Importance of Influence & Negotiation in Business


Rajul Bhardwaj
Roorkee Institute of Medical Science

There are many different definitions of negotiation. We could say that negotiating is "reaching an agreed settlement between two or more parties" or we could define it as "reaching a compromise between conflicting needs". For the purposes of this chapter, we can define negotiation as:

"The art of getting what you want, even when you don't have direct control over the person who will give it to you"

Preparing to negotiate

So, let's start with the most obvious aspect of a negotiation - you negotiate in order to get something. What makes it a negotiation instead of a demand or request? The belief that you have to give something back in return. Let's explore this interesting aspect of negotiation first; that you don't always have to give something back. Or, at least you might not always be aware of what the other person is getting in return.

Think back to when you were a child. You constantly made demands on your parents - for their time, their attention, their money and for all the things they gave you. Was this a negotiation? Or was it an unfair trade? Of course, your parents got something in return and, as a child, you instinctively knew that you could ask for the moon on a stick and your parents would still get more out of the deal. At least, you acted if that were true, and herein lies the first secret of negotiation and influence:

"Act as if you fully expect to get more than you are asking for"

Of course, this presupposes that you know both what you want and what you are prepared to settle for. In all kinds of transactions, people have two expectations; what they would like and what they would settle for. What I see, time and time again, is that people end up getting what they would settle for. There's an important lesson in that.

    * What do I want?

    * What is the minimum I will settle for?

    * What would I get in my wildest dreams?

    * What is a realistic expectation?

Planning your strategy 

In order to execute any plan you need a strategy. In other words, after you have decided what you want, the next step is to do something. The question is - what?

Planning a strategy is not the same as doing something. Ultimately, people can only give you what you want if they know you want it. Therefore, the next secret of negotiation and influence is:

The easiest way to get what you want is to ask for what you want

And do it in the most direct way possible.  Other people cannot be relied upon to understand hints and gentle nudges, or roundabout requests, or tact, or any of the other ways that we make ourselves feel less self conscious about expressing our needs. If you do not habitually tell people what you want then you have no right to get it!

So, taking your original goal:

    * How will I know when I have achieved this?

    * What will happen when I get this?

    * What will happen if I don't get this?

    * What won't happen if I do get this?

    * What won't happen if I don't get this?

Understanding needs and outcomes 

Possibly the most important skill for helping other people get what they want is to be  able  to  understand  their  needs,  even  when  they  aren't  very  good  at  expressing  them.  Think of a time when you've had really good service in a shop or restaurant and I bet it  has  something  to  do  with  the  other  person  predicting  your  needs  or  exceeding  your  expectations.

It's easy to imagine that you are exceeding your customers' expectations by giving them more  than  they  have  asked  for,  but  beware  of  giving  them  'more'  according  to  your  criteria than to theirs. For example, in  choosing a removal company to help me move  house,  price  is  not  my  main  selection  criteria  once  it  falls  into  a  broadly  competitive  range. My main criteria are reliability and care - I want the removal company to turn up  on  time,  move  me  efficiently  and  not  break  anything.  In  order  to  get  this,  I  will  pay  more  than  the  lowest  price  as  long  as  the  price  is  "in  the  ball  park"  i.e.  in  the  range  limited by the supplier's competitors or market.

If a removal company tries to win my business by offering a discount, I will probably rule  them out. If a company gave me a list of previous customers I could speak to, I would  probably  be  more  impressed,  but  I  probably  wouldn't  call  anyone.  If  the  person  who  comes to provide the estimate gives an air of confidence and capability, I will probably  choose that company.

Therefore,  in  exceeding  your  customers'  expectations,  it's  vital  to  know  what  their  criteria are, and how they are different to your own.

In negotiations, everyone wants something in order to get something else - people want cars to go places, they want furniture to sit on and they want money to buy things. The objects of the negotiation are not an end in themselves; they are a means to an end. A  very  useful  step  in  the  negotiation  is  for  you to find out what ends are served by the  negotiation. This will make you more flexible and more effective.

    * What is your partner/opponent asking for?

    * What will have that do for them?

    * What else can you offer that achieves the same result - or better?

The  only  time  I've  ever  seen  customers  really  unhappy  is  when  they  were  given  what  they  asked  for  instead  of  what  they  wanted.  Therefore, always find out what people really want instead of simply giving them what they ask for.

The most important characteristic of Negotiation is that it is aimed at a win-win outcome. The objective is to attain mutual gain. This approach is based on the assumption that there exist one or more solutions to a problem that could result in a win-win situation.

This partnership, integrative approach to negotiation helps to develop long-term relationships between the negotiating parties, and eliminates differences between them so as to ensure cooperation of the other party in the future as well.

These few things are important for negotiating to be successful: parties should be sensitive to each other needs; they should be honest about their concerns and should trust each other; & they should be willing to be flexible.

Rajul Bhardwaj
Roorkee Institute of Medical Science

Source: E-mail November 23, 2006


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