You want to “get to yes,” no?
You want to “always be closing”.
You want a “win-win” outcome. Trouble is, most of the time it doesn’t t work out the way the books you’ve read promise that it will. How come? To expert negotiator Jim Camp, it’s simple. Most people don’t understand the principles at work in a negotiation. This includes authors and business school faculties.
Successful negotiators understand the way people make up their minds about the things that are important to them and listen carefully for the signals that reveal these things. The pros want to pick up everything that’s said. Everything. Because what is most important may have little, if anything, to do with the issues, or to what people say is important.
Negotiating is about understanding human behavior more than obsessing on some compromise. Whenever compromise for its own sake is the objective, according to Camp, bad deals follow.
Superior negotiators see what they do in terms of learning and discovering things. So they assume nothing prior to the process. An unskilled negotiator’s assumptions about the things that people may want are deal killers.
Key to success: discovering what matters most to the other party. It may be a desire for better service and speedier delivery, not lower price. In other words, no amount of logic, reason and facts about price are ever going to work if your proposal doesn’t alleviate the real pain. When the real concern is finally uncovered, you’re on your way to a solution — and not before then. Camp’s recipe has four ingredients:
1. Understand how decisions get made. Unless your proposal solves the real problem, you’ll go nowhere (see the example above).
2. Consider questions as your tools. The best tools get the best results. Master negotiators ask tactfully sensitive, open-ended questions that begin with “what”, “how”, and “why”. Make the questioning all about the other party: “How do you see this?” What is your biggest problem?” When did this issue become a concern for you?” Why do you think this is wrong/right way to go?”
3. Listen closely and observe. Close, careful listening to what’s said and not said combined with scrutiny of body language and facial expressions are indispensable to a productive negotiation.
4. Stay neutral. Never easy, of course, but absolutely mission-critical. When we’re emotional we do the things that kill deals: speaking too loudly and too soon are death to a good deal. Practice the inscrutable poker face and calm voice. It will pay off.
When he’s not ranting on this blog, Stan DeVaughn is an inscrutable VP marketing at RightOn Mobile, a Silicon Valley-based developer of health-care industry IT security apps. Actually, he tends to wear his emotions on his sleeve too often.