In business, you don’t get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate.”

~ C. Karrass

In a sense, all of life is a negotiation

Negotiation does not just occur in used car lots, investor boardrooms, or lawyers’ offices. You negotiate every day, I know I do. You are always negotiating in some way. When you drive from one place to another, you negotiate through traffic, letting other people get in front of you and vice-versa. When you go to a restaurant you negotiate, first of all, to get a table and then to get the kind of table you most like. You negotiate all the elements of your professional life and all the things you do or don’t do. You negotiate prices, terms, schedules and many other details all day long. The process is never ending.

Any time meeting your goals requires the cooperation of others, you must negotiate.

My most successful negotiations were largely in part due to my genuine indifference to the outcome at that particular point in time.  For instance, when I was a motivated buyer looking for my first car, I gave myself a realistic purchase deadline of two months. I knew my budget, the type of car I was interested in and the dealerships in my region.  I’ve always preferred buying cars off the lot that were 1-2 years old, relatively low in mileage and typically, showroom cars.  There’s a great line from the movie, Heat (1995), “Don’t let yourself get attached to anything you are not willing to walk out on in 30 seconds flat if you feel the heat around the corner.” Even with the plot being about a complex criminal heist, the underlying point is still valid. When trying to make a deal, never put yourself in a position where you care about the outcome so much that you simply can’t walk away.

Care about the outcome, but not that much

Herb Cohen, America’s great negotiator and author of “You Can Negotiate Anything”, says, “Negotiation is just a game. You care about the outcome, but not that much.” That’s one reason it’s often hard for entrepreneurs to remain neutral when they negotiate–they’re too emotionally attached and sensitive when it comes to representing themselves and their company. It’s much easier to take an unbiased position when representing somebody else’s money, time, family, product, service or even career, but when it hits close to home, it is no longer a game.

The more emotionally attached we become to an outcome, the harder we try to get our way. Pretty soon we begin to lose our perspective. It’s important to stay indifferent.

So, the next time you’re sitting across the table from a sales agent, investor, boss, significant other or whomever you’re negotiating with, care about the outcome, but not that much.

My five (5) personal negotiating rules:

1. Prepare. Always get to know the other party. Never negotiate with a stranger.

2.  Try to be genuinely indifferent to the outcome at that point in time.  It’s OK to walk away.

3.  Leave both your emotions and ego at the door.

4. Always listen more than you talk.  Take notes.

5. Know what outcome “you need vs. what you want”, then ask for it.  Be patient.

Negotiating is a normal and natural part of life. You owe it to yourself to become very skilled at it. As in anything else, the key to excellence is for you to practice at every opportunity.

Make it a game. But remember, don’t be naive, the pen will always be mightier than any handshake or promise (I learned this the hard way).