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WORKING OUT AGREEMENTS WITH YOUR CLIENTS

It takes time and effort to improve your negotiating skills and even more to

follow up by putting agreements in writing, but it’s time well-spent. If you

observe these practices, you’ll find that your working relationship with clients

improves exponentially.

NEGOTIATIONS

Just the word “negotiation” causes consternation for many people, leaving them

with a sense of vague distaste or unease. On the other side of the spectrum, some

people actually enjoy a surge of energy and love the challenge of negotiations.

We can dispel much of the negativity that surrounds the negotiating process

if we become aware of our own faulty assumptions. It’s not true that:

• We all see things the same way

• We want all the same goals or outcomes

• If I win, you lose

The beauty of examining your assumptions is that it allows you to change

your perceptions. That step combined with sharpening your negotiation skills

paves the way for you to successfully navigate through your business dealings.

Al Silverstein, retired executive vice president of Jobson Publishing, gives

some important pointers to people who want to become better negotiators. He

says, “There are four things you need to do. Come in with a positive attitude. Be

willing to compromise. Make sure you know your client’s needs. Start high; you

can always come down, but you can’t go up.” Now, let’s consider each of these

strategies more closely.

Come in with a positive attitude. Even though negotiations have an adversarial

edge, it’s good to keep in mind that you and your client already agree that

you want to work together on the project. That’s where your positive attitude

comes in. You are simply working out the fine points of the agreement.

Be willing to compromise. No one is recommending that you compromise

your professional standards or that you agree to concessions that threaten the

successful completion of the project. However, there are some issues where compromises

are possible. Part of your job as a negotiator is deciding what these

issues are and how much room you have.

Make sure you know your client’s needs. Your primary goal is to fulfill your

client’s needs, without sacrificing your own need to run a profitable business. To

articulate your client’s needs, focus on the project goals that you defined through

your independent research and your meetings with the client.

Start high; you can always come down, but you can’t go up. When all is said

and done, you must know your bottom line. Don’t start there when you begin to

negotiate. Give yourself some room for compromise. Many people will get a certain

sense of satisfaction from getting you “down” from your initial suggestion,

bid, or offer. (If the client you’re negotiating with is someone you’ve done business

with before and you know this ploy will annoy him, disregard this tip.)