Every time I enter a negotiation it feels like the first time. I can rehearse, prepare and strategize, but if I really want something or have any emotional stake in the deal, all the wisdom I think I've collected over the years starts jumbling together. (For example, "Never start the money conversation," mushes together with "Name your price first to make sure you're negotiating from your number, not theirs.") And if negotiating requires a long waiting game, my impatience gets the best of me as all I want to do is get the deal sealed.
I decided to talk to a pro to see if I could improve my ways, so I rang up Jim Camp whose latest book, "No: The only Negotiating System You Need for Work and Home," just landed on my desk. Camp is a seasoned negotiations coach who has trained the FBI on how to negotiate in hostage crises, so I figured my usual fare would present beginner-level challenges.
"So what's your system?" he asked me. I'm not much for systems or rules, letting my gut take me pretty much where it wants to go. So I mumbled something about how I try to assess the other party's needs, whether I can fulfill them, and whether I'd even want to (which I thought sounded pretty good.) "And what is your system's first rule?" he asked, explaining that all systems need to have rules. "Hmmm," I responded.
Camp says that I'm not the only one who gets derailed by emotions. And he told me that whether it's a new client, a job negotiation or a hostage crisis, there is one common thread -- the need to have a system to quell emotions.
Here are a few things he suggested:
- Try to respond to a question with a question, so that you can gather information from the other person. (Camp did this repeatedly during our call when he seemed like he wasn't sure I was getting what I needed out of the interview).
- Figure out how to increase your perceived value.
- Alllow yourself veto power (As in, "If it's not going to be a good fit, it's okay if I don't take this job/client/deal.")
- Don't fixate on who names a dollar amount first. Instead focus on developing your perceived value so that by the time a number is named, regardless of who names it, it will be higher.
- Practice quelling your emotions in situations where the stakes seem low.
What do you think? Do you have a system that works for you in negotiations -- and if so, what are its inviolable rules?