Negotiating a deal in a systematic, conscious way is both an art and a science. Many business people fail at negotiation because they follow a predictable, self-defeating playbook of tactics, such as “try to close the deal” or “look for a win-win solution,” rather than a slow, methodical process of asking questions in order to discover what the other party really wants and needs.
We negotiators can then create a vision for the other party that positions us and our offerings as the best way to solve an opponent’s problem and ease their pain. Deals often fall through because negotiators are not cognizant of the fact that decisions are emotional — that is, they happen in the part of the brain ruled by emotions, not by logic. So people try to reason or trick their way to getting agreement.
The other big reason many negotiators fail is because they believe “no” is the worst word to hear, so they do anything they can to find a compromise or a way to “get to yes” (a deal killer every time).
Here are 10 guaranteed ways to lose a deal:
- Conveying neediness. If you want positive results, maintain emotional neutrality in your physical mannerisms, your voice, and choice of words. Fear, excitement, hope — every type of emotion is a sign of neediness. Begin turning your mind into a “blank slate” well in advance. If you keep saying to yourself, “I don’t need this deal,” you will start to relax.
- Seeking compromise. As soon as your opposite number knows how little you’re willing to settle for, why should they offer more? Giving away too much is illogical and looks like emotional weakness. If you’re unafraid of hearing “no,” you’ll be in a better position to get what you want.
- Dominating the conversation. You may think you’re telling the other guy what he wants to hear, but in fact you are mainly giving him a chance to build his own strategy — sizing you up, making judgments about you, and gathering insight into your strengths and weaknesses. Let the other party spill the beans while you listen and take notes.
- Talking with blockers. Blockers are people whose job it is, like pawns in a game of chess, to do anything to keep you from getting anywhere near the real decision maker. Use diplomacy, but be firm as you maneuver around them. If you negotiate with anyone but the real decision maker, you will lose your advantage.
- Worrying about the outcome. Chuck everything you’ve learned about closing a deal. Obsessing about, hoping for, or even planning on a successful closing will send your opponent signals that you are feeling needy or even desperate.
- Striving to make an impression. If you’re dressed to kill, dropping names, or pandering, you’ll alienate your respected opponent. Go for the “Lieutenant Columbo” effect; let the other person feel “more okay” or even superior to you. People are more inclined to let down their guard when they do not feel threatened.
- Wanting to be liked. Worrying if your opponent will see you as a friend or not is a classic mistake. It will only blur your judgment, undermine your emotional neutrality, and prevent you from keeping the focus on collecting information beneficial to your side.
- Going in without an agenda. Never contact your opponent without doing your research in advance and having a detailed agenda. Have ready a list of the problems, your baggage, their baggage (or what you think their baggage might be), what you want, and what happens next. Do this not only for meetings in person, but also for telephone conversations and email exchanges.
- Jumping to conclusions. Don’t make judgments about your opponent based on appearances, as they’re often deceiving. Don’t ever have assumptions. Much as you “blank slated” your emotions, you need to go into the negotiation 100 percent free of any preconceived notions about who they are, what they want, or how they’ll react. You need to discover all these things IN the negotiation, from their words, not from your own imagination or biases.
- Thinking only about yourself. Ground your mission and purpose in the world of the other person, not in your own. Ask yourself how you can help the other party benefit from what you offer, and how you can help to relieve their pain, solve their problems, and help them achieve their business objectives.