The last year has seen some mammoth business deals. From The Walt Disney Company snapping up 21st Century Fox for $85 billion to AT&T closing a $108 billion merger with Time Warner, boardrooms around the world have been buzzing. And, at the heart of each and every one of these big-budget deals, there has been a personal level to proceedings; two groups of people hashing it out together.
And, while it can be difficult to imagine the pressure on the individuals at the centre of these compromises and contracts, there are certain tricks and techniques you can employ to ensure things swing your way. So, if you’ve got a big business meeting on the horizon (albeit probably nothing in the billions) here are 9 ways to make sure you come out on top.
1. Set the bar
You need to know your worth during a negotiation. If your product or services are worth a certain amount, make sure that you set the bar significantly higher and don’t go below what you know you’re worth.
There’s a common misconception that, when bargaining, you should wait for a figure to be put on the table and then work with that. But if you set this first figure, you not only side step any awkward undercutting, but also establish yourself as the power player in the meeting. Think of it like tennis, serving gives you an instant advantage.
2. Be specific
Again, when you’re negotiating, or putting a counter-offer on the table, you need to be specific. Don’t waffle or wave around a certain number, or offer a price range — give them a firm, exact number.
This will avoid confusion, complications and problems later on. Know your numbers, stay on top of any figures that might impact the deal and negotiate in clear, decisive denominations.
3. Get emotional
Making decisions in business obviously relies heavily on logic. You can’t be a savvy entrepreneur or negotiator and not follow the facts and figures. But you shouldn’t underestimate the importance of emotion; itself a powerful factor when winning over a prospective client or partner.
An emotional understanding of how people work can be invaluable across a boardroom table. If things start going south, observe the situation on a social level and alter your strategy accordingly.
4. A firm handshake
We all know the power of a good handshake. And research has shown that this bastion of the business world is a surefire way to make a good impression. Themselves an action of shared and universal body language, a strong handshake assures those you meet that you’re competent, trustworthy and opens the door for a positive professional relationship.
Keep it simple. Be the first to extend your hand, clasp the other person’s hand in a firm (but not painfully firm) grip and shake up and down three times. Maintain eye contact, drop the hand and get on with the meeting.
5. Stay in character
If a phone rings in a theatre, an actor never breaks character. You should be operating by the same principle in the boardroom. You’ll inevitably be hit by unwelcome news or bad offers, hard negotiators or unwelcome distractions during the course of a business meeting, but you must roll with these punches professionally.
Remember, you are the figurehead, the mouthpiece of your brand — so you must remain in ‘character’, as it were. Maintain your composure, control your actions and never lose your cool.
6. Dress to impress
Another tip that should go without saying: it’s not just your handshake that gives off an important first impression. Barrel into the boardroom with a head of unkempt hair, un-ironed shirt and an ill-fitting suit and nobody will take you seriously.
It’s hard to respect a lack of attention to detail and clear absence of ambition. So, if you want your clients to take you seriously, respect the sanctity and importance of the meeting — run a comb through your hair, buy a good suit and iron your shirt. If you look better than anyone else in the room, you’ve already got the upper hand.
7. I win, you whatever
We know this almost runs counter to a point above, but you shouldn’t get too emotional. It can pay to establish long-term relationships in business, but never let these friendships cloud your judgement when it comes to business. At the end of the day, you must remain mercenary.
Operate with a philosophy of ‘I win; You whatever’. This way, you’ll never become too sentimental or sacrificial mid-negotiation — and will always walk out of the room with the deal you wanted.
8. Play their hand
When brokering a business deal, it’s important to know your stance back-to-front. But it’s just as important to know where the other side is bargaining from. Treat every deal like a game of poker — if you know what cards they’re holding, you can react accordingly and stay ahead of the game.
Do your due diligence, watch their body language carefully and figure out any ‘tells’ they might have. Then, when you reach crunch time, you can call their bluff.
9. Don’t come across as fake
It’s true that more deals have been forged through friendship and familiarity than strong-arming and power play, but if you don’t have a sound, personal relationship with the person on the other side of the table, try not to force it.
Do that, and you’ll come across as invasive and fake. If you haven’t got an existing connection, you can’t conjure one up as a last resort — that’s boundary-crossing of the highest order.
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