Whether it's dream proposals, hidden needs, wishes unfulfilled, the need for a greater understanding of what your partner is saying, generous offerings, power dynamics or learning how to give them what they want - Valentine's has never reminded me so much of negotiation before.
With the air of love and excitement that Valentines brings… the negotiation consultant within me can’t help but think about my kind of proposals – not the engagement, bent down on one knee with a ring-type – instead I refer to clearly defined, detailed proposals where trading and the powerful use of questions have led to a well-structured proposal that meets my needs as well as the needs of the other party.
The big question – not ‘will you marry me’ – instead as a negotiator the focus is on understanding what powerful questions you need to ask when negotiating. For example, when faced with pushback on a proposal – ‘Under what circumstances would this proposal be acceptable to you?’ or ‘Which elements of my proposal do you like?’
Give them what they want this Valentines, but on your terms. Much like the world of online dating where confusions are reduced when people clearly state what they actually want – if only every dating and negotiation scenario were so honest and upfront. Do you really know what your business partner wants?
Often when a proposal comes on the table this is merely the way they believe they will get their needs met. But when you really understand what it is that they need, you can often structure a new proposal that not only gives them what they need, but also meets your needs - in the kind of mutually beneficial relationship that we all enjoy.
After all, when it comes to negotiating, it's often not just about the deal you make in any one given meeting, but it's about the tone/expectations set for when that business partner comes back to do business with you again and again. Unless of course, you plan for it to be a very short relationship indeed.
Just as with dating, short-term relationships and long-term relationships are approached very differently in negotiations. Shorter-term relationships when negotiating can allow for a more competitive approach. Whereas longer-term relationships can often be far more fruitful, if a tone of collaboration and trust is created.
Power dynamics is a topic not only reserved for dating, but also for negotiations. Too often we underestimate the power that we have or believe that the other party is in a greater position of power. When you take the time to have constructive dialogue, ask skilful questions and really understand the needs of the other party, you'll soon discover what incentivises them and what sanctions may be at play. When you understand the incentives and sanctions at play, you're much better positioned to negotiate, leveraging the power available.
What is your style as a negotiator? Do you find yourself delaying the proposal until later, nervous of how it will land or whether it will be rejected? Do you find yourself sweet-talking the business partner in an attempt to draw out a more collaborative tone? Have you succumbed to goodwill gestures to try to move things forward to only find that suddenly those goodwill gestures become expected in future negotiations?
Valentines – a time of hope, possibility and affection – along with increased retail prices for any heart-shaped chocolates or even the simplest of flower arrangements. The increased surge of restaurant demands and the opening of new profit-making opportunities. Some smell the scent of love and perfume, as a negotiator – I smell money and an opportunity not to be missed. Whether you’re in sales, procurement or you’re a customer purchasing products, dining experiences in restaurants, hotels, spa days... – always remember to explore the possibility of negotiating a better deal.