Negotiating is a process of communication between two or more parties to reach an agreement on future behavior—like when you’re purchasing a small business, leasing an office, hiring an employee, selling a product, or trying to get a two-year-old to take one more bite of peas.

Let’s look at the two key words in that definition: process and communication.

Process

Conducting a negotiation is more like running a marathon than a sprint—it takes time and involves multiple steps. By accepting this reality you’ll set yourself up to be more patient and, therefore, more effective. 

Remember, your impatience with the process is the other party’s best leverage. Good negotiators practice patience.

Communication

There are many ways to communicate in a negotiation besides speaking: Punctuality, appearance, organization, and attention to detail, for example, are all forms of communication.  You could even communicate in absentia with the quality of the documents you produce. 

Never underestimate the heightened awareness of every aspect of a negotiation.  The slightest nuance, gesture, or facial expression can mean something. Make sure all communications contribute to your negotiating objectives.

There are three critical questions to ask yourself before any negotiation.

1.  What do I want?

Make sure you have this conversation with yourself. If you don’t know what you want, how will you know when to stand firm and when to give something away? 

And if the other party senses you’re not focused, they will either disengage or view you as weak prey and take advantage. Either way, you lose.

2.  Why should the other party negotiate with me?

If a genie grants you one wish prior to a negotiation, ask what motivates the other party.  Armed with that perspective you can get the other information you’ll need in due time.

3.  What are my options?  

The best way to get what you want in any negotiation is if you don’t have to do the deal.  Having an alternative to what’s on the table strengthens your ability to walk away from a deal that isn’t moving in your favor.  It doesn’t have to be perfect—just an alternative. Sometime during the negotiation, your second choice might start looking pretty good.  And merely knowing you’re in a position to walk away will make you a better negotiator. 

Finally, whatever you do, don’t fall in love with any deal unless you want to make the other party’s day. Love is for lovers—this is business.

Write this on a rock...

Everything’s negotiable. Are you a capable negotiator? 

Jim Blasingame is the author of the award-winning new book, “The Age of the Customer®: Prepare for the Moment of Relevance” www.AgeoftheCustomer.com .

Jim is one of the world’s leading experts on small business and entrepreneurship, and founder and president of Small Business Network, Inc. www.SmallBusinessAdvocate.com . He’s the founder and host of the syndicated weekday radio program, “The Small Business Advocate® Show,” where for more than 16 years he has conducted over 1,000 live interviews annually with his “Brain Trust,” the largest community of small business experts in the world.

©2014 Small Business Network, Inc.