It's difficult to underestimate the value of a good negotiator.
First-rate negotiators consistently achieve targeted outcomes, even when the odds are stacked against them. For a small business, negotiating skills are invaluable because they level the playing field and make it easier to compete with more established firms.
The good news is that negotiation is a learned skill set. Some personalities are more conducive to negotiating skills than others, but for the most part, anyone can learn how to become a good negotiator through training, effort, and experience. One of the most valuable investments your company can make is to require company leaders to attend a reputable negotiation training program.
But when everything is said and done, the outcomes of negotiations often boil down to negotiation tactics – the decisions, actions, and techniques that are employed during the negotiation process. Negotiators who have a firm grasp on techniques usually have the upper hand, especially when they know how to properly utilize a handful of essential tactics.
- Segmentation. Segmentation (also known as fragmentation) lets you negotiate one issue at a time. Instead of negotiating one large issue, you negotiate several smaller issues, isolating the impact of a problem area on other negotiations.
- Shifting responses. If possible, force the other person to quantify the offer. Rather than countering an offer with a specific dollar value, you can suggest that the offer is still too low and effectively force the other person to offer a second dollar figure that may be higher than you had hoped for.
- Adding small concessions. It's possible to nickel and dime your way to negotiation success by tacking on requests for a small concession. Although they may seem negligible, small concessions can add up over the course of a long negotiation.
- Averaging. Averaging or splitting the difference is a common way for negotiators to reach agreement. If the negotiation appears to be headed toward middle ground, you can inflate your interest as a way to end up on the higher end of the average.
- Taking it off-the-table. If negotiations seem to stall out on a specific issue, take the issue off the table. It's often more advantageous to return to a trouble spot later, after you have reached agreement on other point.
- Bluffing. Good negotiators regularly bluff at critical points in the process. It's a risky strategy, but if you're adept at it, bluffing can manipulate the negotiation in your favor.
- Walk away. Successful negotiators are know when it's time to walk away from negotiations. In some cases, a walk away opens the door for concessions and a fast resolution to the process.