Have you ever watched Dragons’ Den and observed the negotiation discussions? Have you noticed that the Dragons very rarely move from their initial offer?
It’s because they’re clear as to what they want, and what their bottom line is. Now, being who they are – high-flying multi-millionaires – they already have a strong negotiating position. But why is it that so many of the entrepreneurs come away without a deal?
For some, it’ll be because the product or service they’ve come up with is too niche or downright bizarre – but for others, it’ll be because they lack a strong negotiation strategy and have come unprepared. Those entrepreneurs who are successful in securing a deal have a few characteristics in common: they’re well prepared, know their numbers and their market, and will clearly state what they’re looking for from the Dragon(s). Often it won’t be money they need, but a means of entering new markets or devising an online sales strategy.
It’s fascinating to watch and learn from this. Not unlike a competition or game, bargaining is all about preparation and the moves that you make, and can be very satisfying when you’re successful. Of course, that depends on the sort of person you are – haggling can be some peoples worst nightmare! In the main, however, negotiation is a skill that requires a strategy in order to be effective. Here, then, is my 12-point plan to help you get the best deals for your organisation…
1 Negotiate in person
Negotiating face-to-face is a great strategy, because it gives you the opportunity to observe the other person.
Always listen more than you speak. Don’t be afraid of stating early on what you’re looking for, and be secure in knowing what deal you want. If you come across as unsure, the person may use this to try and improve the deal for them – for example, by selling add-on products or services you don’t really need.
2 Be prepared
Do your homework regarding the company – the product or service they’re offering, and potentially the individual you’re likely to be dealing with. For instance, most sales people maintain a LinkedIn profile that will show you how long they’ve been with the company, any posts they might have shared and the skills that others have recommended them for. You can also do some financial due diligence on the relevant company – one approach might be to access any reports on them that are available from Companies House.
3 Know what you want and your key issues
Once you’ve listed what you want, rank your priorities from highest to lowest. If you’re negotiating for a new services contract it might help to prepare a tender proposal. You can use a weighting system to help you, especially if you’re seeing a number of different companies. Know your bottom line. Is it the price that’s most important? Have an idea of what your target price is and what terms you want.
If your negotiation is about securing a better level of service from an existing supplier, then sequencing key issues is useful. Note down the following information to use in your meeting:
• Dates and details where expectations or deadlines weren’t met
• Actions that were taken by your staff I.e. records of phone calls or emails
• Details of what the contract states you are entitled to
• Clear expectations of the improvements you expect and within what timescale
4 Decide what you’re willing to reveal
Keep a bullet point list to hand of information you’re willing to share. You don’t have to keep all your cards close to your chest – disclosing some key information will help the negotiation progress. Be transparent about what you can be flexible on.
5 Silence is golden
Using silence is one of my favourite strategies. Don’t feel that you have to fill space in conversation. Make a strong and clear statement about the deal you want.
Then say to the person “I’ll give you some time to think about that and then tell me if it’s achievable…” Take a pad or papers with you so that you’ve got something else to focus on. You’ve now moved the focus of the negotiation on to them.
As noted above, listen more than you speak and think carefully about what you’re saying.
6 Use speech effectively
You’ll know from using behaviour management techniques with pupils just how effective the right kind of speech can be. Keep a positive, level tone. If they’ve done their homework they’re likely to give compliments throughout the discussion or presentation which will be directed at yourself or the school. Don’t let this sway you – just give a polite thank you, before moving the conversation on.
7 Use the ‘good cop, bad cop’ routine
If you know that there’s going to be lots of haggling involved, take another member of staff with you and employ the ‘good cop, bad cop’ routine. Your school business manager would be perfect for this task.
8 Pay attention to body language
If you’re dealing with a salesperson, they’re likely to have had training in how to conduct
themselves effectively, from what they wear, to how they sit and greet people – but it’s hard for anyone to keep this up all the time…
9 Get references
Don’t rely on the references that salespeople give you. Always try to find someone independently who’s had previous experience of the product or service.
10 Gather information
Extract as much information as you can about what you’re negotiating on. While haggling, if you feel confident enough try asking the salesperson about sales targets.
Are they relying on this particular deal to make their monthly or annual target? A salesperson approaching the end of of an annual sales period may be far more keen to negotiate a deal if it secures them a sale.
11 Always, always be prepared to walk away
There’s no stronger position than the other person thinking or knowing that they’re your only option. There’s always another way, always an alternative option. You just might have to compromise somewhere along the line.
12 Never sign there and then
Always run any terms and conditions documents past your legal advisor. I promise you that this will be time well spent…
Hayley Dunn is a multi academy trust finance director