Black Belt Negotiating

How would you like an extra $5,000 or more a year? This money can be earned simply by becoming a better negotiator, yet most people in the United States rarely take advantage of the power of bargaining, except on rare occasions when making large purchases like cars and houses. In other countries, like Asia, people there negotiate everything everyday and save thousands.

Negotiating is like a martial arts contest where power, leverage and timing can mean the difference between winning and losing. For instance, a martial artist would never go into a contest without first spying on his opponent to find weaknesses. In the same way, you can gain bargaining power by doing your homework. If you’re buying a diamond ring, for example, find out how long the ring has been on display, the standard profit margin on jewelry and how badly the owner wants to sell it. Finding answers to questions like these could save a lot of money.

Before engaging in contest a martial artist warms up by stretching. Likewise, a savvy negotiator warms up by building rapport and finding common ground with the other party, because people like to do business with people they like.

Next, fighters will cautiously probe each other looking for weaknesses. In bargaining this is done by throwing offers onto the table to see how the other party reacts. Experienced fighters often use guile to lure their opponents into range by pretending a blow has hurt them more than it really did. Similarly, a negotiator could pretend to be shocked by an opponent’s offer to get her to come up or go down in price. Visibly showing surprise or hurt is called flinching and it used by master bargainers to gain concessions without giving up anything.

Martial artists are taught to read the body language of their opponents so they can see a blow before it is unleashed. Experienced negotiators can literally read the other party’s mind by watching body language and listening carefully. If a seller says, “My price is $500 but make me an offer” you know their price is flexible before you even start. Without saying a word their body language can also tell you if they like or dislike any offer you make.

Martial artists do not believe in win-win and neither should you. Even when sparring their best friend they want to give their best effort. When bargaining, fight for the best deal possible assuming that the other party will take care of themselves because they will.

Fighters are supremely aware of time and try to use it to their advantage by saving as much energy as possible for the last few seconds of a round when they can score points against a tired opponent. Black belt negotiators put their opponents under time pressure by setting deadlines. A car buyer might visit the dealership only an hour before a doctor’s appointment so the dealer must give his best offer before the customer leaves, likely never to return.

In martial arts, as in life, there are unfair fighters who will do anything to win, so you must protect yourself at all times. Negotiators must be aware of unfair tactics such as nibbling, which is asking for concessions after an agreement has been reached. If this happens to you just remember this blocking technique, “Before you give a concession – get a concession.” For example, if a seller says, “Couldn’t you give me just twenty five dollars more because I’m not making any money on this deal?” you can respond with, “If I did, would you throw in the extended warranty?”

Finally, when a contest ends, fighters will bow to each other as a sign of respect as if to say, “You were a worthy opponent” which makes both contestants feel good whether they won or lost. Negotiators should also congratulate the other party for having gotten a good deal. Otherwise he might change his mind and go back on the agreement.

Just like becoming an accomplished martial artist, achieving black belt status in negotiating takes practice. Every time you pull out your wallet ask yourself if this is an opportunity to hone your bargaining skills. If it is – get out there and earn a black belt!

Copyright (c) 2007 Michael Soon Lee