Successful Negotiating For All

Most people cringe a little when they hear the word negotiate.  It’s a word that some misinterpret as meaning a power struggle will ensue where one will be crowned the victor and the other will get what’s left over.  That’s not a negotiation:  That’s a battle.  If you want to create a win-win-win contract, it’s important to understand the rules of engagement when it comes to negotiations.

Negotiate For What You Want

Far too often, entrepreneurs negotiate for what they think they can get based on what they think other entrepreneurs are getting.  That’s not the wa to negotiate for what you want.  That kind of negotiating will leave you feeling unfulfilled and, quite likely, used.

If you want creative control over the project, ask for creative control.  But only ask for it if you really want it.  Asking for creative control because you think you should ask for it — or because you’re a control freak and don’t really understand what’s involved in having creative control — is a set up for failure.  Your failure.

If you want weekly meetings with the other party because you see value in nipping any potential problems in the bud, don’t settle for monthly meetings where such problems will only compound themselves.  If you want a specific level of input from the other party to help keep the project on time and on budget, negotiate for it.  And don’t negotiate for something on the basis that you heard that it’s what you’re supposed to negotiate in your contract.

Don’t Negotiate Against The Most Recent Offer

Negotiating isn’t about reacting to what the other person said last or put into the unsigned contract most recently.  In other words, you have to keep things in context and consider all aspects of the contract, not just the most bits and pieces most recently discussed.  It’s the details that matter!

If the other party isn’t willing to meet with you every week because they have other commitments that need their personal attention, but they’re willing to exchange emails with you twice a week to stay on top of things, that’s worth considering.  The other party isn’t saying NO to communicating; they’re suggesting an alternate form of communication to the one you wanted.

When the other party counters your offer with something that’s more amenable to their needs, consider how this may be beneficial to you, and understand that the negotiation is what matters most, not the latest comments.

Tunnel Vision Will Hurt You

If you are only able to focus on what you want without being able to consider the options being offered, chances are what you want and what you get won’t be the same thing.  What you get may be no contract at all, and only you know if no contract is better than a negotiated contract.

For example, if you have your heart set on a set dollar-and-cents amount, that’s perfectly fine.  However, if the other party is only able to pay you a set dollar-and-cents fee along with discounts on items you need for your own business or for another project, that may very well be worth considering.

There’s a saying about not seeing the forest for the trees (in other words, putting too much stock on the details instead of looking at the big picture).  If you’re so set on getting every detail of your negotiation locked into place, you could miss out on other opportunities in the immediate and long term future.

You Have Two Ears And One Mouth For A Reason

If something is a good deal today, it will be a good deal tomorrow, and that’s why it’s important to listen to what the other party with whom you are negotiating have to say.  You already know what you would like from this contract, but you don’t know everything they have to offer or everything that the contract entails.  What’s more, you have no idea of their perception of what you’re asking for may be.

When they object to parts of what you want, ask them to explain exactly what it is they find objectionable.  Don’t assume they’re wrong.  Listen to their interpretation of what they feel you are asking for in the contract.  There’s a reason why the word is negotiate.  It’s because when you negotiate, you and the other party are looking to reach a compromise that benefits both you and the other party, not nailing down an agreement that favors one side or the other.

Final Note

Negotiations don’t have to be terse. They don’t have to be adversarial.  They don’t have to end with one party feeling as if they got the short end of the stick.  Good negotiations pave the way for future business interactions and builds strong business relationships.  This is why it’s important to pay attention to the nuggets of information that are dropped along the way when discussing a mutually beneficial contract for all involved.

Elyse Bruce


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