We watch The Apprentice and see the ‘lambs to the slaughter’ negotiating. Not helped by their bravado and arrogance: ‘I’m a shark in business’. Cue the next clip of the poor apprentice being taken limb from limb by a shopkeeper who won’t give him 5p off a bottle of champagne.
Negotiating looks hard and can be hard if you do it wrong. Let’s dispel the first myth: banging your fist on the table, looking mean and being tough doesn’t work. Or, at least, you might be lucky and get it to work once, but after that they’ll get wise to you and take a whole other approach.
After 14 years of teaching negotiation skills, Darren Smith, Founder of Making Business Matter, finds that those that can be honest, open and direct negotiate the best deals where a relationship is of importance. If you are negotiating to buy a second-hand car on the forecourt you are advised to adapt your style. For now, let’s stick with the relationship-important deals:
Negotiation tactics #1: be like Captain Scott – explore
Prepare a list of questions to ask your ‘opponent’. Get into their head and swim around. Ask as many open-ended questions as you can to understand what they want, their situation and their needs. Asking is not confirming that you can do it. You are just exploring.
Negotiation tactics #2: be like the UN – build relationships
In the Science of Persuasion we are told that people who have something in common are twice as likely to reach an agreement. In addition, their outcomes are worth 80% more. Disclose personal information about yourself: where you have lived, worked, hobbies, and see what happens.
Negotiation tactics #3: be like Fagin – give nothing
There is a rule in negotiating: no free fish. Imagine a polar bear chasing an Eskimo’s husky-led sleigh filled with fresh fish. The Eskimo throws the polar bear a fish to keep him happy. The polar bear eats it and thinks: ‘I know where there is more’. Do not give anything away unless you get something in return.
Negotiation tactics #4: be like an Olympic runner – practise
Most people hate role playing. Instead, bring yourself and do the deal with a colleague. You’ll always find that they will ask you questions that you hadn’t thought of, and put you in corners you didn’t know existed. If you want a better deal, don’t leave it to chance. Practise to get a better deal.
Negotiation tactics #5: be like a court reporter – summarise
Many deals get agreed upon and then fall apart afterwards. These deals are the worst because both parties thought that they were happy and then afterwards resort to phone calls and emails to try and sort out what they thought they had. Summarise with the person the deal, including all of the details.
Darren Smith is the Founder of Making Business Matter (MBM), which specialises in buyer/supplier relationships in the UK Grocery Industry. He has worked in the world of supermarkets and suppliers for more than 24 years. His story is one of a game of two halves. For the first 12 years he worked as a buyer and category manager in one of the big four UK supermarkets, buying mainly fresh foods, from cheese to fruit to ready meals.
Seeing the opportunity to enable supermarkets and suppliers to work better together, Smith founded MBM and has spent the last 14 years working with suppliers on people development to enable them to get the best from their people with their retail accounts through Sticky Learning. His main specialities are category management training, negotiation skills and time management.