Seems like negotiation week for me. I published this post about Seth Godin’s take on business development, and then another on how win-win is the only win in business negotiations. That leaves me thinking about negotiations I’ve been involved in, things that have worked, and things that haven’t worked. And I end up wanting to post the three rules here, because it seems like they always work.
Disclosure: I’ve never taken a negotiation course; not the ones they advertise in magazines, and not one in business school either. These rules are things I learned the hard way.
1. How does it feel to be them?
Call it empathy. “Walk a mile in their shoes” is a good old-fashioned saying. I know a lady who would say “see it through my eyes.” There’s no substitute for understanding the other side of the negotiation. What are they thinking? And, by far the most important, what do they want?
2. Find the win-win
There are no zero-sum games in long-term business deals. You have two winners or two losers, never just one winner and one loser. Sure, you might be able to get that kind of a victory (we win, you lose) in a negotiation sometimes, if you make that a goal … but that won’t last. Businesses wise up. Relationships that aren’t good for both sides don’t last.
So look for that in every negotiation. How can they get what they want, and you get what you want? Maybe both sides get slightly less, but both win. That’s the goal.
3. Negotiate before the contract, not with the contract
The most common mistake in negotiation is dealing with the legal contract. First, you have to realize that only a tiny minority of legal contracts ever determine anything. You have to sue for breach of contract to make a contract really matter, and if it comes to that, you already have a disaster. The vast majority of disputes are dealt with by discussion, revision, and, for the really hard ones, mediation.
I’m not an attorney, so don’t take this as legal advice. In practical experience, though, what I’ve seen that works is that you get all your terms straight first in simple memos (yes, definitely, written; just not legalese) and then do the contract. The contract is the last step.
(Photo credit: Dmitriy Shironosov/Shutterstock)