Life is a series of negotiations, be it buying a car, asking for a raise, or entering a collaborative business partnership. Five members of The Oracles share the persuasion strategies that helped them handle higher stakes and close monster deals.
1. Embrace the "51/49" rule
I've negotiated my whole life. When I was 22, I was buying hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of wine. It may seem counterintuitive, but in any business deal, I always try to leave a little bit on the table for the other side.
The 51/49 rule embodies this mentality: I try to bring at least 51 percent of value to all my relationships. To build and maintain relationships, there needs to be a value exchange, and I like the leverage of providing more of that value.
A way to start thinking like this is to ask yourself, "How do I over-deliver so my partner says good things about me behind my back?" That was important to me when collaborating with Apple and with K-Swiss and will continue with everything else I develop moving forward.
When you give more — without expectation of reciprocation — you're in a more powerful position. You need less and people value you more. In life or business, give first.
Also, know that some things are non-negotiable; one way to know is if it makes you uncomfortable. Don't do things that make you feel gross. Always stay true to who you are.
2. Know who has more options
A lot of life is pure Game Theory. (There's a good book on this.) You have to understand what Nobel Prize Winner John Nash (portrayed in the movie, "A Beautiful Mind") clearly understood: you can't just think of things from your side of the negotiation; every action has an opposite, equal reaction.
First, you must be able to read the situation and know whether you're in a position of dominance or a place of submission. If you're in a position of dominance, you could proceed very aggressively because the other side has fewer options.
If you're in a position of subservience, you're going to have to be nicer, slower, and more patient. As Bruce Lee said, "Be like water." Patience is a powerful negotiation skill.
Ultimately, you need to know how to take the lead and say, "Take my price or get lost," and how to compromise. Assess the number of choices the other side has to know if you're in a position of dominance or submission. The more options I have, the less dominance you have.
3. Focus on the value you bring
Your ability to persuade others is a skill that's important to cultivate in all areas of your life, and one that affects all your relationships.
When negotiating anything, your goal is to come to an agreement by building value in your offer. The focal point of the negotiation should be the solution provided by your product, service, or idea — not the price or what you get.
The negotiation table can be loaded with agendas, egos, and emotions. Great negotiators know how to stay cool, provide leadership, and focus on solutions. Poor negotiators are preoccupied with the dynamics of the room and are insanely invested in personal agendas or useless emotions.
4. Discover what would make them say "yes"
Whether you're closing a small sale or a monster deal, it comes down to getting your client to open up and reveal to you precisely what would make them say "yes." That's the magic trick to negotiation or navigating any sale. And it's counterintuitively simple.
Most people go wrong by doing all the talking. They give their "best presentation," which feels like the right thing to do. That's the problem: most people are presenting what they think is essential to their customer, instead of asking their customer what exactly is important to them.
People want to talk about themselves. Play to that human need, and you will get all the insight you need to reveal your clients' "hot buttons." Once your client reveals their hot button, you can push it.
To get your customer to start talking, ask open-ended questions like: "What have you tried in the past that you liked?" or "What have you tried in the past that didn't work?" Another great question is: "Describe for me your ideal solution."
When your client contributes to 80 percent of the conversation, they are sure to reveal which parts of your solution will make them close the deal. You'll only get to this "inside information" if you let them do most of the talking. By listening, it will make your customer feel valued as if they've found the perfect solution they've been searching for!
5. Add non-essential terms
The key to closing monster deals is first to listen. Hear all sides and identify what core terms the other party wants.
Then, negotiate on core terms, but add in other, non-essential terms that might not be met, but you can use them as leverage to push for what's non-negotiable.
You can be firm on some things and more open-minded about others. Just never compromise your integrity. If the deal doesn't go through on your terms, there are plenty more deals to negotiate.
Also, always to mention that the deal is agreed upon but subject to board approval and can be renegotiated at any time; this earns you some wiggle room and time to reassess.
Creating win-win situations is an art form. Make sure the other side and you are both happy when leaving the negotiating table. Push the idea that great things will happen in the near future. Let the other side feel like they've won.
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