by Joe Kendall

Both Negotiation and Competition Are Important

Oct 15, 20012 mins

People tend to think of negotiation as the alternative to competition. Yet to be a successful negotiator, you need to train, practice and have a game plan.

“You just can’t go into a negotiation on the seat of your pants,” says Gerard Nierenberg, author of several books on negotiation and founder of The Negotiation Institute based in New York City. “You have to put yourself in the other person’s shoes, understand their needs so you can get what you want.”

Preparation is the key to successful negotiation, says Steven P. Cohen, president of The Negotiation Skills Co., a consultancy based in Beverly, Mass. It’s also important to barter with things besides money, such as service agreements and training sessions, he says. “You want to cover a broad range of bargaining chips. The greater the flexibility, the greater the chance of a successful negotiation.”

Cohen defines a good negotiation as one where the parties depart committed to their agreements?but it’s critically important to know when to just walk away. “If you don’t know when to take a walk, you can’t make a decision that makes common sense,” he says.

A game plan is important in negotiation, but gamesmanship will kill the deal. “Be totally honest with yourself and your vendor,” says Guy Batista, CIO of First Data Corp. in Atlanta. “Put the facts on the table and don’t play games.”

Aim High

When you find yourself talking to salesmen who won’t listen, try going over their heads to get what you want.

When Alfred Barea, vice president and CIO of Louisville, Ky.-based Baptist Healthcare System, needed new intensive care unit software for his medical staff, the vendor’s salespeople focused on their products rather than Barea’s needs. It wasn’t until he addressed the COO of the vendor company that he got his message across. “The defining moment was the COO understanding [the salespeople] really weren’t listening and had not done their job,” Barea says. The COO came back a week later with a contract that met Barea’s expectations.

Talking to top execs can cut through the sales babble and help a negotiation get down to real deal-making. Says Barea, “Sometimes you just don’t have time for vendor blab.”