Whether you realize it or not, people are always negotiating, because most of what they want or need in life is controlled or owned by someone else. Negotiation is underway when a parent bribes a toddler with candy for good behavior or a boss offers comp time for putting in extra hours on a critical project. Much of our daily conversation involves the underlying theme of negotiation as seen when you pitch a project or make a recommendation you want the team to endorse. Below are a few concepts that may help you achieve a win-win outcome in your next negotiation.
Understand the Other Person’s Negotiation Style
Understanding the other person’s inherent negotiation style can be helpful in how you approach the conversation. On one hand, you may encounter someone who is very straight-forward and puts their near final offer on the table right away. What about the person whose first offer is usually half-way between what they are willing to settle for? At another extreme, I had a boss who wouldn’t start to negotiate until you asked a third time for something you wanted.
With perseverance and the belief that I had to have “such-and-such” for my business, I figured out over time that I didn’t get to start negotiating until I had hit the second “no”. Further into the relationship, I asked him why he took this approach with me and my peers who asked for money to support their businesses. He answered, “I’m not sure they couldn’t find another way until they’re asking me.” I can’t say I agree with his approach, but I certainly learned to work with it. Many of my colleagues never figured out our boss’s style or got the level of support they wanted.
Figure Out What the Other Person Wants
Understanding people’s negotiating styles leads into the second key negotiation concept which is to figure out what the other person wants. In the case of my former boss, he further expanded on why he adopted his negotiation style. He believed business leaders inherently made business decisions that made their lives easier without considering whether it was most cost-effective or had the ROI that merited the investment [note: this worldview that is difficult to change]. If you asked him a third time, you crossed over a hurdle in his mind that you were at least serious and passionate about your request. That marker meant you then got a seat at the negotiation table.
My boss would get daily requests to approve small to large expenditures for operations, sales, and marketing to sustain or grow the businesses. He told me if he signed all the Authorization of Expenditures (AFE) that crossed his desk, the company would be broke. Although he didn’t say it in so many words, I figured out that in order for him to sign an AFE, he needed to believe (1) there really was a problem that needed to be addressed, (2) all possible options where explored, and (3) the recommendation was the most cost-effective solution with an adequate return on investment.
With that in mind, all my requests came with a detailed PowerPoint presentation that covered all those hot topics. I got him to say “yes” to every slide message, so that when I got to the last slide which asked for money, he couldn’t help but say “yes.” And he did say “yes” every time, but…
Leave the Other Person in a Happy Place
…this brings me to the third important negotiating concept—try to leave the person you’re negotiating with in a happy place. Although I got what I set out to achieve, I noticed a bit of disappointment in my boss’s face. Knowing his personality, I assumed he hadn’t felt as if he had contributed to the solution. I had identified the problem, analyzed the options, and recommended the solution too thoroughly.
Although I’m not usually one to have patience in playing games, I am, however, a strategist. So, when my next request came around, I executed my usual strategy but left out a meaningful small component that I knew he’d find. He did suggest, “What about doing…?” My response was, “That’s a great idea. I’ll incorporate it into the plan and then move forward. It shouldn’t change the cost.” He smiled and said, “Great, send up the AFE and I’ll sign it.” The outcome was the same, but I left my boss feeling like he’d contributed to the success of the project which was the cherry on the top of the negotiation outcome.
Wrapping It Up
Many of the other business leaders never figured out how to successfully negotiate with our boss. They hadn’t taken the time to understand his negotiation style, what he wanted to hear in order to say “yes”, and certainly didn’t know how to leave him in a happy place. The reality is that negotiation can easily be a win-win. You need to focus less on getting what you want and more on putting yourself in the other person’s shoes.
About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach with an extensive background in leadership and business coaching. She coaches individuals and businesses as well as designs and facilitates workshops. She has a passion to help people be the best versions of themselves. You can learn more about Sandra or engage her as your coach by reaching out to her at firstname.lastname@example.org or by visiting her website at www.shinecrossings.com