Negotiating Tips for Small Businesses by @HarleyLeBon

by Cherylyn Harley LeBon  | Featured Contributor

Recently, I met with several entrepreneurs who have been in business for several years and are respected for their innovation, expertise, and assertiveness in their respective areas. As we discussed a multitude of challenges and joys of owning a small business, one theme seemed common among the group. The negotiation process appeared to be everyone’s weak spot, and all agreed they wanted improvement, more practice, and better results.

We came up with a list of the Top Five Negotiation Tips

1. First, Ask What The Other Party Wants

Obviously you will have done your due diligence and have had prior conversations about objectives before the meeting. The first thing out of your mouth, however, should be, “What you want? You may think it is a redundant question, but ask again. Don’t make any assumptions.

2. Communicate Clearly

My colleagues agreed that being clear from the outset is the best way to avoid confusion and unrealistic expectations. It is always a good idea to present your capabilities and the deliverables early in the conversation. Therefore, if a proposal is put on the table that is not feasible for your company or does not fit your needs, it will become apparent fairly quickly.

3. Appreciate Silence During Negotiation

Let’s face it. Sometimes people talk too much. Whether it is nerves; or they like to hear themselves talk; they are trying to assert authority; or a variety of other reasons. During a negotiation, use silence to your advantage. Human nature is to fill the silence with needless information and they may drop the price without asking. You can learn a lot about people by how they fill silence.

4. Clarify and Confirm

Sounds like common sense? You would be surprised that after an hour conversation, there may be confusion regarding expectations. I always ask clarifying questions to make sure I have correctly understood their objectives. At the end of the meeting, I will repeat again, “Just to confirm, I will do x, y, and z and you will be responsible for a, b, and c. Have I summed up our conversation correctly?”

5. Smile

Why do people equate having a tough exterior with a sour puss face? I love to smile and I laugh a lot. I find that a smile is warm, disarming, yet professional. My colleagues agreed that a nice disposition contributes to companies wanting to do business with you. A smile is not a sign of weakness, but an appearance of confidence.

Remember, negotiation does not have to be painful. It’s just a normal course of business.

Enjoy the ride.


Cherylyn Harley LeBon Cherylyn Harley LeBon is a lawyer and public affairs executive with almost 20 years of experience in Washington, D.C. and is the President and CEO of KLAR Strategies. She provides grassroots/coalition development, strategic counsel, and media strategy to corporations, trade associations, and non-profits.

She has worked as senior executive in the federal government and as a Vice-President of Public Affairs for a national trade association where she directed media and communications strategy; health coalitions, and corporate partnerships. Additionally, Cherylyn served as a Senior Counsel with the U. S. Senate Judiciary Committee was responsible for judicial nominations, the Department of Justice oversight, and civil and human rights.

She writes about policy, business and legal issues for a variety of publications and serves as Co-Chair of Project 21, leadership network with the National Center for Public Policy Research.  Cherylyn is a regular guest and commentator on nationally broadcast radio and television programs.

Cherylyn was a Research Guest and Lecturer at the University of Bremen Law School in Germany and has lectured across the U.S. and Europe on American business, leadership, and policy issues.  She was formerly an adjunct public policy professor with the Washington Center in Washington, DC.  Cherylyn is a 2013 graduate of Georgetown University’s program in Executive Leadership Coaching.

Follow her on Twitter @HarleyLeBon

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