Mastering Negotiation Tactics: The Art of Give and Take

When it comes to negotiation, my motto is, “Everything is negotiable” and my attitude is “The worst they can say is ‘No.’”  Negotiation happens every day both in business and personal situations. This includes buying a home or a car, agreeing on the salary or perks of a new job, deciding which shows the family is going to watch on TV tonight, getting my wife the earrings she’s had her eye on or getting my high-tech barbecue grill.  While it might seem odd to include family TV night or a new pair of earrings in the category of everything’s negotiable, both scenarios fit because negotiating is about give and take to a point where both sides of the interaction are happy with the outcome. 

Start with a positive attitude

Enter any negotiation with a positive attitude. If you think of it as a game where both teams win, you’re more likely to enjoy the process.  In addition, you’re more open to hearing what the other person has to say and less rigid in your position.  If you go into a negotiation expecting animosity and a battle of wills, you start from a negative, defensive position and are less likely to be open to creative solutions that satisfy both sides.  Thinking of any negotiation as a game keeps the tensions lighter and makes the whole process more enjoyable. 

Negotiations need research

Depending on what you’re negotiating, your research can take 15 minutes or a couple of hours. But no matter what the negotiation, you need to do your research. A bad approach is to go into the negotiation thinking you’ll just hear what the other side has to say and then decide how to deal with them. If you go into a car dealership to buy a new car, but don’t know the features you need you might drive off the lot in a car you really don’t want. You’re a high school football coach and in preparation for the big game against the school’s biggest rival, you just say to the team, “Let’s see what plays they run and we’ll just try to stop them.”  Your team will be on the losing end of the game. Proper preparation gives you the information you need to persuade the other side to agree to what you’re asking for.

Part of the research step is understanding your goals in the negotiation. For example, you’re in the market for a new car. You know you want a specific make and model. But if that’s all you know, you’ll go into the negotiation at a disadvantage.  You could walk away with a less-than-ideal car at a price that you later discover is much more than you should have agreed to pay. So, do your research. What kind of car do you need? What will you use it for – work, travel, lugging around home improvement materials? What’s a fair price?  Check consumer reporting sites to see which cars meet your needs and what a fair price is for the trim package you want. Then, go into the dealership armed with this information and get the best car for your needs.

Be comfortable with silence

Speak your piece. Ask for what you need, want and expect.  Then be quiet and wait for a response.  Buying a car is a perfect scenario for using silence to your advantage.  If the salesperson offers a package that is not to your liking or a pricing and payment plan that is unacceptable, don’t feel like you have to immediately respond.  You can look at what he has put in front of you and silently consider it. Let him be the first to break the silence. Or turn that around and you tell them what you are willing to pay or willing to give up to get the overall car you want. Then just shut up. Nine times out of ten, they’ll come back with a lower down payment, a lower interest rate or offer the amenities you requested. Remember, the first person to speak loses.  Practice this at home so that you’re more comfortable with silence in a negotiation.

Build rapport and trust

It’s easier to build rapport and trust when you follow the first point of this blog – enter a negotiation with a positive attitude. Consider the negotiation as a game where both sides win. In business relationships, building rapport is crucial to the long-term success of both organizations. By building the rapport and trust between the two parties, the vendor providing the service or product may not need to cut prices to remain a vendor. They may not be the cheapest, but they continue to be the go-to vendor for the purchasing company because you know you can rely on this vendor to deliver the quality and service you need to be successful. 

You can build rapport in a short-term, one-time transactional negotiation as well.  It doesn’t help you to be a jerk in a negotiation. People are less likely to help someone being a jerk. Just be nice. Ask for what you’d like and ask, “Can you do that for me?” And if they can’t accommodate you, you still have room to think of other options that will get you closer to what you want because you haven’t alienated them.

Focus on value (a.k.a. the art of the Sweet Trade)

Part of building rapport is being willing to see the other person’s position and being open to creative solutions. Zero sum negotiations occur when neither side is willing to see the value that the other side sees. These zero sum negotiation fail more often than not. When you focus on what the other side sees as valuable, you’ll find ways to trade for something of value to them that isn’t as dear to you. I like to call these deals “Sweet Trades.”

You’ve done your research and you know what’s important to your customer in this negotiation.  So in order to seal the deal, you look for a Sweet Trade that will give the customer something that is highly valuable to them while not costing you as much in the trade. While negotiating a room rate for a large conference for your sales team, you ask for a room block rate that the hotel says they can’t accommodate. But they come back with an idea where your team would get vouchers for $50 or $100 for food or drink in the hotel restaurant.  The hotel gets their room rate, and you get vouchers to offset per diem costs for your sales team.

Negotiating with family

Yes, we negotiate with family all the time.  It doesn’t mean that the family relationship is a transactional business relationship. It simply reflects the fact of family learning to get along with and enjoy each other with less strife.  The biggest thing to remember is to look for a solution where both people win. If you have three kids and one TV, how do you decide what shows to watch?  You negotiate.  Tonight, we’re going to watch Julia’s favorite show at 8:00 p.m. and when she goes to bed, we can watch Kathryn’s.  Tomorrow, Evan gets first choice because he didn’t get to select his show the night before. You may not think of it as a negotiation, but it is. You’re working to make everyone happy over the long term.

Stay tuned for more about my negotiation with my wife over her jewelry and my new barbecue grill.

ThirtyFiveSixtyFour
ThirtyFiveSixtyFour
Winning Strategies for Negotiating Everyday Things: Salary, Cars, and more.
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  • Kevin Headley

    With over two decades of experience in the Consumer Durable Goods Industry, Kevin has consistently proven himself as an exceptional Sales & Marketing Leader with iconic brands such was Whirlpool Corporation and Sub-Zero Group. Currently serving as the Vice President of Sales at Rinnai America, Kevin drives innovation, execution, and a wealth of expertise to his role.

    Throughout his career, Kevin has distinguished himself through his adept mentoring of colleagues and his ability to cultivate enduring relationships with clients and stakeholders. He firmly believes that a good sense of humor is essential in both professional and personal contexts, fostering a positive and collaborative environment wherever he goes.

    Through various relocations, Kevin and his family have been able to experience life in multiple states and regions in the US and are currently settled in Peachtree City, Georgia. Currently, Kevin's latest personal challenge is adjusting to the newfound tranquility of an empty nest.

    During his leisure hours, Kevin cherishes quality time as a true girl dad with his saintly wife, Megan, and his three daughters. He also indulges in his passion for music by jamming the guitar with his garage band, imparts valuable lessons about abundance mentality to his daughters, and hones his golf swing on the local links of Georgia.

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About the Author

With over two decades of experience in the Consumer Durable Goods Industry, Kevin has consistently proven himself as an exceptional Sales & Marketing Leader with iconic brands such was Whirlpool Corporation and Sub-Zero Group. Currently serving as the Vice President of Sales at Rinnai America, Kevin drives innovation, execution, and a wealth of expertise to his role.

Throughout his career, Kevin has distinguished himself through his adept mentoring of colleagues and his ability to cultivate enduring relationships with clients and stakeholders. He firmly believes that a good sense of humor is essential in both professional and personal contexts, fostering a positive and collaborative environment wherever he goes.

Through various relocations, Kevin and his family have been able to experience life in multiple states and regions in the US and are currently settled in Peachtree City, Georgia. Currently, Kevin's latest personal challenge is adjusting to the newfound tranquility of an empty nest.

During his leisure hours, Kevin cherishes quality time as a true girl dad with his saintly wife, Megan, and his three daughters. He also indulges in his passion for music by jamming the guitar with his garage band, imparts valuable lessons about abundance mentality to his daughters, and hones his golf swing on the local links of Georgia.