Bargains became a whole lot easier to come by when the economy went into a tailspin. Nervous suppliers lowered their prices, and employees scraped by without raises. Now, as we begin the slow climb back to better times, managing expectations and keeping costs Down while you rebuild your battered finances will be vital. The trick will be to get what you want without damaging relationships. “In 2010, everybody’s going to be looking out for No. 1,” says Casey Chisick, a partner at Toronto-based law firm Cassels Brock with a specialty in negotiation. “The key is understanding how to manage those relationships to mutual advantage.”
Negotiating Dos & Dont’s
- Do your homework. Research the other party’s history, situation and options. If possible, visit their offices before talks begin. Seeing their operations first-hand can yield insights into the state of their business that pay off at the bargaining table.
- Don’t offer decoy concessions. Make it clear that each concession is significant and there might not be many more.
- Do write Down your goals in advance so you’ll recognize whether you’re being offered exactly what you want — or, at least, close enough.
- Don’t assume that negotiating has to be like pulling teeth. Measure your success by how well you achieve your goals, not the pain you inflict on the other side.
- Do ask open-ended questions, such as whether there’s a way to Do this at a lower cost. You might discover an appealing option you didn’t know about.
- Don’t overestimate your own leverage. Even if you think you’re the best supplier in town, your client might have other options and walk away if you seem too cocky.
Lessons from leaders
“Never stop talking. Never walk away in disgust and say, ‘Call me when you’re ready.’ That never works. Just keep plugging away at it. Even if the other party starts off firm, if you can come up with some rational, intelligent arguments and say, ‘There’s a compromise here,’ that’s a lot better than a picket line. Most people are open to compromising. But you’ve got to challenge them — you’ve got to force them to think.”