The Negotiator Magazine

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Are You Winning over the Clients you Want or Losing Out?

Jan Potgieter

How many times in the course of a day have you found yourself negotiating a situation? I would be willing to guess that you encounter both planned and unplanned opportunities for negotiation several times a day, yet more often than not, you may find the act of negotiations difficult. If you push too hard, the deal goes astray and if you're too soft, you become known as a pushover. The key to sound negotiation is not just having a positive style, but includes proper preparation, framing, recognising the techniques and ploys of others, as well as settling on agreements that stick. It is crucial that you are armed with the appropriate tools, which maximise the return on your relationships with suppliers, customers, shareholders and other important business or personal relationships. Consequently, whether it is for the new contract that is up for bid or the negotiation with a business associate, in all likelihood your attempts to win more may need some reevaluation.

What exactly is "Negotiation?"

According to the dictionary, to "negotiate" means "to confer with another so as to arrive at the settlement of some matter." Yet, it is a fact that nearly 75% of individuals faced with having to conduct crucial negotiations do not realise success at their negotiation efforts and rarely have a clue as to how to win more during a negotiation. Instead, most negotiators have learned only how to push against others, criticising and attacking rather than identifying one another's strong points. Typically, criticism, rather than creativity, has become the norm during most negotiating efforts.

Although we, as intelligent individuals, possess countless tools for success, negotiating presents a different type of problem that often leaves us somewhat baffled. Perhaps it's because we feel vulnerable, afraid of losing out or, worse, having to make what appears to be an unfair concession. Or possibly we have the need to control the situation, which, of course, interferes with our practical powers of reasoning. In any case, whether your negotiations involve a corporate situation, a small business transaction or simply a personal endeavor, conceivably throughout your lifetime you'll spend endless hours in arbitration, mediation and bargaining.

The Right versus Wrong Syndrome

Allow me to bring this home a little more clearly. Envision yourself presenting a proposal to a potential business associate. You have worked hard on the proposal and proudly present it for review. Upon analysis, ninety percent of the proposal is perfectly acceptable and meets your associate's needs, but 10% of it falls short. More than likely, your associate will reject the proposal not because it wasn't a good proposition, but simply because they were blinded by the 10% that is wrong. Instead of coming from a place of agreement, they have based their overall decision on the 10% of the proposal that doesn't work, leaving you to start from scratch. This is the stage where most of us abort important negotiations.

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November 2004