Negotiations are part of business. Two or more parties want to achieve different objectives that aren’t necessarily compatible. So the parties negotiate, looking for opportunities to compromise, to change strategies, and walk away with a great deal – the lowest purchase price, the highest sales price, ideal terms, or whatever it might be.  

Some experts believe that negotiation is an “art.” The ability to negotiate successfully does require creativity in order to arrive at a negotiated agreement, but negotiating is much more than creativity – and wishful thinking.

Negotiating is a skill – and a valuable skill, at that. Good negotiators deliver the most desired outcomes, in part because they’re able to construct creative solutions to differences that crop up during the negotiation process – compromises all stakeholders accept.

The skills required of a good negotiator can be learned and honed regardless of how creative you are. Successful negotiations begin long before the negotiating parties sit down to work out the details.

Here are some negotiating tips that will help deliver the results you require the next time you get down to business.

1. Leave your ego at the door. The objective of any good negotiation isn’t to win. The objective is to find common ground, solutions to differences, and terms all stakeholders can live with.  It’s not about you as a person – it’s about making the best possible deal.

2. Define objectives before going in and prioritize goals from most to least important. It’s difficult to negotiate if you don’t know what you’re negotiating for, or when you’ve finally reached your objective.

3. Do your research before beginning negotiations. Research all parties to determine their objectives. Knowing as much as you can about all parties to the negotiations may give you valuable insights.  Some companies may have web sites that will provide good information and highlight possible needs. Your counterpart may have worked with others in your circle of business contacts. Call around. Read LinkedIn® profiles and company bios.

4. You want results. Negotiations aren’t debates, and no one walks away with everything he or she wants. In fact, in successful negotiations, all parties may feel a little disappointed at the outcome because they didn’t get everything they wanted.

However, they did meet their No. 1 objective. Keep the focus of negotiations on results. Remove personalities from the equation, and look for solutions in those areas in which parties need to negotiate an agreement.

5. Be straightforward. If you have issues, now’s the time to bring them up politely – civilly. If you have concerns, this is the time and place to express those concerns.  If your concerns turn out to be a deal breaker, better to know now than when you’re working with another business with a different view of what was actually decided upon.

6. What can go? In negotiations, compromise is often the best solution. Each stakeholder gives up a little to meet their primary objectives. Before undertaking any negotiations, determine your “bargaining chips” – those elements you could concede in return for something more important to achieving your business goals.

Bring a stack of “chips” to the negotiating table to trade for the things you really want. The more chips, the smoother the negotiations.

7. It’s not about “I”. I want this, I’ll trade this for that, I can’t budge on that. Forget “I.” Negotiations involve at least two parties, so focus on the “we.” Recognize that the other negotiating party has objectives. Work to find solutions to help meet those objectives.

There is art in negotiation, but there’s also good preparation, honesty, transparency, and the desire to arrive at a solution everyone can live with.

The information provided is presented for general informational purposes only and does not constitute tax, legal or business advice. Any views expressed in this article may not necessarily be those of Nevada State Bank, a division of Zions Bancorporation, N.A. Member FDIC