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So when do we negotiate?

Published: Jun 09 , 2020
Author: Mark Simpson

Despite the often voiced assertion that “everything is negotiable”, not everything in life is. That’s why we as human beings developed all the other methods and approaches to resolving conflict listed in my previous Blog . There are however, four main situations in which we all find ourselves in on a daily basis where negotiating is appropriate and should be considered.

When someone wants or needs to change a deal, or just wants a better deal

All businesses and organisations will have existing agreement in place with other parties, whether they’re written or verbal. When anyone seeks to change those agreements, there’s an opportunity to negotiate. For example, think about the customer or client who wants to delay your contracted services. They need something from you — a delay. In order to give them that, you must let them change the terms of your contract.

Instead of just giving in and making the change in the hope of preserving the relationship, consider this: “What do I need in return to enable me to make that change happen?” In other words, what do you need to trade to make that request worth your while? It could be a contract extension, prepayment of services, or just a referral to more business. If they want a better deal, think about what you need in order to give them that deal, and use that to get a better deal for yourself as well.

When an external factor disrupts the relationship

The Covid-19 crisis has been the mother of all external disruptions. As such, every business and organisation has been impacted in some way. In these circumstances, opportunities exist to strengthen good relationship and make bad ones better. In other words, now is the time to either double-down or hit the reset button.

When there’s a disruption that impacts everyone, the rules change. Consider this: your contract was based on normal circumstances. Now that those circumstances have changed, it is worth revisiting that contract to determine what else needs to change in order to deal with the new normal. Now the question becomes, “What are you willing to trade and what do you need in return to make that adjustment?”

When there’s a complaint

Whether you are the party with a complaint or are on the receiving end of a complaint, there’s an opportunity to negotiate. If you have a complaint to make, don’t just state your grievance – propose a remedy. Tell them what it’s going to take to make your complaint go away. As long as what you ask for is reasonable, you will be amazed how many times the other side will give you what you want, without asking for anything in return.

If you are on the receiving end of a complaint, listen to them, identify and summarise the issues from their perspective and be empathetic. Then ask the question, “What can I do to make it better?” Statistically, most people are reasonable and will either ask for an apology and for you to put things right (usually a low or no cost option for you) or they'll ask for something of relatively low cost to you. You can give them what they want and the relationship is maintained or indeed strengthened. If they ask for more than is reasonable then they’re looking for a better deal, in which case it’s time to negotiate.

When someone says “No.”

Many people dread hearing the word “No”. A good negotiator seeks firstly to understand WHY it’s a “No” and then whether there are circumstances under which it might be turned into a “Yes”. Kids are very good at this. When you tell your kids “No,” do they stop asking? Of course not. Kids have no fear of the word “No.” In fact, they look at it as the start of the negotiation, and so should we. Our job is to find out why? Discover the reasons, motivations, and constraints behind the “No” and then look for the opportunity to try and trade with them. If we can help them meet their needs and objectives, then they have less reason to say “No” to us.  

Conflicts can often be resolved much quicker through negotiation. Recognize when it’s appropriate to negotiate and be ready to do so if it is. Know what your objectives and priorities are, probe to understand the other sides, then try and give them what they want, on your terms. Negotiation should be an enabling process, not a process of denial. 

To negotiate well we need to understand and manage both the process of negotiation itself and the skills associated with it. Scotwork can help you master this, quickly and easily, saving you time, money and relationships. If you'd like help doing this, get in touch:, P: 04298644




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About the author:

Mark Simpson
Born and raised in the UK, where he first became involved with Scotwork, Mark has lived in New Zealand since 1994. Mark has a passion for teaching, coaching and negotiating, not just in the classroom but working alongside clients helping them to achieve outstanding results in major commercial and industrial relations negotiations.

Read more about Mark Simpson

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Latest Blog:

8 tips to negotiating in a recession (Pt 4)

There is usually more than one solution to every problem. You may have come up with what you think is the best solution, but there is no guarantee that it will be acceptable to the other party. When operating in a challenging economic climate, what you think is reasonable may have a considerably large impact on the other party you are negotiating with, an impact you may not have thought of or are not aware of. Upskill your people, look for opportunity and think beyond the dollars.

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