Negotiate Powerfully

April 10, 2007
Regardless of why people interact, when they do, someone’s selling or buying.
On-the-spot negotiations or extended give-and-take, or even both, might follow. Whatever unfolds, though, each side’s desire to win drives the bargaining. 

Roger Dawson, who is in the Hall of Fame of the National Speakers Association and whom “Success” magazine called “America’s premier business negotiator,” believes you can win, if you’re prepared. “We gain power in the negotiating process by learning the rules of the game, how and when to apply them, and how to recognize and de­fend against them when they are used against us,” he says. Chief executive of the Power Negotiating Institute Inc. (, in Placentia, Calif., Dawson has authored 14 books, including “Secrets of Power Negotiating” from Career Press ( Three stagesEvery negotiation involves three stages, explains Dawson, whose clients have included IBM, Oracle, the Petroleum Equipment Institute, Siemens and Sun Microsystems. Stage one, establish the criteria. Stage two, seek information. Stage three, reach for compromise. But to win, you’d better know and use some basic negotiating principles. Dawson’s first should be apparent: Find out what the other side wants—and don’t commit until you must. Second, in contract negotiations, at every revision, read the whole document. Better yet, as his third principle suggests, gain power by writing the contract to be negotiated. Fourth, remember that “dumb is smart,” which means don’t act like a slick know-it-all. Fifth, don’t change your offer except in response to a specific counter offer that, pref­erably, you got in writing.Prevent your body from betraying your words is his sixth principle. Carefully watch for changed body language in your counter­parts across the table, Dawson counsels. “It’s not how they’re sitting that matters, it’s how they change the way they’re sitting.” For sure, they’re watching your non-verbal talk.Look for the “funny money,” sums up Dawson’s seventh principle. When you’re the seller, that means breaking things down to “the ridiculous level,” he advises. When you’re the buyer, caveat emptor—or “don’t fall for it when you’re buying,” he warns.Dawson’s “seeing trumps hearing” eighth principle hinges on how highly he values the printed word. “People believe things they see in writing that they won’t believe when they just hear it,” he remarks. He also notes that in negotiations being conducted by telephone, referring to what’s written establishes your credibility.

Hitting pay dirt, though, means adhering to Dawson’s ninth prin­ciple: Keep your eye on the ball. To accentuate that, he offers a quote he attributes to former U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher: “It’s okay to get upset with people in a negotiation, as long as you’re in control and you’re doing it as a specific negotiating technique. It’s when you get upset and lose control that you always lose in a ne­gotiation.”To help others get and maintain that control, Dawson makes available at more than 20 free articles on negotiating. Besides “Basic Negoti­ating Principles,” “Ask for More” and “Bracketing Your Objec­tive,” some others include: “Why It’s a Mistake to Offer to Split the Difference,” “Unethical Negotiating Gambits and How to Protect Against Them,” “How to Stop People from Grind­ing on You in Negotiations” and “To Win in Negotiations, Learn How to Taper Concessions.”Being in control also means you’ve also got to do some acting, in person or by telephone. In “Flinching” Dawson suggests, “Flinch in reaction to a proposal from the other side. They may not expect to get what they’re asking for, but if you don’t show surprise, you’re communicating that it’s a possibility.”C. Kenna Amos,