Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Discovery: The First Step in Any Negotiation

In business as in life, you don't get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate." 
                              ----- Chester L. Karrass

Negotiation is often given a negative connotation. Negotiation is the realm of the shady salesman, the person trying to trick you into joining his or her multi-level marketing company, or the spouse that just wants to be difficult. However, if you pay attention you will notice that people negotiate almost everything that happens to them. The ones that go smoothly often happen because the groundwork has been laid out already, possibly without the negotiating parties even realizing!

So, how can you make your upcoming negotiations easier? One word: Discovery.

Every attorney knows what the discovery phase is. It's the pre-trial phase where the attorneys for both sides of a dispute may gather evidence. In sales, it's the phase where the salesperson will qualify a prospect in order to determine whether she can resolve that prospect's issue. In other words, you get to know the person you will be negotiating with. Some people do this naturally. For those that don't, here's a few steps that will help make this more natural.

1) What is the person's current situation?
This is important to know because people naturally do what moves their own needs or desires forward. If you are trying to convince your friend to go to a particular restaurant, it would help to know if they are actually hungry. Or, if they like a particular food. Or have the money to even go to the restaurant in question. Knowing that your wife hates action movies allows you know for a fact that she is not dying to see "The Expendables 3."  And if you plan on asking your boss for a raise, knowing what skill set they need will let you know where you stand and what you need to do in order to solve their problem. Ask a few questions. Probe. Find out what your prospect is thinking.

One of the reasons this is so important BEFORE negotiations is because when you get around the table, they may not reveal this information. If you want poker advice from a pro, never ask him while he's playing cards against you.

2) What does the person want the situation to be?
If your prospect is incredibly happy with their current situation, there may be nothing you can offer to change their point of view. But, if you know you're husband wants something to do this weekend, or that your boss needs someone to take over a particular task, or that your friend would like to be fed, you will be able to negotiate whatever you want with greater ease.

Negotiations aren't based on what you want. They are based on what your prospect wants! So, ask a few questions. Have them clarify how they see their solution looking.

3) What would they do if you could solve their problem?
Remember, this is pre-negotiation. You aren't solving their problem yet. All you're doing is making sure you CAN solve their problem and that what you want fits in with what they want. If you can get what you want while solving their problem, most of your work is done before you even begin negotiating.

Let's use a very simple example. Let's say you want a raise at work. Don't just go into her office and start talking to your boss about the raise, like most people would do. Instead, go into the Discovery phase. Talk to your boss about the current situation at work. You can do this at lunch, or in a meeting, or just schedule some time to speak with her. Ask questions about the company, and the department, and even about projects your boss is working on.

You next need to find out what your boss wants. Whatever the situation is, there is probably some change that she would like to make. Perhaps the department needs more billable hours. Maybe she just needs a particular client appeased regularly. It's your job to find out.

Finally, you will determine if you can solve this problem or set of problems for her. If you can't solve it, then learn how to. How would it change the company, department or project if this problem could be gotten around?

By being armed with this information, you are ready to negotiate your pay raise. You are armed with more information than the guy in the next cubicle who will also be looking for a pay raise!

Do you have any other tips for negotiation? We would love to hear them.

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