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Negotiations occur at a variety of different levels within every organization. As CEO's you are faced with the challenging task of serving as leader of your organization and a business partner to both your internal and external customers. The ability to communicate and negotiate effectively with your own teams is as important to the success of your business as your ability to negotiate with your organization's top customers. You should never forget that at the heart of every successful negotiation - whether you are negotiating a merger or acquisition, board support or personnel policies - there should be an unwavering commitment to build and strengthen the new or existing relationships.
As competitive as today's business environment is, the value of long-term relationships absolutely can not be underestimated. Throughout my 30 years in business, I have negotiated countless deals - ranging from real estate acquisitions to corporate mergers, from product endorsement deals to television broadcast contracts, and from settling symphony orchestra strikes to completing contracts for professional athletes. Throughout the course of every negotiation, I have tried to maintain and build valuable relationships that not only result in mutually beneficial agreements but, more importantly, lead to future deals.
Clearly - this is not always an easy task. As a society, we are culturally conditioned to think of negotiation as a battle. Consider news headlines that shout the Administration and the Congress are "battling" over the budget or Israeli and Syria are at "war" at the bargaining table. And it is not just the news…Hollywood loves to glamorize ruthless, winner-take-all negotiators; just remember Mr. Potter in It's A Wonderful Life threatening to close down the Savings & Loan, Wall Street's Gordon Gekko saying "Greed is Good," or Jerry McGuire's famous mantra "Show Me the Money!"
You will undoubtedly run across your fair share of "Gordon Gekkos" in your personal and professional lives. He or she may be down the hall, around the corner or across the country. I remember, early in my career I had a law partner who always had his client's best interests at heart, but to an extreme - he loved nothing more than vanquishing the other side. He absolutely relished confrontation and could not wait to charge in and destroy the other side. Without a doubt, he often got what he and his client wanted…and more - but usually, he only got it once! Few wanted, or could afford, to deal with him twice because he left nothing on the table. My partner literally destroyed the other side, and he reveled in it. His motto: "I'll burn that bridge when I come to it."
For him, it was all in the winning. He never stopped to ask or listen to what the other side wanted. In my mind, then and now, there is no harm in the other side getting some of what they want, provided you get what you want. I believe in building bridges. Business, as well as life, does not always follow a straight and predictable path. Tables can turn and the previously defeated other side may, in time, gain the upper hand with no more than a change in interest rates. What happens if they are suddenly in a position to change the deal? If there is no common ground, no enduring relationship and no empathy, there is likely little reason to compromise or renegotiate.
On the surface, negotiation may seem to be about winning and losing. After all - to the victor belong the spoils. Can it be true that only the hardest, toughest and meanest negotiator will be the most successful? Just like my law partner, these types of negotiators will undoubtedly achieve success in deals, but most will fall short in the long run. I believe that you can be "nice" and still get what you are after. In fact, you often get better results, achieve more of your goals, and build longer-term relationships with even greater returns.
Remember that building and maintaining relationships is far more important than making one-time deals. After all, many more contracts are renewed than written from scratch. In my book, The Power of Nice ®, I outline a systematic approach to the negotiation process called The Three P’s: Prepare, Probe and Propose. I suggest that if you apply this approach to all of your negotiations, you will discover that it provides you with the tools to craft relationship-building deals. It is all about realizing that the best way to get what you want is to help the other side get what they want. Make no mistake, there is nothing wrong with seeking to get more of what you want. I call it a "WIN-win" outcome - both sides win, but you win bigger. This type of mutually beneficial result still allows both sides to walk away from a deal satisfied, and likely to do business with one another in the future.
Ron Shapiro is chairman of Shapiro Negotiations Institute and the author of the award-winning book, The Power of Nice: How to Negotiate So Everyone Wins – Especially You! He can be reached at 800-665-4764 or via email at email@example.com. Also visit www.shapironegotiations.com for additional information.
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