The Negotiator Magazine

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Be a Master Negotiator with Three Simple Steps

by John P. Strelecky

Almost every day of your life you are involved in at least one and often many negotiations. As a matter of fact, you are probably a master negotiator for the vast majority of those, without even consciously thinking about it. And yet, when it comes to big negotiations, people all too often don't employ all the effective tactics that they see and use every day.

The key is to take what you learn from your smaller negotiations and apply those same techniques to your bigger ones.

For example, did you take a shower this week? Do you realize that your ability to take a shower was based on negotiating skills? It's true. Unless you have your own water tower, then you and someone else must be in an ongoing negotiation so that when you turn the faucets on in the shower, water comes out.

Did you drive a car today? If so, you were negotiating decisions during the entire drive. When you used your turn signal you were non-verbally negotiating with other drivers about where you wanted to drive, and when. At every stop you were part of a negotiation about who should go at a given time. If you purchased gasoline for the car, that was a negotiation.

The examples are almost endless. Even answering your phone is a negotiation. Someone is trying to get you to do something, and you are deciding whether to do what they want, or to do something else.

Within all these small negotiations, and the thousands of others just like them that you participate in every day, are three key steps. You see, and most likely intuitively follow, these steps all the time. Think now about applying them to your bigger negotiations.

Step #1 Know What You Want and Why You Want It

It is very hard to obtain what you want, if you don't know what it is and why you want it. Knowing you want water in your house so you can shower each day, provides the focus for you to have a negotiated agreement with the water company and not a pool company or the cable company. And yet, many times people enter larger negotiations without knowing what they want and why.

One of the most common places this occurs is during salary negotiations. People walk into a discussion without having a very clear picture of how much they want, and what they plan on doing with the money.

This leads to a host of problems. The first one is that by negotiating on salary, the negotiation gets too focused. Potential solutions that would work for both parties are never addressed because they are out of the scope of "salary". For example, suppose you are in the final phases of interviewing for a new job, or heading into an annual review, and you are at the point where you are discussing how much you will get paid. At a minimum, think of that negotiation not in terms of salary, but in terms of total possible compensation.

Your boss may not be able to give you a ten thousand dollar increase in your salary. However, he or she may be able to give you a tuition credit, free access to company sponsored day care, or a company car. Perhaps you can get a travel allowance for your daily commute or free food service at the company food-court. If you were going to spend money on those items anyway, then receiving those benefits is just as good as getting the higher salary.

Creating a list of your monthly expenses, and then negotiating for alternative ways your company can pay for those, is an excellent example of following step #1. By knowing what you want, and why you want it, you can find many ways to get the results you are looking for.

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September 2007