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5 top tips for negotiating in business

As a businessman, negotiating is part and parcel of my line of work – in fact, it’s a critical component of success. 

But negotiations are not exclusively for business owners – they feature in daily life for everyone. Whether you are a salesman selling your product, an employee looking for a raise, a husband arguing with your wife, or a parent trying to get your kids to bed on time – All of life is a negotiation! So whatever stage of your life or career you’re at – this blog is for you! So read on.

Over the years, I have been part of hundreds of negotiations and have been on both sides of the table. But what I will say is, that it doesn’t matter which role you’re playing, be it an investor or pitcher, the rules work the same. 

Negotiating isn’t for the faint-hearted- it can be utterly brutal. If you walk into that room unprepared, unsure of what you REALLY want & need and lack confidence, you’ll be chewed up and spat out. 

To succeed in negotiation, you need to understand that all business is a fight for survival and the person sitting opposite you will ALWAYS look out for their best interests. Your job isn’t to secure the absolute perfect outcome (it’ll never happen), it’s to find something that works for you both long-term. If you can find that balance, you’ll be on the road to success. 

Here are my top tips for negotiating in real-world business: 

Be prepared

Before you even think about entering the lion’s dead, you need to do your research and be fully prepared – without it, you’re fucked. To start, research and understand both sides of the negotiation – what do you and your opponent want to get out of it? What do you both NEED to get out of it as a minimum? And what are you willing to give away as a trade if it comes to it?

Negotiations may look like fluid conversations, but the reality is, that a successful negotiator controls the conversation as they want it. And every comment, every number thrown around wasn’t just decided off the cuff – it was thought out well in advance.

If you don’t have all the answers before negotiations start, you’ll crumble under pressure and be taken advantage of. 

Always have options

If there is one thing I have learned from over 20+ years of negotiating, it’s that having multiple options gives you the best chance of closing a deal. 

Whether you’re seeking funding or want to invest. Whether you are buying a boat or selling a house. Whether you are recruiting a head of sales or looking for a job for yourself.

Don’t zone in on one single opportunity. Put the effort in at the outset so you have multiple options – as many as you possibly can. Do some research, broaden your range and scope out as many as you can find. Why? Because even if you are a crap negotiator it will make you feel like a great one when you aren’t sweating over a deal desperately! 

If you know you have a fall-back (or better still, multiple ones), you’ll enter a meeting feeling more relaxed and less vulnerable to pressures put forth by your negotiator. If you put the effort in at the beginning and identify several possible avenues, you won’t crumble after one rejection, you’ll actually have a better chance of closing the sale by sticking to your guns and remaining calm. Ultimately, the message I’m trying to get across is don’t put all of your eggs in one basket, spread them out! 

In the meantime, don’t forget to watch how I bought a house for half the price by negotiating!

It needs to be a win-win situation for both sides  

If both sides of the table don’t leave feeling like they’ve bagged themselves a fair deal, you’ve not done a very good job, simple as.

Effective negotiators have a knack for solving problems and should be able to identify what both parties don’t already have, and how to get it. If you address the needs of both sides, you WILL get a better outcome.

Just because you got a killer price in a deal doesn’t mean the other party has to feel aggrieved – a good negotiator makes them feel like they’ve also bagged a win in compensation for the price drop.

Don’t give away your leverage 

When it comes to discussing numbers, don’t put all of your cards on the table at once. That’s a weakness, and it will be exploited. 

For example, if you were shopping for a caterer and revealed your budget off the bat, the chances are they’ll quote that exact figure, even if they were prepared to accept a lower figure. Why? Because you’ve given away all of your leverage! 

If you’re searching for an investment for a percentage of your company, pitch a lower amount than you’re willing to give. That way, when they come back with a higher offer it’ll still be within the realms of what you were prepared to accept. It’s basic, and it’s not original – but it works!  

Listen more, Talk less

What you always need to remember is that even if you’ve approached the negotiator, what they have to say is just as important as the message you want to convey. 

A skilled negotiator not only holds their own, but they also listen, observe and understand what the other party needs. If you can successfully identify all of the above, you’ll be in a much better position to put forth an offer (possibly a counteroffer) that’ll benefit your negotiator and your business. 

It’s critical to understand from the other side’s perspective that listening equates to respect, and talking too much can be, well, downright fucking annoying and rude. If you don’t take the time to listen, how can you possibly know what your fellow negotiator wants? And how can you possibly agree on a deal that suits you both?

If you listen and let the people you’re pitching to do most of the talking, you’ll have their respect and the knowledge you need to secure a great deal. And who knows, maybe they’ll get carried away and slip up, revealing more valuable information than they were supposed to. Trust me, it happens!

The most important thing to remember is that life is a negotiation, and all the tips and tricks I’ve shown you today can be used in nearly all situations. Whether you’re negotiating a pay rise with your boss, deciding on a restaurant to visit with your friends or discussing the future with a partner, these techniques will help you achieve your desired outcome. All you need to do now is give it a try!

If you’d like to learn more about how I’ve negotiated my way through business and life, or just need some general advice, get in touch with me at info@matt-haycox.com

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