Small business owners often don’t reach deals, deadlock in their negotiations or, worst of all, reach an agreement that isn’t viable and won’t be implemented.
The average or untrained small business negotiator may tend to achieve similar results from a negotiation time and time again but not know where they are going wrong. Yet many small business owners, solopreneurs and professional consultants who possess above-average negotiation skills conclude more favourable deals.
People have been negotiating since early times. One of the earliest negotiations I could find was a peace treaty reached between the Hittite and Egyptian empires after the ca. 1274 BC Battle of Kadesh. Although it is a treaty, it has elements of negotiation such as a mutual assistance pact against attacking third parties and repatriation of refugees.
Fast forward 3000 or so years and you will find the entrepreneurial financiers such as JP Morgan in the US and financier and industrialist George von Siemens in Europe who was one of the founders of the Deutsche Bank using negotiation to build industrial empires.
As modern management developed in large businesses as well as the smaller entrepreneurial firm, you’ll find many agreements were reached and decisions made through the use of multilateral decision-making – negotiation which is the fair exchange between two parties.
Small businesses today need to match the expertise and skills of their larger counterparts in negotiation. A small business spends a lot of time negotiating with employees, customers, suppliers and even community members. That last group may sound out of place but it isn’t when you’re trying to obtain commercial zones and it’s being blocked by residents.
If small business owners negotiate so often, why is it that they often find it hard to reach agreement in negotiation? Many of the so-called experts would rattle off a list of reasons but these could just be about personality traits, tactics and ploys.
It’s far better to learn from a skilled negotiator (Herb Cohen, Jim Camp) or those trainers who have researched actual negotiations such as Prof Gavin Kennedy, Dr Chester Karras and Gerald Atkinson.
What stands in the way of deals that small business owners negotiate is:
1 Not been trained in the skills of negotiation
2 Lack of adequate planning and preparation
3 Not having a clear mission and purpose upfront for the negotiation (communicating a joint vision is a key skill in negotiation)
4 Self-confidence (from training) and handling emotions in negotiation
5 Knowing how to set the agenda for negotiations and negotiating the agenda
6 Understanding give and take exchanges and the different methods of competitive and cooperative negotiation approaches.
7 Knowing what behaviours make average negotiators into skilled negotiators
Negotiation is often ignored as a key skill for small business owners. Those who have acquired it grow their business faster and have more freedom that additional time and money bring.