Negotiating Tips for Small Businesses

Negotiating Tips for Small Businesses


Recently, I met with several entrepreneurs who have been in business for several years and are respected for their innovation, expertise, and assertiveness in their respective areas. As we discussed a multitude of challenges and joys of owning a small business, one theme seemed common among the group. The negotiation process appeared to be everyone’s weak spot, and all agreed they wanted improvement, more practice, and better results.

We came up with a list of the Top Five Negotiation Tips

1. First, Ask What The Other Party Wants

Obviously you will have done your due diligence and have had prior conversations about objectives before the meeting. The first thing out of your mouth, however, should be, “What you want? You may think it is a redundant question, but ask again. Don’t make any assumptions.

2. Communicate Clearly

My colleagues agreed that being clear from the outset is the best way to avoid confusion and unrealistic expectations. It is always a good idea to present your capabilities and the deliverables early in the conversation. Therefore, if a proposal is put on the table that is not feasible for your company or does not fit your needs, it will become apparent fairly quickly.

3. Appreciate Silence During Negotiation

Let’s face it. Sometimes people talk too much. Whether it is nerves; or they like to hear themselves talk; they are trying to assert authority; or a variety of other reasons. During a negotiation, use silence to your advantage. Human nature is to fill the silence with needless information and they may drop the price without asking. You can learn a lot about people by how they fill silence.

4. Clarify and Confirm

Sounds like common sense? You would be surprised that after an hour conversation, there may be confusion regarding expectations. I always ask clarifying questions to make sure I have correctly understood their objectives. At the end of the meeting, I will repeat again, “Just to confirm, I will do x, y, and z and you will be responsible for a, b, and c. Have I summed up our conversation correctly?”

5. Smile

Why do people equate having a tough exterior with a sour puss face? I love to smile and I laugh a lot. I find that a smile is warm, disarming, yet professional. My colleagues agreed that a nice disposition contributes to companies wanting to do business with you. A smile is not a sign of weakness, but an appearance of confidence.

Remember, negotiation does not have to be painful. It’s just a normal course of business.

Enjoy the ride.