Successful Negotiation with Customers

“The best move you can make in negotiation is to think of an incentive the other person hasn’t even thought of – and then meet it” – Eli Broad

In today’s world, the skill of successful negotiation is one that anyone must have. In fact, it is one of the top skills for job candidates since this skill is a combination of two critical skills – interpersonal and communication skills. Negotiation is the result of a lack of agreement on a solution for a problem / issue. Successful negotiation with customers is especially critical – agreement is essential to begin a relationship and work out an agreement that would be acceptable to the company and the customers. The most successful sales and marketing people would be those who know that every deal has scope for negotiation, and that the scope of successful negotiation with customers is a lot wider than simply haggling over pricing and other clauses. Is your company good at creating win-win situations through negotiation? Do the frontend employees have an aura of confidence and control?

Effective and successful negotiation is a factor of many aspects. To start with, ‘negotiators’ must be skilled in analysing problems and determining the interests of every party involved in a ‘deal’. Identifying the issues for all involved will enable successful negotiation by finding a common ground for all. Hence, problem analysis and solving is one of the topmost requirements for successful negotiation. Just as with any business aspect, preparation is quintessential to success for a negotiation deal too. This would include understanding goals, possible alternatives to achieve the said goals, and areas that could create complications. Successful negotiation would require that the negotiator study the ‘history’ of the parties involved, understand the relationship between the parties, any past disagreements or negotiation opportunities and the outcomes of the same. All these factors today would enable the person responsible for the negotiation to be more effective.

Another aspect of business and hence for successful negotiation as well, is active and patient listening. Negotiators must be willing and able to listen actively to each party – listening would involve reading body language (facial expressions, hand gestures, and overall body posture) in addition to the words spoken. This is important since a person may be uttering certain words, while the body language maybe in total contrast to the words – failure to understand both forms of communication could lead to a breakdown in the negotiation process. A skilled negotiator would know the benefits of spending more time listening actively than speaking before required.

For a negotiator to conduct a successful negotiation, it would be necessary to remain in control of her or his emotions. While empathy is important, feeling emotionally connected to any side or solution would lead to unfavourable results. The fact is that the parties involved would already have ‘emotional stake’ in the proceedings, and hence the negotiator would need to be the ‘neutral party’ and steer the ‘conversation’ to a logical and workable end. For a negotiation to be successful there must be no breakdown in communication, instead both parties must feel satisfied at the end of the ‘deal’, and this is possible when the negotiator remains unemotional towards any side.

The next skill for a successful negotiation would be the ability of the negotiator to communicate lucidly, effectively, and without bias. This is important for the negotiator to be able to convey all the points and information across to both parties such that there is no scope for confusion, ambiguity, and misunderstanding. Being able to communicate effectively can enable the negotiator to foster and create teamwork, cohesiveness, and collaboration – an atmosphere conducive for a peaceful and successful negotiation. Everyone involved must work together to reach an amicable and win-win situation. The skills mentioned, would not be as useful if the negotiator lacked the ability of making sound and swift decisions. Acting decisively is essential to avoid a stalemate or ‘dead end’.

A negotiator’s characteristics and personality play a major role in any successful negotiation. The parties involved must perceive the negotiator as being high on integrity, ethics, and reliability. This would promote an environment of trust and the parties would be more likely to accept the decisions of the negotiator, in the belief that she or he will ensure follow through on promises by the other party.

Just as the role of the negotiator is important for successful negotiation, the mind-set of the parties involved is equally necessary. Before going into a negotiation, it is important for both parties to prioritize their goals – especially if a ‘compromise’ is expected as the outcome. Each party must know what they can give up, what they absolutely must have, and the goals they expect to be fulfilled through the negotiation. In addition, in the event the negotiation does not go as planned, each party should know the alternatives and when it would be acceptable and better to walk away rather than settling for a below optimum solution. The parties must come into the negotiation with a mind-frame of wanting to negotiate – this means being open to the prospect of problems, making an effort to resolve them, and ensuring empathy and fairness in the dealings. If both parties and the negotiator were to keep these points in mind, successful negotiation would not be that hard.

The meaning of a successful negotiation would be one, which promotes long-term and substantial benefits to both parties involved. Even if all deals are not able to be won or negotiated, reaching an understanding and a compromise would help salvage a poor situation and help to build a beneficial relationship. The opening of the negotiation is extremely critical to the success of a negotiation – the creation of interest is necessary at the beginning of the negotiation. The opening statement must be precise, credible, and easily understandable – which would lead to the beginning of a dialogue rather than a one-sided discourse. The negotiator must be able to establish who both the parties are, why they are there, and why both parties should be interested in whatever she or he as to say. There are several ways to begin the negotiation, but the best way is when both sides feel comfortable in entering into a dialogue and addressing the questions the other may have.

A successful negotiation would possibly be one that in the beginning is able to pinpoint the problems and opportunities of the parties involved. Without doing so, the negotiation would not be able to proceed further without problems. Everyone should have a chance to speak, discuss, and express their problems – no one should feel unheard and unimportant.

It is important for both parties to do most of the talking. The more they talk, the better it would be for the negotiator – the understanding of the needs of both sides would be a lot clearer. The reason being that talking could bring out some uncovered / undiscovered problems, and reveal some unanticipated yet effective solutions come to the fore. It is necessary to ensure that negotiators keep the conversation away from damaging negotiation mistakes. No one involved must assume that the other party understands the other party’s business, products, and company. It is important to ensure that the other party understands what one’s company stands for and how it is different from competitors. Successful negotiation is therefore, the job of everyone involved. Is your company adept in these skills?


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