What I know about the art and science of negotiating I learned as a matter of survival.
Driven to save myself and my family from financial ruin, I jumped into the deep end of the real estate industry. I knew nothing about negotiating. All I knew was that I had to find a way to bring interested parties together, get them to agree and see that everyone walked away a winner.
While I no longer sell and lease industrial properties, I still rely heavily on the negotiating skills I learned. Every day I use them in one way or another. Sometimes it’s a complex issue, but most of the time it’s just a series of one-minute negotiations.
You are a negotiator, too. You negotiate with your kids, spouse, boss, co-workers, employees, creditors, vendors, friends, clerks and salespeople. You negotiate with telemarketers, credit-card issuers, mobile-phone providers, repair people, teachers and neighbors. You negotiate using your words, your tone, your body language — even your silence.
Negotiating is the way you get what you want, whether it’s a roof, a new car or getting your teenage son to put the seat down.
No matter if your negotiations involve an allowance program for your kids or convincing a creditor to reduce your interest rate, learning to negotiate from strength will reduce tension, relieve stress and build your confidence.
PRINCIPLE: Something for everyone
The goal is not that everyone comes out an equal winner, but everyone should walk away satisfied. Negotiating a deal that gives something of value to each party is the mark of a wise negotiator.
PRINCIPLE: Ask for more than you will settle for
To illustrate, let’s say you want to make an offer considerably less than the asking price of a house you would like to own. You write the low-ball offer, but in a surprise move stipulate that the price includes the laundry room appliances, pool table, dining room suite and piano that you saw on your initial tour. The seller responds that the price of the house is acceptable “but that certainly does not include my personal property!” You win because you get your price (you didn’t really want the 25-year-old stuff, anyway) and the seller wins because he stood firm against what he considered to be an unreasonable request.
PRINCIPLE: The party with the most knowledge wins
Never forget that knowledge is power. The more you know the better your chances of getting what you want. The true skill comes in keeping what you know to yourself, revealing only a bit at a time and doing so only when it is to your advantage.
PRINCIPLE: The least motivated party is in control
If the other party finds out you are desperate to make the deal, you’ve just lost control. Any time you can send non-verbal cues that you are not desperate — in fact you are willing to cancel if you do not get what you want — you retain control. This drives a desperate opponent crazy. No matter how anxious you may be on the inside, never let it show. The simple act of calmly and slowly closing (never slamming) a notebook, briefcase, purse, calendar, newspaper — whatever is handy — is one of the most powerful tools a negotiator has. Without saying a word you allow the other party to fear you may not continue.
Negotiating has to be one of my all-time favorite activities. But I do have one tiny regret.
I just gave away my secrets.