Whether you’re a sales broker, a remote worker in tech, or on the cusp of launching a new career, negotiating is an essential skill for success. I’ve witnessed countless times during my 25 years of experience in real estate how finding mutually beneficial terms—while steadily navigating conflict—can lead to a winning result for all sides. Negotiating occurs at various levels, ranging from discussing details for an initial contract or sales agreement to large-scale business deals with meetings that last for a year or more.
To gain the right skills to get ahead, sign the deal or make the sale, follow these tactics.
1. Listen First when Negotiating
Ask questions to learn what’s important to the other party, advises Chris Voss, who served as the lead international kidnapping negotiator for the FBI and has taught business negotiations at Harvard University, among others. Chris is the author of “Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It.” When I had the chance to hear him speak on the topic, he stressed the importance of having empathy toward the other side and listening to them. Sometimes the other side is mostly looking to be heard and validated.
2. Negotiate Beyond the Price
While negotiating is often associated with the sale of a property or securing a salary package, the parties involved might not have money as their top goal. There’s a legendary saying that often gets referenced during acquisitions, “You name the price—I’ll set the terms.” The phrase brings up a great point: there’s more to a deal than just the sales figure.
I recently worked on a transaction in which the client wanted to maximize the price of a property. The buyer was a developer, and stated they could get to that price if they had a larger window of time. The two parties were able to come to an agreement in which the purchaser took longer to close, which enabled them to get the project approved and financed. The seller, for their part, needed time to relocate, so the end game was a win-win.
3. Find Common Ground When Negotiating
At first glance, some deals may seem black and white, but negotiations can often bring other details to the surface. After several discussions, the parties might find they have mutual goals and agree to find a way to come together. Taking different profiles of sellers and buyers, which might include big corporations on one side, and mom-and-pop retailers on the other, and finding common ground requires time, effort, and a dose of creativity. However, these conversations tend to be what I most enjoy about the job. Once parties find ways they can benefit, the outcome is often positive.
4. Keep a Long-Term View
The answers rarely appear during an initial conversation. Sometimes months, or even longer, are required to truly develop a plan that will work. When forming a strategic partnership, Apple and LG Display carried out initial negotiations for over a year, as reported by the Harvard Business School Online Business Insights Blog. Apple hoped to gain a reliable organic light-emitting diode (OLED) screen supplier, while LG Display aimed to expand its business. After a year of discussions over price, production capacity, and quality control, the two came to an agreement. When the iPhone X was launched, which featured LG’s OLED displays, it quickly became the best-selling smartphone in the world, according to Counterpoint Research.
5. Opt for the High Road
Chris Voss mentions applying a late night, FM, DJ voice to negotiating discussions, as it often can lead to an atmosphere that is calm and effective. When tempers are lost at the table, the negative consequence is that it might lead to long-term adversarial conditions. On the other hand, taking the high road, even if the other party seems to be following different rules, can lead to a better settlement in the end—and help you maintain integrity.
6. Take Time to Anchor the Negotiation
Before having a discussion with the other party, think about where you want to ultimately land. Spend the time needed to properly prepare and research, so you have your supporting points ready. This can help you navigate the conversation and lay out the way to move toward what you’re hoping to accomplish.
Developing negotiating skills typically involves time and practice. Reaching out to a mentor, or signing up for additional coursework, could help you further build these traits. Once you have them refined, you’ll be able to move forward in business, sales, or your profession to achieve—and maintain—long-term success.