Improve Your Negotiations With The 5 Golden Rules.   LEARN THEM

The New Year always provides an opportunity to reflect on the past year and make resolutions for the next. Here are four of my negotiation-related reflections and resolutions that can help us all as we negotiate in 2009.

• Set goals and design a strategy to accomplish them.

President-elect Barack Obama and his team picked the “change” message early on and stuck with it throughout a tough primary and general election campaign. They also designed their primary and general election campaign strategy based on tapping into the political, financial, social, and economic elements of those hungering for change.

Sens. Hillary Clinton and John McCain, by contrast, neither communicated consistent messages nor implemented consistent strategic ways to get there.

The first step in many negotiations is to set your goals and design a strategy to accomplish them. In effect, Obama negotiated with us for our votes. All negotiators, regardless of your political leanings, can learn from how he set his goals and strategically accomplished them.

• Perseverance often pays off.

My wife sometimes calls me stubborn. At times she is right. The positive side of stubborn, of course, is perseverance. And the focus and ability to persevere – despite the odds and occasional setbacks – is a quality trait in a negotiator.

Last year, it took us literally months to find and hire the right director of sales for our software company. At times we were frustrated and it was tempting to bring on a candidate despite our recognition that it didn’t seem like the right fit.

Eventually, though, we persevered and found the right person. Interestingly, he turned us down the first time. But we took another run at him about a month later and found a way to bring him on board.

Did it take a lot of time and effort? Yes. Was it worth it? Absolutely.

• You have to ask.

The economic meltdown in 2008 has brought consumer negotiations back into the retail environment, where “the price is the price” philosophy has pretty much ruled since the mid-1800s.

Why? Because retailers have relatively weak leverage as consumers are cutting way back. After all, retailers now have a relatively bad Plan B to negotiating and providing discounts – not selling their products at all.

Our lesson? Even in situations not traditionally considered “negotiations,” it doesn’t hurt to ask. Of course, do it in a nice way. But you may be surprised at the success you may achieve just by asking.

• Relationships matter.

Last year, we closed on our company’s second round of funding. I have known all our new investors for years – and most of them also knew each other. In fact, a significant factor for several was their relationships to the other investors. While they independently did their own due diligence, they came to the table ready to listen based on the recommendations of their colleagues.

The critical element in these negotiations? Our past relationships and the investors’ relationships with each other.

Nurture and grow your business and other relationships in 2009. You never know when you may want to call upon them for help or advice in moving your business forward.

I can’t tell you how your negotiations will turn out in 2009. But I can tell you that you will increase your likelihood of achieving success if you resolve to consistently implement proven, research-based strategies like these.

Published January 1, 2009 The Arizona Republic

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