Let’s Talk About Negotiating!

How You Can Increase Your Sales and Improve Relationships


You might be wondering ‘why is a mediator writing about negotiation?’ or you might think that only super successful titans of industry and business should be writing about how to negotiate.  A lot of successful negotiations are facilitated by mediators in business and in the public sector because at it’s core, mediation is about bringing differing sides to the table and getting them to talk and resolve issues.  So hear me out, you might discover a tip or two that can help you.

Often the word Negotiation suggests the idea of people rocking power suits wringing out every dime from their adversaries on the other side of the boardroom table.  It’s a thrilling visual that works well in movies but isn’t very true to real life.

The reality is that everyone negotiates on almost a daily basis, often without even thinking about it.  As a small business owner, you’re doing it even more often.  So why if we all do it regularly does the thought of negotiating make us bristle?

I believe it’s because our minds go to that boardroom visual, and most of us don’t see ourselves as that shark who holds out until the other side ‘breaks’.  I’ve got good news for you, along with the fact that you have more daily negotiation experience than you realize, studies have shown that for most negotiations, being a shark in the boardroom isn’t the most effective way to negotiate.  You don’t have to be that person to be an effective negotiator.

mediation, negotiation
It doesn’t have to be Us vs. Them

As small business owners our negotiations are often tied to relationships.  Sometimes it’s potential customers (who we want to become repeat customers), it’s with employees, or suppliers or event managers.   If you have a business partner, you’re negotiating all the time when making business decisions, and if you’re a sole proprietorship you may be negotiating a work life balance with your family.

All those relationships are important to your business.   When you need a last-minute favour from your supplier you’ll be more likely to get what you need if you’ve negotiated well, and you’ll have more repeat business from customers who viewed you as fair and able to meet their interests.

This isn’t some magic technique, it’s just not how negotiations are portrayed or how we think of approaching them.  This style of negotiating is often referred to as Interest Based, or Win-Win.   It’s a situation where both sides feel that their concerns are heard and addressed and each side walks away with a good outcome.

We all like pie, right?  Well, Interest Based negotiation gets you more pie.  Instead of just dividing the pie you see on the table and trying to get the biggest piece, Interest Based negotiation first EXPANDS the pie.  You know what that means?  More pie for everyone!  And more pie means better fed, more productive, happier relationships for our business.

Who doesn’t want MORE pie?!?!?

Trying to get as much pie as possible, more than the other side, is considered Positional negotiating. Don’t get me wrong, there are times when you need to take a position and dig in.  If you need to stand up for a vital issue, or the outcome is more important that the relationship, or you have incredibly strong alternatives then taking a strong position might work.  It’s got a win-lose feel to it.  Positional negotiations involve each side having an outcome in mind then sticking to that position, and spending their time trying to bring the other person around to their outcome.  It’s just not a fantastic way to improve relationships via negotiations.

Positional negotiators ignore the interests that drive their oppoent’s position

Relationships are so important for small business owners, we often can’t afford to hammer away at people and not worry about maintaining goodwill.  So how do we go about using Interest Based negotiation to get ahead?

It’s not as hard as you think, in fact it’s easier than trying to be that boardroom shark.  The point of Interest Based negotiation is to explore the needs, pain points and interests of both sides, and then create options that satisfy everyone.  It involves some preparation, an open mind and a willingness to communicate.

fortune favours the prepared

The first thing to do is to prepare with the intent of expanding the pie.  Think about your needs, then try to think about what theirs might be.  Perhaps you need a certain price point, but you think speedy delivery might be more important to them.  You could be wrong, but by taking the time to think about the other side’s interests you’ll open yourself up to more solutions.

Take the time to figure out your alternatives and then try to figure out theirs.  If you’re negotiating with a supplier you might have another source available who is still reasonably priced, or they may have another customer waiting.  Knowing this gives you an idea of what you’re willing to give, and when you should consider walking away.

Think of questions you might ask to dig deeper into the other side’s interests so that you can enlarge the pie.  Asking open ended questions is the best way to get people talking, and when people get talking you can learn what is important to them and what their pain points are.

Once you start negotiating be as open to answering questions as you are asking.  Interest Based negotiation requires active communication.  Think of your negotiation as a mutual problem-solving session, it will open both sides up to working together to find solutions.  Ask why they need things, what are their concerns, who is impacted by decisions.  By identifying interests you’re able to address them.  You might think a negotiation is all about volume only to find out that it’s about flexibility.  By asking questions you can expand what you can give and take, voila an expanded pie!

Asking questions allows you to find proposals you might not have thought of!

Also, don’t just jump right into negotiating, studies show that taking a few minutes to get to know the other person releases the feel-good brain chemical oxytocin.  Imagine making your negotiation partner feel positive, that sets the tone for a great negotiation that can help you maintain a productive ongoing relationship.

Remember, you don’t like feeling beat down by a negotiation and it doesn’t make you excited to do repeat business with that person.  As a small business it’s important to nurture your relationships and trying an Interest Based approach can help you do that.

You can use this approach to negotiate weekend curfews with a teenager, or a vacation with your spouse.  Interest Based negotiation works well in many situations where an expanded pie can make everyone willing to work together.

Give it a try or read some negotiation books like “Getting to Yes” to learn more detail about how to effectively negotiate using a win-win strategy.  Your small business relationships will thank you for it!

Mediator Conflict Coach Sarah Turl Empowered Results
Sarah Turl, Owner and Lead Mediator at Empowered Results Mediation

Sarah Turl is the owner and lead mediator at Empowered Results Mediation.  In her previous life, before becoming an entrepreneur and mediator Sarah worked in sales and did a lot of negotiating and ‘problem solving’.  She gets the challenges that come with being a small business owner and with difficult negotiations.  Now using her mediation training and experience along with her past negotiations Sarah helps people work out agreements for all sorts of different negotiations and problems, she also teaches negotiation workshops for those who want to dig a little deeper and grow their skills.

mediator Sarah Turl looking at phone

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