Getting to NO! – 10 Tips to Improve Tactical Negotiation

getting to no

I have always thought that “Getting to Yes” by Roger Fisher and William L. Ury was one of the best negotiation books ever written. For my business clients (and in my personal life) I add “getting to no” as a technique for tactical negotiation.

One of the most interesting things about Americans is in many cases they’re reluctant to ask for what they want. Whether it’s fear of the other party saying no, worry that they’ll be seem unreasonable or fear of embarrassment, it’s enough to minimize their expectations and sub-optimize any opportunity they may have for improving the deal. Not only should supply managers ask questions, they should set and maintain high aspirations.

A few months ago, I worked in a small food manufacturing company on a project to significantly reduce cost and increase value. A cross-functional team quickly learned that by preparing, understanding the markets, their suppliers and asking enough questions, they were able to build the arguments to support cost and value improvements. By planning to ask questions until they “got to no”, they were able to determine the best opportunities without disturbing the supplier relationship. The result of planned “getting to no” was reduced product cost by 7% with a minimum of resistance in just three months. The savings dropped to the bottom line, which greatly enhanced the company’s profitability. They were amazed by what “just asking” for additional value until there was no more to be gained delivered to their business. All of the parties left the negotiations feeling satisfied with the deal.

Ten Key Tips for Tactical Negotiations

  1. Open the negotiation with high aspirations and maintain your demands throughout the negotiation.
  2. Remember that both parties are at the negotiation table to make a deal.
  3. Always enter a negotiation with research, a plan and a controlled argument from the first contact.
  4. Create multiple options to present to stop the negotiation from getting bogged down.
  5. Use your ability to influence and persuade and switch up methods of persuasion.
  6. Months before the negotiation, manage the other party’s expectations through a series of expectation management messages and events.
  7. Stick to your demands and give few, small concessions.
    Always calculate the cost or value of each concession and build a concession-trading list (if you do this, then I’ll …).
  8. Keep the negotiation focused on key issues, putting minor issues on the back burner.
  9. Don’t just hear or anticipate what you will say next, actively listen and use questions to probe and gather data.
  10. Never respond to pressure and keep pressing for all the cost and value opportunities you can get.

By using these tips, you can dramatically improve your tactical negotiations. While you will still be getting to yes, you will also leave confident that you did not leave anything on the table. Remember, these techniques are for TACTICAL negotiations which occur when you have many suppliers to choose from, there’s a competitive market and a lot of money and value are at stake. For strategic negotiations, you’ll require a more principled approach, which is a topic for another time.

Good luck and don’t forget there is no opportunity for success if you haven’t made the appropriate preparation and plan. If you are working with a team, brief the team, establish roles and practice. While many of us manage very busy schedules, prep in this area has a high return on investment.

Are you afraid of “getting to no?”

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