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Heather Townsend

The Excedia Group


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How to achieve more when negotiating


I was at a wedding yesterday, &  was very surprised to find myself informally negotiating with a choir mistress. I am ashamed to say, that I completely failed in my negotiating objective. I’ll explain a little.... I was in possession of the order of service booklets, and was very aware that there wasn’t enough for one per person. In my estimation there was probably only about 60 booklets in total for 150 guests – and the choir mistress was demanding 18 of these for the choir, vicar, bell-ringers and Uncle Tom Cobbly and all. Needless to say, I didn’t put up a very convincing argument and dutifully handed over 18 orders of service booklets.

Earlier this morning, I found myself once again negotiating – but this time with my 2 year old. However, this time, I was very successful and achieved my negotiating objectives.

Whilst the two scenarios were very different, I was negotiating with two very vociferous people, who were not being particularly rationale, and reasonably aggressive in their demands from me. As you are aware, in business you are expected to work and negotiate with some not particularly rationale people.

So, what made the difference in these two instances? I was intrigued why in two situations, I had two completely different outcomes, and what made the difference. As a result I have compiled my top tips for achieving more when negotiating.

1. Explore other options before negotiating

Negotiating costs time and money. Think about it...When negotiating you have to give stuff away in return for concessions from the other side. In addition, if you negotiate too hard, you risk damaging relationships. If you can positively influence or problem-solve together you can often avoid the need to negotiate and preserve (perhaps even build) the relationship.

2. Know from the outset what is your ‘walk-away-position’ and the consequences of walking away

Having clarity about your ‘best alternative to negotiated agreement’ gives you the ability to know when to walk away from a negotiation. That way, you stop yourself, in the heat of the moment, from giving away too much.

3. Look to preserve the relationship

You never know when you may need a favour (or a referral) from the other side in a negotiation. It may not be this week or next week, but my experience, professional paths tend to cross frequently.  My previous firm had a track record of gaining work and referrals from the parties they had been in negotiation against. They achieved this impressive stat by always negotiating professionally and fairly. It goes without saying that if you are negotiation with an existing client, it is of paramount importance to preserve the relationship. It costs 7-14 times as much to find a new client, than to get more work from an existing client.

4. Explore your opponent’s agenda and needs

This is where I failed in my attempt to influence the choir mistress – and was comprehensively bamboozled by her demands. This is really best summed up by the phrase ‘seek first to understand’. If you understand the other side’s agenda and needs, you can put together a proposal that is most likely to be accepted early into the negotiation process.

5. Think creatively

Most people think negotiation is all about money. Actually, you can negotiate about anything – I found myself this weekend negotiating about ‘order of service’ booklets and what my daughter was going to eat for breakfast. Before going into a negotiation, think about what you can offer to the other side, which wouldn’t cost you much, but will be of a high value to the other side. Plus, think about what the other side could offer which would help sweeten the deal for you. Some ideas for you... payment terms, free advertising, referrals & introductions, invitations to events, delivery time...

6. Hold your nerve

Negotiations can be very tense affairs. If you are not sure what you are agreeing to, ask the other side for a summary of their proposal OR take a ‘natural break’ to give you much needed thinking time. If your negotiating opponent is playing hardball, you have two choices – play hardball back or give the other side feedback on the impact they are making with you.

7. Don’t give away concessions without getting something in return

Remember how the Ducks at the park never seem to understand that they are only going to get one piece of your sandwich. Well, it is the same in negotiations. If you give away a concession without asking for something in return, the other side will carry on asking for concessions until you say no...

If you are about to enter a difficult negotiation OR think that you could achieve more for your time, money and effort in negotiations – give me a call on 01234 48 0123, drop me a line on [email protected] or take a look at my website:

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Heather Townsend


Read more from Heather Townsend

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