by Devon Smiley | Featured Contributor
The number one mistake you can make in a negotiation…
Is giving up after you hear a no.
Not long ago, I was working on a negotiation that I was really excited about. I had all sorts of great ideas, strategies and I was convinced that the solution I was about to propose to my counterparts would get me a big YES!.
It was met with indifference (at best) and then a big NO.
I was stunned. The work I’d put in had covered all of the bases. I had expert opinions. I genuinely thought I’d found a win-win solution to a problem our team was facing. I was gutted.
Yes, it’ll sting – whether it’s the 1st time or the 100th time you’ve heard it. But no matter how tough it was to hear that no, the important thing is to keep going. Don’t just shrug your shoulders and walk away from the discussion figuring it ‘just wasn’t meant to be’ or that you ‘just don’t deserve it’.
Here’s what you need to do instead.
#1 Ask Questions
Learning how to ask open ended and non-defensive questions after hearing that No will do wonders for the eventual outcome of your negotiations. Your goal isn’t the change their mind right away, the priority here is collecting as much information as possible about what’s behind them declining your offer. Some go-to questions to get you started:
- What about this proposal doesn’t work for you?
- Which of the elements we’ve discussed are the closest fit to what you were looking for?
Use the questions to get conversation and discussion flowing again in your negotiation, so that the No becomes a bump in the road, rather than a brick wall.
After collecting additional information and warming up the conversation, try again, but this time using what you’ve learned. Taking a break of a day or so can help – it will give you time to prepare, and any lingering discomfort of agitation will have time to fade.
When you start again, step one is reconnecting the dots of the previous discussion, highlighting the points of agreement so far. Next, rephrase your original request, making sure that you’ve tweaked it to address the concerns and priorities you uncovered by asking those questions.
This combination of reconnect + rephrase works well to get you past a No because restating the positive progress puts everyone into a collaborative mindset, and rephrasing and adapting what you’re asking for shows that you actually listen – and care about finding the best solution for everyone involved.
Sometimes, a no is a no.
You’ve asked the questions, you’ve taken another spin or two around that negotiation dance floor, and still nothing.
You may not be able to change it this time around, but continue to ask open ended questions to find out the reasons behind the refusal. Then, instead of reconnecting and rephrasing, use those answers to figure out what your lessons learned are. Key here is to be objective, and establish the answers to some important questions:
- Why did they say no?
- Were you in sync with what their needs were?
- Did you move too quickly/too slowly?
- Did they understand what you were offering them?
- Were lines of communication clear and professional?
- …and anything else that jumps out as something to be tweaked for next time.
Taking the time to complete these lessons learned – and then applying them – will mean that even the most painful No is helping to move you, and your business forward in each and every negotiation to follow.
Have you ever heard a No that stung? How did you recover? What’s been the biggest lesson learned in your business after a deal fell through – and how did you change the outcome the next time around? Let me know in the comments below!
Devon Smiley – Negotiation Coach & Consultant
With over a decade of corporate experience, Devon has negotiated $1000 product returns, multi-million dollar procurement deals -and everything in between. Her experience is distilled into spot-on analysis and actionable advice for companies of all sizes, bringing them the benefit of her laser focus on results and strong strategy development skills.
Devon is a firm believer that no business is ever too small to negotiate, and she gets a kick out of helping entrepreneurs uncover ways to bump their results up a notch (or two!), and build the skills and confidence they need to ask for – and get – what they need to achieve their best yet results. Knowing that many entrepreneurs struggle with figuring out how negotiation can help them move their business forward, Devon created the ‘3 Must Do Business Boosters’ guide to jumpstart the process.