CIO

7 Ways to Negotiate Better (Without Affecting Your Karma)

Do you think karma is just a fanciful idea invented by ancient mystics and revived by hippies with no relevance to the real world? Think again

Karma is real, and it will bite you in the bum if you don't take it seriously, says John McKee, business success coach and author of Career Wisdom, 21 Ways Women in Management Shoot Themselves in the Foot and The "Yes Factor": How to Negotiate to Get What You Want Out of Life. Anyone working in a community who forgets that what goes around comes around is, at some stage, going to fall flat on their tail.

Just look what happened when Hewlett-Packard and Compaq joined forces. Analysts lined up to describe the multibillion-dollar deal — one of the largest in technology history — as a merger of equals. Not so HP's Carly Fiorina, who made very public her view that in fact one of the so-called equals, herself, was considerably more equal than the other: Compaq's Michael Capellas.

Three years on, after a brutal round of press attacks, Fiorina was gone, dismissed by the board as Hewlett-Packard chairman and CEO.

That's karma. The best deals are the ones that leave both parties feeling positive about the end result, McKee says. If you treat each negotiation as me against you and then boast about winning, at some stage karma will come back and bite you, particularly in a community like IT, which is reasonably small and where you tend to see each other over and over again at the same trade shows or in the same negotiations.

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"Never underestimate karma," says McKee, who frequently works with people in the IT industry keen to enhance their negotiation skills. "The worst deals are the ones where someone walks away feeling that they really got snookered."

Everything is fair game. Whether you covet a new job, a raise, a business deal, a new car, some new bling or need to rectify a problem with a loved one, McKee says the "art of negotiation" is your secret weapon to achieving the result you want. Indeed, among the greatest strengths of very successful businesspeople is their ability to out-negotiate others to achieve their desired result.

Top negotiators know negotiating need not be back and forth, point-counterpoint banter. The best negotiations are a conversation, just as most of our conversations — even those with our friends and relatives — are a form of negotiation, McKee says.

It is just that the most proficient negotiators manage these conversations so smoothly that often the other party doesn't even know they are engaged in a bargaining process. The bottom line is simple: if there is something you want that is in someone else's control, knowing how to negotiate will stack the odds in your favour. The key is to be tough but fair, he says.

Treat your negotiations like a conversation, and deal with the other person like a person, recognizing that no one wins every conversation (something anybody who has ever been in a relationship knows).

McKee has some other guidelines to help ensure negotiations go smoothly — and the way you want.

1.First and foremost, be prepared to walk away. Never go into the negotiation believing that you must win on every issue. You'll probably win some and lose some. So first and foremost, you must be prepared to walk away.

"This is the single most important strategy to getting what you want out of life," McKee wrote in a recent piece called PowerTool 661: The "Yes Factor": How to Negotiate to Get What You Want Out of Life prepared for his Web site BusinessSuccessCoach.net.

"If you aren't prepared to say 'No' and mean it, then you are likely to end up settling for a lesser outcome. Before entering into the negotiation, know in advance exactly what you are and are not willing to concede, so that you do not need to process this information on-the-fly without adequate time to weigh the pros and cons of each."

2.Know when to forgo altogether. In deciding to forgo, timing is everything. Good deals typically come together quickly while bad deals take way too long. If negotiations seem to be taking forever, consider it a clue that it may be time to walk away. "If you have to 'force it', chances are it will come back to bite you later on," McKee says.

"If you map out your deal points in advance, if you understand what the marketplace is — and the marketplace can be any conversation, I don't mean that in a business sense only but if you know what other people are paying or what other people are expecting to get out of this negotiation — you'll know when you should walk away from it if it's a bad outcome that's prospectively there."

McKee says many people find the idea of walking away very troublesome, but believing strongly that you have to get the deal done at any cost can mean ending up with a very bad deal.

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3.Deal at the right level. It happens all the time in the tech industry: When CIOs deal with multinational software and hardware organizations they frequently have no real idea who the boss is. They negotiate hard, think they have struck a deal, then suddenly find they have to start negotiating all over again with someone in a different country.

"Nothing is more frustrating than trying to do a deal with an individual who can't make the final decision," McKee says. "It's like negotiating against yourself. You address an issue and try to come to a conclusion and then the other person takes that to someone else 'behind the scenes' only to come back and say it can't be done on those terms. It's far more efficient and effective to find the right person to negotiate with directly," McKee says.

Really effective people know what level to deal with and if they don't get to deal at that level, they don't deal at all, McKee says.

"At the very beginning of the negotiation CIOs should ask: Are you capable of authorizing this deal? If we come to deal today do you have the authority to shake hands and sign this deal?" If the answer is no, they should be insisting that whoever does get involved in the negotiation.

4.Do due diligence and come prepared. The more information you have surrounding the circumstances of your endeavour, the greater your chances of not only prevailing but also getting the best deal possible. You might succeed by shooting in the dark but failing to understand the extent of the opportunity could mean you unwittingly leave too much on the table.

"Whether it's the average pay for a given job, the price typically paid for a product or a service, or who you are in competition with for a new position — knowledge is truly power," McKee says. "Understand the deal points that you want to come out on top with, and if you can beforehand, prioritize those from least important to most important.

"Too often people fancy that they are smart businesspeople or CIOs who know all there is to know about the sector and they don't take the time to think about it, map it out beforehand. In some cases you do not have that opportunity to prepare but wherever possible understand that you want to be able to get what you want or walk away.

"It's not just understanding the market but also expecting what the other side is going to throw at you, being prepared to deal with it and non-emotionally. If they throw you a curve ball, that's a good time to call a halt. If something comes at you out of the blue that you're not prepared for it is likely you will get emotional or you will end up responding in a way that you regret later."

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5.Don't take anything personally. To maintain objectivity, treat every negotiation as if you are doing a deal for someone else who has hired you as the professional "closer".

When you allow yourself to get emotionally involved, rational thought often goes by the wayside and you're far more likely to concede, to your later regret. Cool heads get the best, and most, out of what they are seeking. If the conversation becomes emotional, McKee says, walk away until you both have had a chance to cool down.

"Emotional may not hear logical and logic may not be able to convince emotional, so usually you end up walking away from the table agreeing to have another meeting in a short while." McKee says.

"I was involved in helping acquire a large satellite television company here in the US involving very high-powered players on either side, both very proud of the companies they built. It was not a welcome takeover; it was being done by the side I was working with, to take out a competitor. It didn't matter how logical one side was, the emotional side always rejected the discussion. We had to take numerous breaks to cool down and to clear our heads, and I think that is one of the things that many professional negotiators do very well if they anticipate the objections going in."

On the other hand, he says organizations can teach their people to become good deal people and the first thing they should teach is not to take it personally. When you allow your emotions into any negotiations it is very unlikely that you are going to get the best outcome that you could.

6.Anticipate objections. Prior to the negotiation, brainstorm all the reasons or objections that may prevent you from getting what you want — and prepare a thoughtful counterpoint for each, one at a time.

During a negotiation, people conjure all sorts of reasons why something cannot be done, many of which are often bogus. Until you know the valid sticking point, you are just spinning your wheels.

7.Never underestimate karma. Look for deals that leave both parties feeling like winners.

"The worst deal is that where one side leaves the table feeling slighted, with the short end of the stick," McKee says. "If you're the kind of person who has to win and is prepared to humiliate or otherwise make someone feel bad as a result, sooner or later the gain is likely to come back to haunt you."

Far better to consider in advance what would satisfy the opposition and be prepared to pull those "cards out of your pocket" strategically during the course of discussion.