Given the erratic fluctuations in commodity and input prices, you may need to brush up on your negotiating skills.
Mary Greenwood, a Florida-based attorney, mediator and the author of award-winning books “How to Negotiate Like a Pro” and “How to Mediate Like a Pro,” offers these tips for successful negotiations during disputes:
CHECK YOUR EMOTIONS AT THE DOOR. It is natural to feel frustrated or disappointed when a deal or agreement goes sour. But emotions like anger can make you lose control. Get past it. And remember: You don't have to like the other party to reach your goal. Effective negotiators focus on what they hope to accomplish to resolve the issue.
LOOK FORWARD, NOT BACK. Avoid the temptation to simply rehash the circumstances that got you into the dispute. Don't get stuck on what went wrong. Instead, move the conversation toward the outcome that is best for the future success of your business and the relationship. Again, keep your focus on the goal.
BE PREPARED. Once you've established a clear goal, do your homework to prepare for the negotiation. It might be as simple as listing the key arguments that will sell your position and desired outcome. Or, it could mean preparing a thorough economic analysis of the situation. When requesting a financial concession, show the rationale behind your request, detailing costs — including future costs — that you will absorb under the current scenario.
YOU DON'T HAVE to be right to settle. You might be right about what caused the problem. Perhaps a salesman did misspeak about a hybrid attribute or misunderstood your record-keeping goals when he or she suggested a particular software option. Feeling you are right can be a heady emotion, but it has no place in negotiation. Greenwood says negotiations are in trouble when one party says, “It is not the money, it's the principle.” In that case, the party is emotionally invested in his or her feelings and would rather be a martyr than settle the issue. Don't get mired down in who's to blame.
KNOW WHAT YOU want and what they want. Knowing what you want may seem obvious, but often people are so angry they haven't asked themselves how the issue can truly be resolved. Depending on the complexity of the situation, Greenwood recommends creating a detailed scenario of what you want to happen. Be clear with yourself about the “have-to-haves” in the desired outcome. But also be clear about what you are willing to give up and still be satisfied. In addition, give some thought to what you would want if you were in the other party's shoes.
ALWAYS HAVE A plan B. Do not put all your eggs in one basket. You should be asking yourself questions that start with how or what if. How can I sweeten the deal? How can I close the deal? What if the other side rejects this? Try to come up with some alternatives that will help seal the deal. Having a plan B or C or D gets easier the more you negotiate. Be flexible.
For more information, including information about Greenwood's blog, visit www.marygreenwood.com.