The first rule of negotiation: You’re more likely to win if the other side doesn’t lose

Nobody likes to lose. Yet, if we consider the art of the making deals, negotiating a win-win is the best way to ensure a win. While most management development courses may overlook negotiation skills, there are some concrete rules that can help you successfully create a situation where everyone can walk away from a deal happy.

Rule 1: Express your desire for a mutually beneficial deal

Most people come to the negotiation table thinking that the “winner takes it all”. But if you state that your intention is to make a deal that works for both parties, the other side would be willing to soften their stance quite a bit. Harvard Law School cites the example of Iran, which managed to broker an agreement in 2015 with 6 countries, to curtail its uranium enrichment program in exchange for loosened economic sanctions. This was made possible by the Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, who broke the impasse by declaring that Iran wanted a deal that would benefit both sides.

Rule 2: Look for common ground

Take a situation where your team needs more experienced people, to work on new projects. The leadership of your organization denies hiring more people, and your spirits may get dampened. However, you can turn this around by focusing on a common interest – improving team productivity. How? By offering multiple options for your leaders to consider, such as hiring a consultant to set up new projects, training the less experienced members of the team, or employing new tools to free up the senior team members’ time so that they can focus on new projects. That’s a real win.

Rule 3: Focus on more than one outcome

Whether negotiating a better raise, a plum project or more favorable terms at work, many people make the mistake of thinking for the short haul, which might end up burning bridges while negotiating. But if you are thinking of long-term benefits of maintaining a healthy business relationship, it is good to let a few minor losses slide.

The sales team at Hootsuite experienced this when they were negotiating with a client about who would handle the credit card fees from transactions. Though the cost was minor, both parties refused to budge, and the entire deal was shaky. This, until Hootsuite agreed to foot the bill, and in return the client would take two Hootsuite representatives to a steak dinner every time they generated more than $100,000 in revenue. While this addressed the client’s need to reduce costs, the steak dinner addressed Hootsuite’s need to maintain a long-term relationship with the client, and even gain more business opportunities.

As you master the art of creating win-win deals, you’ll come to realize that these rules have an impact beyond the negotiation table. Have you experienced that?

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