Do you dread negotiating? Do you walk away from the negotiating table feeling that you didn’t get what you wanted or not enough of it?  Running your small business involves negotiating in just about everything you do – hiring someone, working out a contract with a customer or supplier or forming a partnership.

Many people approach negotiating as a win/lose proposition. It isn’t. It’s a communication process in which two parties are striving for a mutually acceptable conclusion. Negotiating is part of building a relationship so that it’s important both parties feel good about the outcome.two businessmen having a meeting

If negotiating doesn’t come naturally, there are ways to hone your skills so that you approach the process with more confidence. Here are six steps to help make you a more effective negotiator.

 Negotiate with confidence

  • Understand everyone’s goals:  Find out as much as you can about what the other party wants before you sit down to the negotiating table. Research the company online (even follow social media channels) and talk to others who do business with them. It’s also reasonable to ask the other party what they expect; even if it turns out they aren’t forthcoming.  By the same token, be clear what you want from the final terms.
  • Operate from a position of strength:  You have something that the other party wants and you want to be sure they understand the benefit of working out an agreement with you. At the same time, you don’t want the negotiation to become a battle of egos. In striving for a mutually beneficial outcome, listen to what the other party has to say and be respectful of their point of view and position.
  • Ask for what you want: Expert negotiators will tell you to ‘aim high,’ but be prepared to justify your demands. Aiming high is not the same thing as drawing a line in the sand. There’s no place in negotiating for a ‘take it or leave it’ position.
  • Keep your cool: Negotiating can generate a lot of emotion. Keep your cool and be diplomatic – no name calling or intimidation. You want to keep the peace and aim to put everyone at ease until you reach mutually acceptable terms.
  • Be prepared to compromise: Even before you enter into the negotiations, decide what you are willing to give up.  However, be prepared to walk away if the other party is unwilling to compromise and if you feel you have better options elsewhere.
  • Commit and expect the same: Once you agree to terms, make it clear you are committed and that you expect the same from the other side. Put everything in writing to make sure there are no misunderstandings or loose ends.

You don’t need to love negotiating.  Still you can learn to be effective at it for your sake and the sake of your small business.