Why does the prospect of having to negotiate generate such negative feelings? How did you feel that last time you negotiated for something really important? We all remember the last time we negotiated for a car. If you are like most, you recall the experience as stressful and frustrating. When you drove off in your new car, you were exhausted and full of remorse. Remorse because you felt like you didn’t get the best deal.
For most of us, negotiation is facing a conflict where each side has opposing interests and you have to fight for what you want. In fact, many negotiations are just that – a conflict.
When it comes to business negotiations the stakes get higher. There are people that are counting on us. We feel we must win. Losing would be a poor reflection on us. We believe that others would see us as ineffective, weak, and not capable of being able to close profitable business. No one wants to employ or advance someone that loses deals. Therefore, most people do not want to be seen as someone that is incapable of winning deals.
Anxiety is the main reason that most business negotiations fail. Both sides are anxious about being manipulated, taken advantage of, or even lied to. It is this fear and mistrust that blocks our ability to think quickly on our feet, to look for opportunities in the differences, and in thinking bigger about the options that make what seems to be a good deal into an amazing deal.
One of the biggest fears that face negotiators is the fear that the other side has the advantage or has other options. The majority of business negotiators that negotiate on behalf of their companies do what they must to win the business. They will drop their prices, they will give in on certain terms and conditions, and they will make concessions without knowing the impact to the overall deal. The more they give up, the more money and value is left on the table. While they may get the deal done, it is a deal that is less profitable and maybe even harmful to their company.
Studies conducted over the last 10 years suggest that most negotiators fail to reach an outcome where both sides extracted maximum value for their respective companies. This means that the opportunities for those who learn how to negotiate are immense. Imagine what a competitive advantage you would have if you became a proficient negotiator knowing that the majority of business people don’t negotiate effectively.
With this in mind, why don’t more people take the time to improve their negotiation skills? The answer lies deep in psychology. We tend to use justification and self-rationalization to explain to our colleagues why the deal we just closed is a good one. We avoid seeking feedback because that might expose our weaknesses, so we have no critical information to help us change the situation. Therefore, we continue to negotiate the same ineffective way over and over again, leaving more and more on the table. If we could extract just a little of the value that most leave on the table, we could materially change the financial position of our companies and radically improve our own lives.
Feedback is exactly what negotiators need in order to improve. They need to hear that the deal they just closed hurt the company. They need to stop justifying what they did to get the deal done. So many people justify in their minds that they had to give things up or give up the deal. They tell themselves that nobody could have done any better. They self talk themselves into believing they had a successful outcome even though they gave so much away. The first thing negotiators need to do is to stop this self-rationalization and get real with themselves about their abilities. They need to seek feedback and learn the powerful tools that will allow them to negotiate highly profitable and valuable deals consistently.
If you are serious about being a great negotiator, you must take the time to learn recent and effective negotiating skills. Read recent materials, go to classes, and work with an expert. If you make the investment in learning this all-important skill, you will become a growth engine for your company, and you will be seen as the person that knows how to craft and win amazing deals. You will look forward to any chance to negotiate and you will quickly advance your career and the quality of your life.