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This economy is separating the weak from the strong, even when it comes to negotiating business related deals. In the boom years, many average sales people looked like stellar sales people and didn’t have to negotiate much. All that has changed. It is becoming more and more evident that people want a whole lot more from you to get that deal. What should you do? Follow these pearls of wisdom that helped make many business men and women very successful.

Best Practice #1 – Get past needing to compete:   Competition, while a part of the negotiation process, can destroy long-term relationships, which in turn can destroy your bottom line. Therefore, you must be able to balance competition against the desire to foster long term relationships.

Best Practice #2 – Get down to the real issue:   Separate the real issue—the driving force of the negotiation—from the all the less important issues that take up time. People intentionally and unintentionally play hide-the-ball when bargaining. It is your job to find that ball, i.e. the real issue at stake.

Best Practice #3 — Know and use your leverage:  It surprising how little people really know about their sources of leverage. Even more surprising, those who have leverage don’t know how to appropriately use that leverage. Leverage is more than throwing your weight around. It is your ability to get a deal on your terms.

Best Practice #4 – Don’t assume that people will act in rational ways:   We’ve all dealt with people who are emotional and irrational. Yet, we continue to use reason to make our point. You cannot use rational arguments with people who have an emotional charge. It just doesn’t work. Recognize that some issues cannot be solved using reason alone. You must be able to separate the emotional from the rational.

Best Practice #5 – Things are not black and white:  Life is lived in shades of gray. Americans in particular like to talk in terms of the “bottom line”, “bullet points” and “principles”. The reality is that what you are negotiating is not likely a black and white issue. There will be nuances and shades of gray.

Best Practice #6 – Don’t let bad things linger:  Problems just get worse the longer they linger—they don’t go away. Take the attitude, “Let’s get this settled before matters get any worse.” It will save you and your company a lot of time and money.

Best Practice #7 – Let bygones be bygones:  Let go of hard feelings once someone does something to correct a wrong.  People make mistakes. People also do really stupid things, like denying responsibility for their obvious mistakes. People are also forgiving by nature. We would want someone to forgive us if we’d made a mistake. For the good of business, it is wise to let bygones be bygones.