There’s advice, articles, podcasts, videos and whole books about negotiation out there but have you ever wondered why you should negotiate? I mean seriously, we tell everyone to get better at negotiating but never tell people why. Well, let’s discuss why we should learn to negotiate and why we should negotiate everything. For many people, it makes sense for big businesses to have negotiation teams but in the case small, micro and nano businesses the concept is a bit harder to justify.
Negotiation is a method by which people settle differences. It is a process by which compromise or agreement is reached while avoiding argument and dispute. In any disagreement, individuals understandably aim to achieve the best possible outcome for their position (or perhaps an organisation they represent). Using this definition I hope you can see that negotiation is not price haggling, one of the unfortunate negative stigma that has been attached to it. Negotiation is more than price, its every detail.
I always try to give practical examples so let us for a moment consider a hypothetical egg retailer. When the retailer buys eggs from their supplier how many variables are involved? Yes, price is one, the easy one to think of. There is also payment terms, packaging, delivery, size or quality, age (of the eggs), how the eggs are cleaned or not, candling (a technique for examining eggs for cracks) and so much more. And before you say there’s no way that vendor looks at all these things, think again.
Why I negotiate every detail
Now my experience in small business darts about from food, to social media management and a whole lot of things in between. When picking a service provider for example price is the first thing a lot of people look at but 9 times out of 10 it is not the factor that will determine success or failure. You tend to find that some technical or practical detail will give you the problem or make your day. As such, these details are very important to have in your focus and geared favourably towards you. Do we always know these details? No. But when you by a crate of eggs and half of them break in transit you will sure wish you had known about candling.
Consider all alternatives
One thing I’ve found myself teaching more people than I would like to this year is that we must consider all alternatives. When approaching a decision there is a tendency to eliminate alternatives early on because they do not meet one criterion (price) and we end up choosing from a limited list of options. Instead, it is much better practice to consider all options, even those that we may deem out of reach because of one or two factors. Back to our egg example, you could by cheaper eggs but if they are breaking easily then getting more expensive eggs will not solve the problem. You need to look at the factor that can best predict how fragile eggshells are, yes, it’s candling. So it is best practice to place all alternatives before you.
Decide what you want before you decide what is real
This is one of my favourite quotes from motivation guru Tony Robbins. Yes, motivational speakers do not have the best of reputations but here me out. You have goals and desires for your business or project. It will serve you well yo have an ideal situation in mind. So say you know exactly all the details you want when looking for eggs; (using the order we established earlier) 7 days to pay, in egg trays in boxes, delivered before 5 am, large in size, less than 7 days from date of laying, uncleaned and candled. Sounds a tall order but you are free to go out there and talk to suppliers knowing what you want. The discussion with them will then reveal how much of that you can get. That is the nature of negotiation.
If you don’t ask the answer is no
Finally, a lot of people dislike the idea of negotiating because it has been portrayed as haggling in many cases. I’ll give you that, hagglers are annoying people. Negotiations have two sides and good negotiator knows this. You will find people are more receptive to getting what they want in a negotiation. So looking at it from both sides enhances your negotiating position. If you do not negotiate, more often than not, you will be stuck with whatever you get.