Many business owners spend a lot of time doing the two N’s: networking and negotiating. The better you get at both, the higher your odds of growth and success.
There are different types of negotiators, so knowing your style can help you improve your chances and get favorable results when you meet with partners, investors, and clients.
Different types of negotiators
In-it-to-win-it negotiators are competitive and have a specific goal they want to achieve. When they step into the room, it's a take-it-or-leave-it situation.
If you have your mind set on the outcome and nothing else before you sit down at the table, then odds are you’re a competitive negotiator. Your thoughts: If the deal doesn’t go down, then it’s their loss, not yours — and there’s always a bigger and better opportunity around the corner.
The upside to this style is that you’re optimistic and will do whatever it takes to get the outcome you desire. You’ll learn to identify weaknesses in your “opponent” and get them to agree, improving your odds of a win.
The downside is that you won’t always be able to win. If you’re not willing to bend and come to a common ground, then you’ll potentially miss out on great deals.
One way to improve is to open your mind to multiple outcomes, instead of one. This way, you can still play hardball, but have a plan B and plan C, in case things don’t go according to plan A.
Be prepared to take risks, and use data and research to support your position. Have a clear understanding of your bottom line — and be willing to walk away if necessary.
The best time to use: When there’s a clear power imbalance in your favor, giving you a likely win. Maybe you have a network, technology, knowledge, or other resources the other side needs and can’t say no to.
Just don’t take advantage (e.g., asking for an unreasonable price), or they’ll walk away.
Collaborative negotiators are all for the win-win. They understand that a negotiation is a give-and-take, and they’re willing to work with you to get a result you both agree on. When you walk into the room, your goal is set on making the deal work, not “beating” the opponent.
In fact, there’s no opponent — it’s a partnership that both can find valuable, and you want to maximize the potential success for everyone.
The upside about this style is that it increases the odds of closing deals with prospective customers and partners. This means more opportunities to grow and expand your company.
The downside is that it may take longer to come to an agreement, since there’s a lot of give-and-take in the process. To improve on this, you should do your research to learn different scenarios that can work for both sides, so you have several cards to play.
To improve your collaborative negotiation skills, practice active listening and empathy to understand the other party’s needs and interests. Keep your mind on the long-term relationship and not just the current deal on the table.
When conflict arises, be ready to resolve it by adjusting your position to keep the deal moving.
The best time to use: When there’s equal power on both sides and there’s a way to reach a middle ground.
Accommodative negotiators are the exact opposite of an in-it-to-win-it style negotiator. These individuals are willing to close a deal even if they aren’t on the winning side. The goal for them is to seal the deal, even if it takes time to realize the benefits.
If the concept of a lose-win situation, where you’re on the losing side, doesn’t bother you, then you may be an accommodative negotiator. In negotiations, you may even give away value, such as information or products and services, to get the deal done.
This isn’t to say you walk into the room without a plan to win. It just means you can see the bigger picture and are OK with accepting an immediate loss for potential long-term gains.
For example, your manufacturing company partners with a retailer and agrees to offer a lower per-unit price in exchange for access to a wider market. You won’t profit the first year, but you will increase the number of customers for the long run, giving you more profit down the line.
The upside of this negotiation style is that deals close faster because you’re willing to give in to the other party’s demands (if there’s a good reason to).
The downside is that you’ll potentially miss immediate financial opportunities by giving up revenue or control to the other party.
To improve as an accommodative negotiator, learn to see the other side’s position and its long-term impact on your organization. Continue negotiating until you’re sure you can get a win in the future in exchange for the upfront loss.
The best time to use: When doing a deal with the other party outweighs an upfront loss — for example, they have resources you don’t have. The relationship and potential for growth outweighs winning the initial transaction.
A non-negotiator is someone who dislikes arguments, even if it’s in a controlled business environment. These individuals will avoid conflict, which could mean losing an opportunity entirely.
It’s a lose-lose scenario, and if done often enough could cause missed partnerships and chances for growth and expansion.
If you’re not willing to negotiate in meetings and are passive-aggressive, then odds are this is your style. You won’t compromise, accommodate, or agree to a temporary loss.
The upside to this style is that you may be able to prevent escalating a disagreement since you’re not argumentative. This allows everyone to cool down and gain a level head before resuming with talks.
The downside is it can signal to the other side that you’re not interested in their offer, and they may pull away from the deal.
To improve your odds as a non-negotiator, set clear expectations and boundaries in advance (and stick to them) to decrease the odds of it turning into a negotiation.
If you can find a win-win scenario, then this improves the chances of a non-negotiation meeting. However, if things get heated, stay cool, calm, and collected until things calm down.
The best time to use: When the deal is good, but not so great that losing it would hurt your company’s success. In this case, walking away from a losing deal is worth it if it’s not a complete win.
Analytical negotiators are problem-solvers, and they use data and research to support their positions. This may be your style of negotiation if you spend hours digging through reports and statistics to see both sides of the situation.
For example, you interview the other business’s customers about a pain point your new product resolves. Having a slide or videos of their customers sharing experiences with your product can avoid the discussion turning into long negotiation.
The upside to this style is that you’ll likely win more than you lose, since you have a foundation of facts instead of emotions and opinions. It makes it tougher for the other side to say no, if your data shows great promise for them.
To improve your analytics negotiation skills, practice researching the strengths and weaknesses of both sides and finding mutually beneficial solutions. Understand the other side’s goals and needs so your offer touches on those aspects.
Practice presenting your data in a way that is easy to digest, so it’s more persuasive (e.g., videos and charts).
The best time to use: When a deal is tricky and needs more legwork to prove why your offer is the best option. Both sides may have equal power or the other side has a leg up on your business, and you need a way to shift the power balance to get a yes.
A compromising negotiator is similar to an accommodating negotiator — both are willing to walk away with less than they anticipated to get a deal. The difference is compromises are often an attempt to save a deal once it starts to fall apart. Accommodators do it intentionally to win the other party’s trust and business.
Compromising happens when the negotiator doesn’t get the answer they were anticipating. You may start the meeting with a bang, thinking it’s enough to convince the other party. Then when it doesn’t, the compromising begins.
The upside of this style is that it creates an opportunity for the other side to say yes after saying no. The downside is you can lose the deal or walk out with less than you hoped.
To improve your skills, do your research to understand what you’re willing to compromise in the event of a negative reaction. Explore different avenues to determine what would increase the odds of a yes from the other side.
Also, practice active listening — sometimes, opportunities to compromise stem from something the other party says in a meeting. For example, they reveal a desire that you can use to come to a middle ground.
The best time to use: When the other side isn’t willing to budge, and you need to find a way to make the deal happen. Compromising can be a last-ditch effort to save the deal.
Become a master negotiator (in your style)
Negotiating deals is one of the most challenging parts of being a business owner. It can be the difference between landing a big partnership or getting a private investor to fund ambitious growth plans.
By learning your negotiation style and honing it, you can find investors and land opportunities to leap the competition and supercharge growth
If you want to become a better negotiator, then check out these resources:
- Coursera: Has a negotiation skills course that teaches strategies for closing contracts. It includes short videos, tests, and a final exam.
- Udemy: Offers a negotiation skills course that teaches you to become confident and smart in making professional deals. Comes with a certificate of completion and a range of other online classes you can take on negotiation.
- The Negotiation Institute: Teaches the Art of Negotiation, which is a customized program for companies. It also covers soft skills you need to be a successful negotiator.