Negotiate your way to a better deal
or how to improve your meeting room performance
The art of negotiation is usually seen as a dark art mastered by politicians of all colours and flavours. It is also sometimes perceived as a sign of weakness. The truly powerful one takes what he/she wants and doesn’t negotiate.
But this latter kind of mentality will not prove lucrative when tried in practice. However, if you want to master negotiation techniques like no other, we have everything covered in this article.
Negotiation is a tough craft. World leaders have grappled the task of negotiating tough deals ever since the beginnings of civilization and we only need to look as further back as the Cold War or WWII to understand how tricky it is to strike the right balance. Most of us are luckier. We don’t have the whole weight of the world hanging on our shoulders. But we do want to be able to reach a satisfying common ground, especially in a business environment. That is why, we have to be able to rise up to the level of world leaders when it comes to our techniques and tactics.
Don’t Hold Your Meetings at Starbucks
This might seem like it has nothing to do with negotiation techniques, but lend us an ear (or an eye) and you’ll see why this is important. First, let’s just say that business meetings held at a coffee shop, be it Starbucks or any other one, are a bad idea to start with. I’m sure you realize it without us telling you that the background noise, the possible interruptions and the noisy and nosey table neighbours, all hamper a successful meeting. But beyond all these there are a couple of things to consider about the way in which you can be perceived when holding a Starbucks meeting.
To begin with, your first business meeting with an important client or partner should be as informal as a coffee place meet up. You want to come across as someone reliable and professional, not as a laid back hipster kid, even if you are one. (And yes, sometimes that is exactly what you want to come across as because that is your identity and you are only interested in dealing with people who appreciate or understand that. Just make sure you are aware of this before your meeting.)
Another reason for which a business meeting at Starbucks is a bad idea is the fact that you might need something at your office - access to important documents that you cannot take with you, information from a colleague, or any other thing that can only be found there.
Lastly, since we are talking about negotiating techniques, you want to have the psychological advantage. You will simply have more leverage if you are at home, so to speak, and this will give you greater negotiating power. You don’t want to throw that away.
If you want to check out more reasons for which you should not hold your meeting at Starbucks, plus a reason why, check out our blog post - Why you shouldn't host business meetings at Starbucks.
Batnaman Wins - A Short Superhero Story
Let’s start our proper negotiation stories with a short superhero story, that of Batnaman. Batnaman is a superhero who employs the wonderful technique of BATNA and always gets the best outcome when it comes to negotiation. There you go - a one-sentence, powerful story. What is BATNA?
BATNA is an acronym for Best Alternative To A Negotiated Agreement (as presented in “Getting to Yes”, by Roger Fisher, William Ury, and Bruce Patton). And you should never book a meeting room without having your BATNA in mind. For that to happen you have to know your own need and those of your partner of conversation.
The key to BATNA is aiming for mutually beneficial solutions. First list your business needs and then think of various possibilities in which your needs can be met by working with your potential partner. After you’ve done this, then pick the possibility that is just a bit better than not working with that partner at all. Basically, the worst you could accept and still get something out of it.
This isn’t a situation you want to get to, but you should always keep it in mind. Once the conversation reaches your BATNA, be ready to up and leave. It shows that your partner is acting as an opponent and you’re probably better off not working with them.
If you want to know more about this technique, read our article - Batnaman Wins. How To Win More By Helping Everybody Win.
5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Scheduling a Meeting
Make sure you go through the article above before reading this next one. Anyway, here are the 5 questions:
- Can the OTHERS threaten you in any way?
- Are there more than two entities involved?
- Do you need to reach an agreement?
- Can you ask for small concessions?
- Would time be an issue?
Find out more about how these five questions work in practice, complete with examples, from our article - 5 questions to ask yourself before scheduling a meeting.
Arctic Wolves and Negotiation
I know our methods might seem a bit unorthodox, but don’t give up on them yet (even if they do reference arctic wolves). Why arctic wolves?
- Because to approach them you shouldn’t show fear
- Because to gain their trust you need a success strategy
- Because you have to be likeable to get near them
Read more about why arctic wolves can teach us a great deal about negotiation in our blog post - Arctic Wolves and Negotiation.
Get Your Small Talk Ready
And since we’ve mentioned being able to do small talk to be more likeable, let’s see how small talk can also lead to a successful meeting. It’s not just about people liking you more, it’s also about reducing their anxiety regarding the discussion topics. All the more so if you are dealing with a BIG deal that can go down the drain if someone makes a faux-pas during the meeting. In such situations the tension can be so thick you can cut it with a knife and people’s insecurities can easily lead to them being more risk averse and refusing to negotiate. How to deal with this?
First, make the deal secondary and focus on creating a happy, open environment by providing your partners with anything they might need - from beverages they like, to room temperature or a pleasant meeting room scent. All these create a welcoming environment that helps them relax.
Second, build rapport. We’ll talk about what this is in a bit more detail in our next section. But for now, all you need to know is that you need to be empathetic towards your partners in order to be able to build rapport with them. This means making time for pleasantries and small talk. Approach them with an open-ended question or focus on something currently hyped, such as a movie or a book that has been making the rounds in the media.
Read more about how getting your small talk ready can help you better negotiate in our article - Booking A Meeting Room? Get Your Smalltalk ready!.
Meeting Room Relationship Nurturing - Building Rapport
We briefly touched upon rapport in our previous section and mentioned it has something to do with empathy. That’s because the core principle of rapport can be summed up as “birds of a feather flock together”. We like people who resemble us to some degree. We also tend to agree with them, which is why we’ve dedicated this whole post to understanding the dynamics behind getting people to like your personality. The sales department calls this “rapport”. And it’s a clever thing to do because who wants to write 3 or 4 sentences as we did to explain what they mean, each time they want to reference this idea?
If you need more help in figuring out how to build rapport, take a look at your article - Meeting Room Relationship Nurturing Or How To Get Good Reports with Good Rapport.
Improve The Quality Of Your Meetings By Improving Your Note-Taking Abilities
The title of this section is self-explanatory, so let’s not waste any more time introducing the topic and see what you can do to improve your note-taking abilities and how this will lead to better meetings.
The most important advice is - take notes for yourself. This is how to do that properly: Improve The Quality Of Your Meetings By Improving Your Note-Taking Abilities.
Reach Goals Faster and Easier With A Discussion Facilitator
The best way to win someone over is to use arguments they want to hear. But, to know what those are, you have to get them talking. And that’s where a discussion facilitator comes into play.
“The “facilitator” is a guide or “discussion leader” for the group. The process of facilitation is a way of providing leadership without taking the reins. A facilitator’s job is to get others to assume responsibility and take the lead.” (Source: Virginia.edu)
Anyone can be a discussion facilitator given the right skills. While there are specialized courses that can help you obtain those abilities, there are also a number of things you can do by yourself in order to be a good discussion facilitator. Read all about them in our detailed blog post on this topic - Get More Out Of Your Meetings. Reach Goals Faster and Easier With A Discussion Facilitator.
It takes a long time before two people find silence comfortable when they are together. The more people and the more formal the discussion, the more difficult it is for them to remain silent. Silence can be overwhelming, awkward. But it can also lead to better discussions. Let’s take a look at how you can use silence to your advantage.
- Leverage Silence to Lead The Discussion
- Hone Your Active Listening Skills to Prevent Misunderstandings
- Induce Self-Second-Guessing
If you want to master these three skills and know about them in more detail, then take a look at our article discussing the use of silence as a negotiating technique - 3 Ways To Boost Discussions With Silence
3 Dark Negotiation Tactics
Now that we’ve covered the basics of negotiation, let’s delve into the dark realm of skills and crafts. But we must ask you to properly consider your entrance into this domain before taking a step in its direction. Once you go down this road, there is no turning back and there’s no saying what may happen.
Just kidding. These are simply 3 rather unorthodox negotiation tactics that you can use when all else fails.
- Hide behind the truth
- Break the rhythm
- Confuse & gaslight
While the first two dark negotiation tactics are not terribly unethical, the third one is rather devious and just bad practice in terms of argumentation ethics. But if you do like it and want to know more about all these tactics, check out our blog post - Halloween Special - 3 Dark Negotiation Tactics. Trick or treat. Or trick some more.
Preventing subpar performance
In order to achieve your desired negotiation goal, you must feel sure of yourself and devoid of any anxiety or stress. Someone that is under a lot of pressure to succeed can be a huge flop. One of the best ways of avoiding this is to rehearse presentations within your company before a public performance. Go to lunch before a meeting, talk about the finer points and discuss what happens in a worst-case scenario. Preparing for the less wanted outcomes often reveals ways of overcoming issues. Mistakes can be good, as long as they happen in controlled environments.
One common cause of stress and subpar performance in the meeting room is a huge bonus that awaits you for closing the deal. See how this comes about in our article - Is Your Performance In The Meeting Room Subpar? Find out Why And How To Prevent It.
Meeting's over. Did you make this BIG Mistake?
You just finished a long meeting. The client (or business partner) seems excited about it. But you never hear from them again. What happened? Was it your fault? There’s a chance it was. Why? Because you didn’t follow up, or you didn’t follow up in the right way and at the right time. Let’s see how to do this correctly.
Creating Your Follow-Up Plan
First things first - ask yourself :”Why would they not respond to my follow up?”. By identifying possible reasons for which they ignore you, you’re preparing for rapport-building. It’s this simple question that shows you What They Want, When They Want It, How and Why they want It.
Writing The Follow Up
First of all, thank everyone for their time and effort - be polite and humble. Next, name the purpose of the follow-up. Manage expectations - write a short paragraph about what the email will contain. A summary, if you will. Then, list the points that were discussed in the meeting, what has to be done and what you and your company have already done. What you should do next is edit the draft you’ve fleshed out before; cut the text to its bare minimum.
Need more details and help on creating the follow-up plan or writing your follow up? Read all about it in our article, which lists questions to ask yourself when creating the plan and a complete follow up writing guide - Meeting's over. Did you make this BIG Mistake?.
These were our best negotiation techniques to get you through a meeting successfully. Keep an eye out on this list, as we’ll continue to update it with more and more negotiation techniques.