- When you are negotiating, never make assumptions, and do not rush.
- Don't take negotiation personally; it's just business.
- Don't overnegotiate or accept a bad deal just to make a sale.
Whether you're negotiating your salary at a new job, asking for a pay raise or overseeing a business deal, negotiation is a skill that every professional needs – but it's no easy feat.
It can take a long time to reach an agreement no matter what you're negotiating for, and ultimately, you might not even get what you want. That's why it's important to make sure you do everything the right way. Even the smallest mistakes can cost you success.
Want to become a negotiating pro? Molly Fletcher, consultant and author of A Winner's Guide to Negotiating: How Conversation Gets Deals Done (McGraw-Hill, 2014), shared these five negotiating don'ts.
1. Don't make assumptions.
The key to a successful negotiation is being prepared, and that means a lot more than knowing numbers and facts.
"Failing to prepare is preparing to fail," Fletcher said. "Preparation means gathering and understanding the hard data – for example, your comparables – but it also means having 360-degree awareness."
This means you need to know who the decision maker is, and what the other party's needs, values, hopes and fears are, Fletcher said. It also means not assuming that anything is non-negotiable ahead of time.
"Gather as much data as you can in advance, and be prepared to ask strong diagnostic questions to gain clarity," she said. "There is rarely a clear roadmap within a negotiation."
The more prepared you are, Fletcher said, the better you'll be able to navigate the negotiation.
2. Don't rush.
Negotiations take time, especially if you want them to go smoothly. Take the time to establish a real relationship with the other party, Fletcher advised.
"Share a little piece of personal information that signals your openness and desire for connection," she said. "Doing so can shift a negotiation from an adversarial battle to a productive conversation."
And don't be afraid to build in pauses, as they can help everyone regain perspective and remove undue emotions, Fletcher said.
"A negotiation doesn't have to happen all at once," she said.
3. Don't take anything personally.
Fletcher noted that it can be easy to let your emotions get the better of you during a negotiation, especially if it's something that affects you. But watch out – getting too emotional will hurt your productivity, she said.
Her advice for making it through unscathed? "Challenge yourself to turn moments where you feel attacked and defensive into moments of curiosity where you can gain feedback. Emotion can easily be used against you in a negotiation."
Fletcher also advised being aware of your emotional triggers and knowing how to pull back when you feel things shifting in the wrong direction.
4. Don't accept a bad deal.
Negotiating is a long, tiring and stressful process, Fletcher said. It can be easy to settle, but agreeing to a deal just to get a deal isn't good, no matter what side you're on.
"It's important to remember that a deal isn't necessarily better than no deal," she said. "That can be discouraging when you have invested time and energy into getting a deal done, but it's important to have that clarity."
Fletcher said you should understand, going into the negotiation, exactly what you're willing to give up and what you aren't. "Ask yourself, 'What does success look like? At what point am I comfortable walking away?'"
Ultimately, not making a deal should always be an option.
5. Don't overnegotiate.
If you're lucky enough to have the upper hand during the negotiation, don't take advantage of it too much, Fletcher said. Think about the consequences of overnegotiating beforehand, she said. You might get what you want, but at what price?
"Don't put yourself in a position where you can't go back to a relationship because you overleveraged," Fletcher said. "Recognize that hopefully this is a relationship and a conversation that will continue over time."
What are some examples of negotiation?
Though there's no such thing as a foolproof negotiation method, some tactics are better than others. Here are a couple of examples of good negotiation strategies.
- Knowing how to close the deal while adding value: Rather than selling yourself short and simply taking whatever deal you can get, try to add value to the deal. For instance, if you are selling cable packages, you may be happy just to get someone to agree to subscribe to the service. However, a seasoned negotiator will go the extra mile by offering premium channels, upgraded equipment and more. Moreover, these add-ons will be better received if you can throw in a discount that makes the customer feel like they are getting more for their money.
- Down-talking the product or service: If you include too many negatives in your negotiations, you will scare customers away. For instance, if you are selling cable packages and a customer makes a comment that the price is higher than expected, the worst thing you can do is agree with them. If a customer is giving you their undivided attention, they likely want you to convince them to buy your service and products. However, by agreeing that it costs too much, you are simply affirming that the service is not worth the money. On the flip side, if you counter this argument with something along the lines of "It may seem like a lot, but with all the channels you're getting, we are basically losing money" or "Yes, some customers say that, but we do provide a bulk discount that makes it much more affordable than it seems," you will be much more likely to secure the deal.