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In the German business world, you must negotiate constantly with
clients, suppliers, colleagues, and even supervisors. Consider the
following 12 points, and you will be able to successfully build
freedom to negotiate in your discussions with business partners
and come to sound business decisions.
- The perfect negotiator:
A famous German diplomat once described a good negotiator as having
the patience of a clockmaker and not suffering from prejudices
or stereotypes. Keeping that in mind, be sure that you do not
confront the other party immediately with arguments and demands.
Take time at the beginning of the negotiations to break the ice
and establish rapport. This can be achieved by discussing a non-controversial
current event which might include sports, entertainment, business
issues, etc. However, don't go into detail about the traffic jam
on the highway, the search for a parking spot, or the bad weather
- you need to save time for the "major" topics to be
- Set up your goals and
plan your negotiation time:
As the saying goes, "He who does not know where he wants
to go will never get there." Be sure that you go into negotiations
with concrete goals in mind, based on the answers to the following
- What is my most important goal?
- What is NOT negotiable?
- What are the possible trade-offs or concessions? What do
I require in return?
- Where is the compromise threshold or where should I draw
In order to make the threshold of possible compromises clear,
you can call on a higher authority. However, be very careful
when making this move, otherwise you could leave the impression
that you do not possess bargaining authority. If the other party
chooses to bring a higher authority into the discussion, ask
them exactly what their intention is.
Many negotiators reserve a higher authority for final ratification
or the approval of the tentative agreement. This empowers the
negotiator to engage in meaningful discussion until the end
of the negotiating process. Every negotiator must know what
his limits are PRIOR to negotiations or he runs the risk of
his efforts not being approved.
Also, be sure that you do not just have your own goals in mind.
In order to remain reputable, you also have to consider the
needs of the other party, otherwise a compromise will not be
possible. A successful negotiation results in both parties getting
something they value.
For example: If you ask your boss for a raise, and you cannot
justify your asking by listing a few of your major accomplishments
for the company or your increasing responsibilities, you are
destined to fail.
In addition, before going into negotiations, it is helpful to
learn what you can about the other party's interests, needs,
philosophy, style and level of knowledge. This will help you
to better understand the other party's position and the arguments
offered. In this way, you can prepare compromises that allow
you to achieve the full extent of your goals.
- Genuinely communicate
your own strengths:
Make sure that you communicate your own strengths, regardless
of whether others have the same strengths or not. Today's negotiation
coaches recommend saying what you really think. Fixed negotiation
formulas and behavior schematics are, on the contrary, no longer
"in". Honesty and trustworthiness are most important
because the other party will quickly see the discrepancy between
verbal and nonverbal communication. If you are fuming on the inside,
nobody will buy the stoic mask that you are trying to play off
on the outside. For this reason, it is better to allow your feelings
to come into the negotiation process when it is appropriate and
in ways that are constructive.
- Pick the right moment:
As you prepare for your negotiations, do not just think about
which arguments you plan to use, but consider which point in the
negotiation process would be the best time to use them. By planning
in this way, you will be able to make your arguments more potent.
Timing is also important when it comes to making an appointment
for the negotiations. For things that are considered to be especially
important - to you, your employees or your colleagues - you should
always make a separate appointment to discuss them. A serious
and executable decision can seldom be made when negotiations are
- Be fair and objective:
When negotiating, keep cool and do not let your emotions get the
best of you. If your proposal or position leaves the other party
annoyed, do not consider this to be a sign of success. In fact,
this usually means you have put a barrier in the way of a resolution.
Statements that start with, "You are
" or "You
" often make the other party feel as though they
are being attacked, and they may try to justify themselves in
response. These statements often create defensive behavior that
inhibits cooperation and encourages competition.
If you feel provoked or insulted by the other party, change the
subject and address the negotiation climate rather than the subject
matter. If the other party tries to intimidate you by shouting
or to make you pity them by crying, the best thing to do is not
react at all. Instead, take a break, wait for a little while and
resume at a new, uncontroversial or shared point in the discussion
as if nothing had happened. If you feel yourself starting to get
too emotionally involved, take a deep breath, count slowly to
five and then reply. Another way to manage your anger is to think
of something pleasant. One of the best visions to use for this
purpose is a mental picture of a beautiful sunset above the white
sands of a deserted beach.
- Listen attentively, ask
questions, repeat, and summarize:
In order to avoid misunderstandings and vagueness, and effectively
navigate the other party through the negotiations, keep the following
points in mind:
- Concentrate on the other party's body language. By leaning
forward, making eye contact, nodding your head, and by "um-m-m-ing"
and "ah-a-a-ing" you signal your interest in what
the other has to say. Always listen until the other party has
finished their last word rather than starting to think about
your own counter argument as soon as they begin talking.
- Being patient, talking less, and waiting are often the keys
to a miracle. Your silence allows the other party to express
their ideas which will not only make them feel as though they
are being taken seriously, but will also give you time to get
an overall grasp on the situation. When negotiating, stamina
and endurance usually count the most.
- Ask questions, rather than simply interpreting a statement
in the way you believe to have understood it. When asking, use
certain key words that the other party mentioned in their last
statement. "The one who asks, leads," as the old German
saying goes. Skillfully formed questions show that you are listening
attentively and that you are trying to figure out the motives
and the background behind the other's argument. They also give
you the opportunity to think things through and to elegantly
change the direction of the discussion. Depending on the reply
that you want to elicit out of the other party, you can work
with different types of questions:
- Open questions, such as, "What arguments are there
against my suggestion?" encourage the other party to
express their views and to tell you what they know about
the issue. It makes the most sense to ask this type of question
at the be-ginning of a dialogue in order to get into a topic
and to un-cover as much information as possible. Open questions
al-most always begin with "how", "what",
and "why", and can-not be answered with a simple
"yes" or "no".
- Closed questions are those that can be answered with
"yes" or "no". They are most suitable
for clarifying issues and concentrating the discussion on
important points. However, if you ask several closed questions
in a row, to which the answers are "yes", then
the other party may feel intimidated and react aggressively.
- Suggestive questions are often lead-ins to assumptions
or manipulations. Consider the question, "You want
us to ex-pand, don't you?" In such cases, the one asking
the question is seldom interested in the other party's true
opinion. The best way to handle such questions is not to
reply or to reply with a counter question.
- Indirect questions, otherwise known as trick questions,
are often used in job interviews. For example, "How
would your best friend describe you?" When it comes
to these questions, you must be extremely careful with your
reply, and antici-pate such questions in advance.
When negotiating, use the question, "What would you suggest?"
as often as possible. This will not only satisfy the other party,
but will send the message that you are interested and listening.
It also has the advantage of giving the other party the opportunity
to express their opinion or make suggestions, which helps build
a foundation of mutual respect.
- Do not accept all problems that get sent your way, but figure
out a way to send them back. Problems often are not as serious
as they seem at the beginning of negotiations. Try to put "problems"
aside so that you can concentrate more on goals that are practical
and achievable until the heat has gone out of the argument.
By the way, you should know that the word "Problem"
("problem") is frowned upon in the German business
world, and it should be avoided whenever possible. Use the word
"Schwierigkeit" ("difficulty") instead.
This word leaves more of an impression that the situation can
- Repeat basic statements throughout the negotiation process
such as, "So, I understand that to mean
lets others know that you are paying attention to what is being
discussed and, when you express issues in your own words, you
ensure that you have understood correctly. Avoid making your
own interpretations, judgments or allegations. Restating a proposal
or position also helps bring focus when the discussion has strayed.
Repetition also has other advantages:
- If you do not want to reply to a question immediately
(or at all), repetition wins you more time.
- If someone is talking too much but saying very little,
repeti-tion will allow you to capture the gist of what the
person is trying to say and refocus them on the subject.
- If someone says something vague or confusing you can
repeat or restate what they have said to help clarify your
un-derstanding. ("So basically, you are saying that
- If many different arguments are at hand, restatement
allows you to prioritize the issues ("So the most important
thing for you seems to be
- By repeating what someone has said, you often lead them
to supply additional arguments. Therefore, if you want to
get additional information from the other party, you may
find this method useful.
- Put together a summary at the end of each negotiation phase.
Summarize what was agreed upon and what needs further clarification.
This summary will allow you to refer to the main points of the
negotiations, structure the rest of the negotiation process
and provide a basis for the next discussion.
Don't just make claims, but make your ideas clear with easy to
follow steps. You can do this by using charts, graphs, or diagrams,
or by using a flip chart or overheads. These visual aids make
your arguments and your calculations easier to understand and
Use clever phrases:
To keep the negotiations from running headlong into a brick wall,
do not always reply directly, but form your arguments wisely:
"I" & "We":
- Transform the argument: Instead of saying, "I see this
" you are better off saying, "You
are talking about a problem that can be seen from many different
angles. In this case, the most important thing is
- Re-interpret: Instead of saying, "I am of a completely
" say, "That is a good point,
but I think we should also take
- Avoidance: Instead of saying, "No, that will never work
say, "Yes, that is an important problem, but let's concentrate
on the following situation for now
- Postponing an argument: Instead of saying, "We will not
come to a solution that way
" you should say, "Before
we come to a conclusion, we may want to consider
Use the word "I" when you are stating your own convictions.
On the other hand, if you are talking about performance, always
use the word "we" ("We have
") because everyone knows
that a whole team stands behind a complex project. In Germany,
you will almost always make a better impression if you don't personally
try to hog the limelight.
On the other hand, when talking about defeats, use "I"
("I am disappointed that
", "I wonder why
It is less threatening for someone to hear your individual opinion
than to be confronted with "we statements" that sound
Dealing with Defeat:
Be aware that negotiations are a constant game of give and take.
Do not automatically consider a compromise as a defeat. Negotiations
are not based on the principle of "all or nothing, win or
lose". A negotiation strategy that focuses on destroying
the other party or winning so they lose should not come into play
because it does not focus on building fair and constructive business
relationships. As Bismarck once said, "Whoever destroys his
opponent, or wounds his opponent's pride, should be aware that
he has created an enemy who will later seek revenge."
Even if you set up a meeting on short notice, make sure you inform
others (the best way is via email) as to what the meeting's focus
and proposed agenda are. In this way, you give others time to
prepare, and this will allow a more goal-oriented discussion.
All is well that ends
At the end of the negotiations, summarize what was discussed.
Repeat all of the important points that were agreed upon. Those
points that are mentioned at the end usually stick best in peoples'
minds, and both parties can walk away with the knowledge that
they have reached a solution. When a group has been involved in
the negotiations, it is wise to put these agreements on a flip
chart for all to see and acknowledge. In the case of a personal
discussion, a follow-up memo confirming the agreement is appropriate
and minimizes the possibility of future misunderstandings.
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