In Pictures: Seven Steps To Negotiating Success
Think negotiating is all bluff and bluster? Think again. According to Rony Ross, founder and executive chairman of Panorama Software, a provider of business intelligence software to 1,600 customers in 30 countries, the secret to successful negotiating is to take the ego out of the equation.
Ross developed this negotiating strategy early in her career. With an MBA and background in computer science, she was one of few women working in the high-tech space. “It was very competitive, predominantly male and full of young, egoistic people,” she recalls. “As a woman, I faced several disadvantages. Even though I was as ambitious as the rest, overt ambition or assertiveness was interpreted as aggressiveness.”
She developed a successful data-analysis software through her start-up Panorama, and in mid 1996, Microsoft came knocking. After a three-hour product demo, the Microsoft team took Ross out to lunch and offered to buy her company. “Panorama had only 20 employees then, and Microsoft was a giant company,” says Ross. “This was an extremely challenging opportunity for me to test my strategy.”
Not only did her negotiating approach work, Ross ended up with a decades-long partnership with the software giant. She says the technique serves any negotiation, from a raise request to a company buyout, and breaks down exactly how it works.
Keep The Discussion Results-Oriented
“You have to be very comfortable with yourself to deal with something without any ego, but it really works wonders for me,” says Ross. She recommends keeping the focus of the negotiation solely on results and what would make the best long-term deal for both parties. By taking the emphasis off the people involved and keeping it on the facts, the negotiation is less likely to become hostile. While it’s easy to take things personally—considering that most business negotiations hinge on assigning a value to you or your product—it’s important that you don’t confuse yourself with the issue.
Be Wise, Not Smart
“Always show respect and understanding for the other party,” Ross advises. Framing the negotiation around mutual interests rather than your interest alone helps both sides feel good about it. And if you’re respectful, it’s more likely the other side will reciprocate. Ross also recommends that negotiators “be wise, not smart.” Rather than looking for short-term gratification that bolsters the ego—like assuming a power posture or making a joke at another’s expense—keep your eye trained on the end result.
Put Your Concerns On The Table
Being the smaller party, Ross felt threatened by Microsoft. She worried it might not follow through with the deal and instead develop its own product, which would likely put her out of business. She decided to admit it. She voiced her fears and said, “I’m concerned, and I don’t know what to do about the situation.” The next day, the Microsoft team came back to her with statistics. Out of all the deals they’d started in the last year, they’d closed all but two. They also provided her with contact information of others who’d gone through the process with them, so that she could speak with them and feel more at ease. Says Ross, “Every time I ran into an issue, I turned it over to them and said, ‘I have a problem; help me deal with it.’”
Avoid “I” Statements
“I’ve been in so many negotiations with men who start with ‘I want this, and I want that,’” says Ross. “If you talk instead about how ‘we need to reach a solution,’ it’s a very different approach. It doesn’t gratify your ego requirements, but it reaches a much better deal.” Ultimately, she turned the deal into a technology acquisition and held on to her company. Ross also leveraged a long-term product development partnership with Microsoft, which wouldn’t have been possible had they left the table feeling bullied, offended or put off by how she handled it.
Engage With Your Body Language
Over the years, Ross has noticed that oftentimes people in negotiations lean back in their chairs rather than forward, which puts a physical distance between themselves and the other side. However, she tries to communicate openness and interest by sitting on the edge of her chair, placing her elbows on the table and leaning into the conversation. “With my words, eyes and body language, it’s all about engagement,” she says.
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