Effective negotiations help build stable business relations, avoid conflicts, and importantly, bring income to your company. That’s why it can never be underestimated in business – big or small. It can lead to the rise or fall of a business. Hence, it is a powerful skill every entrepreneur needs to acquire.
Negotiation might not always be an easy task but a good negotiator has to know how to deal with customers and colleagues and needs to know what not to do when it comes to potentially offend the other negotiating party.
A lot of brick-and-mortar stores or workplaces are closed in the country and people have been told to stay indoors due to the coronavirus crisis. Now entrepreneurs are faced with a series of pressing negotiations in one form or the other.
Here are five tips to help you negotiate better in crisis:
Work with Contingent Measures
The standard negotiating advice might be to think about the long term. This might not be exactly wrong, as a crisis is a terrible time not to ignore the long term but we do not have to choose between the immediate and the long term. Knowing this will help you in negotiating.
You’re an entrepreneur and you’ve decided to transition to working from home virtually. Your immediate concerns are the health and safety of you, your workers, and customers or clients. Everyone is wondering how things are going to be impacted, workers are wondering if they will get paid, customers are wondering if they might still be able to get your products and services and how if it’s possible. Everyone is thinking.
In your negotiation, the immediate goals are the safety of all the persons involved in your business from workers, suppliers to customers, and, despite the uncertainties, to plan the path to business sustainability and continuous income flow. What are your contingent measures? If the crisis is looking like a short lockout, maybe you hang in there for a week by probably working virtually and using online tools to stay connected. If it goes beyond two weeks, you gear up and reinvent to suit the situation. As you’re weighing each of these moves, think about the short- and long-term implications.
At the same time, you need to map out a contingent path to return. At what point do essential workers start coming back to stores or office spaces? At what point is everything back to normal? What are the preparatory measures for each stage?
Your decisions and negotiations should be contingent on the current phase of a crisis, let your negotiations flow with the crisis, assuming the turnout of a crisis and making definitive negotiations might negatively affect your business
What Problem Are You Solving?
You go into negotiation for certain reasons. You negotiate because you want something to happen; you want your business to benefit from something. Negotiations happen because there’s something that needs to be worked on, to be solved. You need to ask yourself the right questions: Do you want to sign up any clients at any cost or hone in on a smaller, more long-term customer base who you know can afford your products or services? Are you looking for the best way to reach your customers now that they can’t go out to your restaurant, do you want to create an online platform for clients to reach you directly in this period but don’t know how best to make it effective? What can you propose to my sponsors to make them stay?
The period of crisis is a time when many questions develop for entrepreneurs. Once you know the problem you’re trying to solve, you can approach the rest of your negotiation from a place of clarity and confidence.
Successful negotiation isn’t about compromise, but about effective communication resulting in an agreement that either party or all parties are satisfied with. Although you may be fixed on your own goals, let the other party explain their ideas. Listen carefully, but don’t agree on anything based on emotion. Your concession needs to be thought through and discussed. Your immediate and reckless decisions also send a message. Don’t agree to frequent changes, and by no means agree to last-minute amendments. You may appear weak and indecisive. The other party may think that the deal that has just been made isn’t the best one they can get. And the process will start all over again.
The primary responsibility of any business’ Covid-19 response has to be to minimize risk and avoid catastrophic loss. But once the framework moves to concentrate on the worst that can happen, anxiety sets in, and our habits of negotiation can seem useless. The situation is already stressful; adding doubt, distrust does not help anyone. So you must continue to focus on maximizing gains. Moving into collaborative decision making can be helpful in many, if not most, situations.
Consider your needs and those of others.
Needs are what drive every negotiation. Write down yours and those of the other negotiating parties. You have to reach a middle ground; decisions might not be in your favour one hundred per cent. Try to see how the other party will gain from what you’re proposing. Remember to be smart and creative about it because believe it or not, these are difficult times.