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Pawel Brodzinski on Software Project Management

10 Rules of Negotiations I Follow

I used to say I hate negotiations. I always considered myself as rather poor negotiator. Lately I had several occasions to negotiate different things. And I have to say it brought me some fun.

The way I exercise the task seems to be non-standard for people who makes their living negotiating, e.g. salespeople I know. I follow several rules.

1. Be ready to leave negotiations without setting the deal. Whenever you’re determined to reach consensus at all costs it’ll cost you much. I’ll always try to sit behind the table with two possible options at the end of the process: success or failure.

2. Try to put yourself in other party shoes. Quite typical approach to negotiations is to look from a perspective of your own nose and then to move slowly step by step until your position is acceptable for the other side. I don’t agree. I prefer to look for win-win scenarios from the very beginning. Unless you look at the proposal with the eyes of the other party it’s very hard to judge its value for people you negotiate with.

3. Don’t waste the time. Yes, I know it is said the time pressure is an enemy of a negotiator. I believe in different approach. If your points are written in the stone – show it. You don’t necessarily have to start with $2000 if you want to end at $1250. You can start with $1300 and show you aren’t willing to move much. You’ll end up having more time on other things.

4. Set own goals. Once I had a chance to ask my fellow negotiator what’s his goal. “I don’t know” wasn’t the kind of answer I expected. I always try to set my goal at reasonable level and it is fine for me when I reach it. I don’t try to push further until the other party brakes negotiations or reject to change any point. And yes, I know that my approach results with some contracts which could be improved a bit. But yes, I’m happy that way.

5. Avoid unreasonable offers. If you’re a seasoned negotiator you’ve seen that a lot – offers which you know isn’t acceptable but is shown as a “negotiating position” or “opening position”. Avoid that. If you’re lucky it can result in lengthening the process, but the other party can feel like they were slapped in the face too. Unless you’re trying to insult people on the other side of the table or you love to waste time it isn’t the greatest idea.

6. Be well-prepared. If you can be caught on the numbers you aren’t well-prepared. You should always know which numbers you show, how you’ve come to them and why you think they’re reasonable. That way even when situation changes you can always recalculate your offer on the fly.

7. Call for a brake whenever it seems you don’t move further. It doesn’t hurt. It doesn’t weaken your negotiating position. It doesn’t moves you back. It gives you a chance to restate your goals or rethink your argument. If you’re a part of a team it gives you a chance to make ad-hoc adjustments in your strategy.

8. Be honest. I don’t see a point in presenting some fake goals or pretending to put an offer you know you’ll adjust soon or to show different reasoning than it really is. Being honest during negotiations builds your reputation and strengthens offers you put on the table. It also gives other party better understanding of your point of view. Beating about the bush is somehow expected but gives you (almost) nothing.

9. Be constructive. Sometimes it can be clearly seen you can’t reach consensus with assumptions both sides have made. If you keep repeating your arguments you don’t move further. However you can try to look for a completely different model which will give you some area where you can meet.

10. Prioritize your goals. If something is really important try to agree on that point and then to move to other ones. Usually you have a number of different parameters which are connected with each other. Sometimes much more important than a price is a schedule. Remember, usually different parameters will be pointed as the most import by each party so it can be fairly easy to reach consensus.

Don’t treat it as top 10 sure-shot negotiating techniques although for me they work fine. Although it isn’t standard negotiating approach it shortens the process and brings me satisfaction with results I achieve. I can hardly stand several standard negotiating techniques which make me boiling because of time wasting. You don’t get a prize for a number of hours you’ve spent on the process.

in: software business

2 comments… add one

  • Tiberiu Ghioca August 21, 2008, 1:37 am

    Nice thinking! I have even thought a bit and all these apply in personal life too and not just in business.

  • Pawel Brodzinski August 21, 2008, 2:37 am

    Most negotiations I have are in my personal life, since at work I try to leave it for more experienced negotiators. Anyway, general rules applies no matter if you try to get a contract with a customer or you look for someone who will build your new house.

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