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
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.)