Like beets and Justin Bieber, negotiating is something people either love or hate. But no matter how you feel about it, it's an unavoidable part of being a small business owner.
The good news, writes experienced negotiator and founder of The Trademark Company, Matthew Swyers of Inc.com, is that you get practice negotiating all the time.
'Have you ever said to your spouse, 'I'll take out the trash. Can you load the dishwasher?'' Swyers asks. 'Negotiation. When you ask for a raise? Negotiation. Who's driving? Negotiation.'
It doesn't always feel as natural when it comes to business negotiating, however. These four steps will help you feel more prepared next time the haggling begins.
1. Know Thy Self
Loving or hating negotiating likely impacts how you do it; who you are does as well. Deanna Brown explains for Entrepreneur.com that studies have shown women negotiate differently than men. Here's how:
Men focus on issues and outcomes; women are often focused on the overall relationship of the parties.
Women more often pick up on nonverbal communication.
Women are more subject to being perceived negatively when negotiating aggressively than male negotiators.
These factors don't make either gender better negotiators, just different ones. Knowing your style and that of the other party can help you plan your strategy, as well as anticipate theirs.
2. Actively Listen
We often enter into negotiations assuming we know what the other party wants. Careful listening, says Swyers, can reveal much more.
'Every word has a purpose,' he writes. 'Every statement a hidden tell. If you listen carefully...you will be able to hear and understand what your opponent in the negotiation truly wants.'
And this information can work for you.
'If you can...understand that which truly motivates the other party,' Swyers writes, 'you will gain a decided advantage in the negotiation of the deal.'
3. Look for Leverage on the Spot
Negotiations take twists and turns all the time. When new factors arise that could give you an advantage, be prepared to jump. A small business owner recounts for Businessweek.com how she won out in her credit card fee negotiations after capitalizing on the poor customer service she received.
'I was able to negotiate a significantly lower rate on my interchange fees,' she writes. 'It was painfully time consuming, and I was dealing with a customer service agent who was fairly green, but due to their own mistakes and lack of knowledge of the process, I was able to get several different fees waived, as well as lower rates for all three tiers of transaction types.'
4. Be Willing to Walk Away
The one who is willing to walk away will have the ultimate leverage in a negotiation. Swyers recounts how this was demonstrated before his eyes when he was helping his friend negotiate with a car dealer. When Swyers attempted to walk away, his friend stayed put — and lost all of his leverage to the salesperson.
'At that point, any chance of continuing to negotiate a better deal evaporated like a puddle on a hot Southern summer afternoon,' he wrote. 'If he would have stood [up] and walked, we would have never made it to the door before that item was taken off the cost. But by not being willing to walk away, we gave the other side a critical advantage: He knew we would not walk.'
Negotiations are often as simple or as complex as the involved parties are willing to make them. Being the more prepared negotiator gives you the advantage from the start, and makes an otherwise intimidating activity a simpler one for you.
What was the toughest negotiation you've had to face? How could it have gone better? Did you learn anything that the rest of us could benefit from?