Negotiate your way to business success

Life is a series of deals. We buy, sell and barter for everything from furniture to relationships. We negotiate with bosses, colleagues, customers and even ourselves.

But negotiation is not just about getting your own way or giving in. In fact, those are the things that happen when people fail to negotiate properly. Negotiation is about both sides reaching a good outcome, or at least one they feel they can live with and have contributed to. This will almost certainly involve compromise on both sides.

Michael Schatzki, an experienced professional negotiator and the author of Negotiation: The Art of Getting What You Want says: "The truth is that the negotiating opportunities in our daily lives are virtually endless. Most things are negotiable, no matter what we have been trained to think, which is why I call negotiation a life skill."

He believes negotiating should be seen as a conference rather than a contest or confrontation. "Negotiation is a side-by-side dialogue where parties can trade on their differences, rather than battle over a limited resource," he says

An excerpt from Schatzki's book comments: "Too often when people think of negotiation, what comes to mind are negative stereotypes, such as collective bargaining, hostage negotiations or diplomatic negotiations, but this is not always the case."

The most effective negotiating techniques for business transactions are slightly different than negotiating tactics used in other contexts because business negotiations often involve multiple issues and transactions in which the negotiating parties will have a business relationship following the "closing", and leave each other equally satisfied with the results of the negotiations. In other words, in business negotiations, a "win-win" situation is far better for all parties than a "win-lose" one. This is especially true in the negotiation of a joint venture where the parties will be collaborating in a business endeavour following talks.

When negotiating business deals in the Middle East people who have undergone negotiation training give themselves an advantage over competitors, says Neil Payne, Managing Director of Kwintessential, a cross cultural communications consultancy in the United Kingdom. He says: "There is an argument that proposes that culture is inconsequential to cross cultural negotiation. But this is a naïve way of approaching international business.

"The role of culture in international business is now recognised as very important."

Liz Tahir, an international marketing consultant, conference speaker and business writer, whose mission is to help companies be more effective and profitable says: "I feel that success in negotiation is a two-way street. When negotiating you have to realise that others have to benefit by working with you. This is the 'mutual benefit' strategy. If you know enough about the other party – through preparation and doing your homework – you should have a good idea of what you can offer them to get what you want."

Tahir also emphasises that the most successful negotiators are not afraid of taking risks. "They do not automatically say 'no' to a proposal because they are uncertain of the outcome. They tend to listen to all proposals, weigh the odds, and then be creative about finding a solution, even if they have to venture in to the unknown. One of the benefits of being known as a 'risk taker' is that others bring new and innovative ideas to you first."

The ability to persuade others to your point of view is a practical skill that can be learned. Top negotiators exhibit certain common characteristics.

They know what they want out of the deal before going into negotiations. They are smart and they look for a win-win situation. They are good listeners and try to accommodate that.