Negotiating is part of my job every day and I have learned many lessons from it, sometimes the hard way. Negotiating for a large technology company in Silicon Valley often times means the stakes are high, so is the pressure, and turnaround times, very often, are short. The game plan you follow and the results achieved can, however, make it all worth it.
Negotiators often find themselves asking what they are looking to achieve. Are they negotiating to advocate a certain outcome from a deal (an immediate win)? Or are they negotiating to achieve value over a longer term and cultivate a relationship?
During my early days in a business environment, I would celebrate at having "won" a negotiation where the outcome was an immediate tangible result. However, as I gained experience I learned that these same outcomes were not necessarily adding the most value that could be gained from the opponent or from the relationship you mutually cultivate.
The answer lies in having a good understanding of the business objective as well as defining clear goals.
Understanding what you are negotiating for is key
People who are negotiating for themselves may think they are coming from a disadvantageous position. Often times doing this can put the negotiator in a positive light, as viewed by a company, recruiter or manager when compared to an individual who prefers not to negotiate at all. Imagining that you are negotiating for someone else can sometimes help.
Negotiating on behalf of your team, company or a stakeholder is different and in some ways a more comfortable place to come from. While doing this, it is very important to ensure that you have a solid understanding of the results you are hoping to achieve.
Understanding your BATNA (best alternative to a negotiated agreement) can strengthen you in your approach. Avoiding drawing lines in the sand that express rigidity which could hurt you rather than help is also a great strategy.
Study your opponent
Every manual on negotiations talks about this. Despite how trite it might sound, this could easily be the most piece of information in carving out your strategy.
Often your interests may not be the direct opposite of your opponent's. Understand what their interests are and ensure that they know you are hoping to cultivate value out of building a strong relationship vs. receiving an immediate win. Understanding the cultural norms that your opponent operates under could be very useful as well.
Using power or influence might land you those savings or a win, but showing your stakeholder that you care more about the long-term than just today could go a long way. One way to do this is to show them that you are cultivating value by building relations and reputation with a supplier, a strategic partner or a customer.
Ditch the idea of having a rigid position
Flexibility can get deals done and by understanding your opponent's interests you might be able to carve out a win-win for you both resulting in a long term partnership.
Often the negotiator with more leverage might tend to use their power to achieve an immediate win. The result of this might not result in cultivating much value. Once the market dynamic change, or if a stronger competitor comes in to the picture, you may lose the negotiating power you once held, and consequently a customer.
However cultivating value could ensure that you are still doing business with the same customer despite your competitor trying to steal the business.
Create a comfortable negotiation zone for the opponent
Experienced negotiators are known to follow this strategy very successfully. They create an atmosphere which makes the opponent feels welcomed and liked. They might even make themselves sound vulnerable by asking for advice. This is known to work pretty well, as they end up receiving good advice and help. The opponent assumes the role of someone providing care and this could turn out well for the negotiation.
Negotiations can be tricky, but with good preparation and a strategy, you could have a great new deal in your hands pretty soon! Beyond that, it is all about nurturing that deal!
Shilpa Shastri is a Category Management in Adobe's Global Procurement team. She has experience sourcing professional services, HR services, IT and Marketing. Prior to Adobe, Shilpa spent over 6 years in Management Consulting. Shilpa has an MBA from Michigan State University and an undergrad degree in Engineering from BMS College in Bangalore.