3 tips for successful negotiation

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3 tips for successful negotiation

Successful negotiation is an art form that takes knowledge and practice. Here are a few of our best tips for getting to "yes" with your potential clients.

1. Identify Key Stakeholders

It seems obvious, but taking the time to determine all stakeholders involved will sometimes reveal non-obvious people, also called "hidden influencers." For example, on a typical project, stakeholders might be your client and his or her supervisor. On your team, stakeholders include you and your team members.

But there might be additional people who come into play and influence the negotiation process, such as additional work groups that your client might bring to the project. Identifying these "hidden influencers" will make your work easier in the long run, because you can prepare in advance for any unforeseen complications.

2. Identify Interests

The next step is to create a document with two columns listing your interests and your client's interests. This will help you visualize what's at stake during your negotiation process, both from your perspective and your client's perspective. Remember that the name of the game in negotiation is anticipating needs and conflicts before they arise so that you can be prepared to swiftly resolve them.

Consider the following example: Your client [key stakeholder] has asked you to develop an Android application for his product. A colleague who is familiar with your client [hidden influencer] mentioned that he also plans to develop five more apps this year. After you have presented a quote to the client for the initially requested Android application, he tells you that the quote is too high, and you need to lower your cost.

Here's what your "interests" document might look like:

Your interests:

  • Win the project bid
  • Retain your relationship with the client
  • Add some additional future projects -- such as the planned five additional apps
  • Stay profitable
  • Create a great product

Your client's interests:

  • Negotiate a better price for the product
  • Obtain a great product
  • Stay with a vendor you trust
  • Finish on time and within budget

3. Evaluate Opportunities for Added Value

Using the prior example, you realize that there is a potential for future business with this client to create more applications. One of his interests is to get a good price for the product.

One creative solution for solving both of your needs is to negotiate a lower price -- in return for ensured future projects. Or, instead of lowering the first quote, you might try adding features that won't cost you much but will add value to the negotiation process. For example, you could offer to host the project for the first six months. By offering this added benefit, you'll be saving the client money and establishing a good basis for earning future business.

Remember: Negotiation is always about identifying interests, anticipating needs and adding value.

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