if the other party won’t budge?

Question one speaks for itself. If you don’t know what your starting position is, then your chances of getting it are slim to none. So do your homework BEFORE you walk into the negotiation.

Question two is a little more challenging. By clarifying why you want what you want, you are opening up the possibility that there may be other ways to achieve this higher purpose other than your initial position. Ina simple barter situation where you are negotiating over one variable i.e. price, this step is probably unnecessary but, in more complex negotiations, step two is often the key to developing new solutions which neither party had initially thought of but which meet the higher needs of both parties.

Question three opens up the possibility of a win-win negotiation. In order to come to a mutually beneficial solution both parties need to be prepared to move from their starting positions at least a little. The use of conditional language is the key here. “If you … then I…”

For example I was recently involved in the early stages of a negotiation where it was critical to find out what the other side wanted and why they wanted it. They were being cagey and asked us to say what we wanted first. Rather than giving in to them I negotiated by saying “If you can tell us what you want exactly and why you want it, we will be happy to tell you what we want and why we want it, is that OK?” They agreed and the discussion started in earnest.

Question four is crucial in determining what your options are? If you can’t negotiate a settlement what else can you do and how acceptable is that alternative to you. If the other party wont budge can your realistically walk away? Can you appeal to a higher authority? Instigate legal action? Resign? etc. My tip here is to brainstorm all the possible alternatives, then choose the most realistic ones and finally look at how you can strengthen your hand in relation to these objectives. E.g. If your intention is to negotiate a pay rise, one of your alternatives might be to threaten to resign if your boss doesn’t agree. Now how realistic is that? If you already have an attractive job offer from another company then it is a very credible threat. If you don’t, then it isn’t. If you were in the market to buy a new car and you know that, if you don’t get the right deal in this garage, there are lots of other garages in the ares selling the same car, you can threaten to walk out of the dealership if they won’t play ball. I’ve done this and had a salesman run out of the garage a minute later to offer me a better deal. If on the other hand you have your heart set on this make and model and this garage is the only one in the area selling it, then this alternative is much less viable and the dealer is in a stronger position.

So, I would encourage you to plan a little bit more before you negotiate next time. Ask yourself these four questions and be prepared to be pleasantly surprised with the results you achieve.


  1. The Sales & Presentations Doctor on 11/05/2007 at 08:38

    Many thanks jim, it’s great to get feedback. Whereabout in the States are you and what do you do?

  2. Jim Lawson on 10/05/2007 at 16:05

    I just came across your blog and I have thoroughly enjoyed your posts. I have been in business development in the US for the past 15 years and your common sense approach is the best way to go. I look forward to your future posts.

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