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Business Management

Customer-Centered Negotiations

Negotiating skills can make the difference between disappointment and great joy in dealing with others to get what you need….and what you want.

Rick Wemmers

Negotiating can work both ways in a discussion; however, the person who initiates the negotiating action usually has specific terms they want or desire. The other side of the table can be weak or strong in accepting or rejecting these terms. In some cases, they can be trying to use their own negotiating skills on you. Part of being a good negotiator is determining the strengths of the opposing party.

Becoming a good negotiator is not easy or hard. There are specific steps in a winning process which greatly increase the opportunity for success if followed properly. Typically, it takes practicing negotiation in six or more real-life situations to begin mastery of this profitable and success-oriented skill.

So, what separates a good negotiator from a great one? It is the one who consistently gets what they want, on the terms they want. There are five basic rules to winning negotiations:

The first point to remember is that you need to convince the other party that you have what they want, albeit not in the exact form they have in mind. Negotiating always begins after your proposition is accepted by the other party:

  1. Before starting the conversation, negotiators always do their homework on the “prospect.” They are prepared to answer such questions as:
    1. What is the biggest benefit of my offer to their strongest need?
    2. What do I have to offer that no one else can?
    3. What can I negotiate and which others need approval from superiors?
  2. A very special discovery process begins with the first meeting. This is where the negotiator probes to find insights into areas where negotiating can be productive. The prospect’s responses will be critical to winning the day.
  3. Start building a personal relationship early. Try to use the word “you” far more often than “I.” This can be difficult because most people have a tendency to talk about themselves or product more than listening to the other side. But practice makes perfect. People always buy from people they like even if only temporarily.
  4. After the prospect has responded “yes, I like what you are offering but have a few changes,” is where you put your negotiating hat on and begin to offer alternatives. But, be very careful and follow key steps. For example, if you give in to a change, make sure you take something back from the original proposition. Another point, beware of false objections.
  5. Never argue, say no, or lose control of your emotions. Keep in mind that your changes are always related back to what the other side needs and/or wants. Phrase your alternatives in terms of why this is good for the other side.

Negotiating skills can be used face-to-face as well as over the telephone. It is a little more challenging via the phone but definitely not impossible to be a consistent winner. With phone situations the negotiator should learn the skills of being an active listener.

Great negotiators are well-liked by most everyone and usually much more successful than their peers.

LABCAST: Be sure to attend Rick Wemmers' Lab Manager Academy webinar, “Customer-Centered Negotiating,” on Wednesday, May 7 (or afterward at, to watch the archived video).