Everything is open for negotiation—even prices, schedules, and product offerings that seem carved in stone. Steven G. Blum, who teaches at the Wharton School of Business, says no one has to just accept what’s offered…but first you must hone your negotiating skills.
Blum is author of Negotiating Your Investments: Use Proven Negotiation Methods to Enrich Your Financial Life (Wiley, 2014, www.negotiatingtruth.com). “We all know we can negotiate car or real estate prices, but the idea that everything is negotiable is foreign to most of us,” Blum adds.
But not anymore. On the following pages, Blum offers thirteen of the best negotiation techniques.
1. Harness the power of BATNA. In negotiation, power comes from alternatives. You must identify your Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement (BATNA). Doing so lays the foundation for increasing negotiating strength, which presents the potential for greater control, influence, and authority. You will never accept a deal unless it is better than your BATNA. It forms a minimum acceptable level for you.
3. Know what you don’t want, what you do want, and what’s even better. One of the most important things a negotiator can do is figure out what she is trying to gain or achieve. When you know exactly what you want, you can be purposeful in keeping the process moving toward your goals and avoiding measures that might throw you off course.
“Don’t make agreements based on the idea of ‘winning’ if they don’t get you what you really want,” says Blum. “Don’t worry about whether the other side is getting too much—that does not matter as long as you reach all your goals. And once a good deal comes into view, see if you can improve it before you close the deal.”
4. See that your interests come first, but make sure others’ interests are served, too. Good negotiators pay a great deal of attention to underlying interests. They seek a deal that meets their own interests very well, satisfies the interests of other parties sufficiently, and adequately addresses those of all important players who are not part of the actual negotiation.
5. Don’t get distracted from your real goal. Many people pride themselves on a competitive tenacity that leaves nothing on the table. If possible, they take the table as well. But research has shown that many of these winners end up regretting their victories.
“Competition is a natural and necessary motivator, yet it does not always bring a happy ending,” says Blum. “The desire to win represents a dangerous shift in focus: Besting the competition becomes the primary goal, and the outcome itself becomes secondary. Paradoxically, the strategies and behaviors that follow are usually self-damaging. Avoid hurting your own efforts by keeping your eyes firmly fixed on where you really are trying to go.”
6. Insist on both a fair process and a fair outcome. Good negotiators refuse to be part of a process, or outcome, that is anything less than fair. Leading negotiation professors urge us to look to authoritative standards and norms, such as market value, precedent, and equal treatment, to help delineate fairness. Just as a skilled negotiator will never agree to a deal that does not do a good job of meeting her interests or that is not better than her best alternative, so, too, she should decline one that is observably unfair.