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Five Steps To Better Negotiating

Furniture World Magazine


Can you get what you want—when you want—every time you want it? Of course not! However, you can use these five techniques to advance your goals more of often.

Rarely do people agree to our requests with the snap of a finger, a nod of the head or a smile. And sometimes, just getting little tasks done the way we want them to be done requires much more energy and effort than is necessary. Perhaps you can relate!

This was often the case in my business and personal life. Even talking my way through an end goal with my husband or kids could be exhausting. And, if you are a worst-case scenario, control-freak planner like me, the energy used to prepare before asking for something can effectively light up a major city for a few hours!

Make it Easier

Wouldn’t it be easier to get what we want exactly when we want it? That would be amazing. However, to do that more often, a focus on negotiating skills is required. Generally speaking, mastering these much-needed yet under-utilized skills can come in handy in more ways than you might think.

Some examples include negotiating with a business partner in your retail operation, an unhappy family member on your board, a sales manager who just received an offer from a competitor or your teenage son or daughter.

Honing Skills

Honing negotiation skills should begin with setting an intention. The best negotiators in our industry intend to achieve good results for everyone involved without resorting to manipulation or dishonesty. Getting what you want while damaging your credibility or reputation is a bad result, no matter the circumstances.

Skilled negotiators plan the presentation method they will use to get the desired outcomes. They start the process with a conversation to establish ground rules for the ‘ask’ and explain why the negotiation is important to them or their company.

Since both sides in any negotiation want to ‘win,’ here are five well-tested steps that will improve your chances of achieving your goals:

Establish a Relationship

Knowing the person you are negotiating with is a critical part of the process. Understanding what makes them tick is the best thing you can do to move the process forward. Be open and honest. Everything you say should come from a position of integrity and sincerity. You are best positioned for success when the other party respects and trusts you, which begins with developing a healthy relationship.

Be Respectful and Polite

Never underestimate the natural ability of other people to sense who you really are. Those who attempt to be someone ELSE will easily be unmasked. Dishonesty is a red flag in any negotiation and will keep you from accomplishing your goals.

Find the ‘Win’ for Both

Everyone likes to win! So, when considering what you are trying to accomplish, think about how to also find a ‘win’ for them. Understanding what both parties need is vital to creating successful outcomes. It also makes the process much easier. The best outcome is that both parties end up on the same side of the fence.

Be Prepared

Deciding well in advance what you want to accomplish gives you the time YOU NEED to think about and practice how you want to approach a negotiation. The more you anticipate difficult questions, the better equipped you will be to handle them. Practicing in advance will reduce stress and anxiety. Don’t decide to just ‘wing it’ or you will run the risk of losing to someone who is better prepared.

Know When to Stop Talking

People feel very uncomfortable when talking stops and a room becomes silent in the middle of a conversation. However, be aware that silence, injected at just the right time, can be the most effective tool in any negotiation process! It is your cue to keep quiet. Give the other party time to consider everything you have said and await their response.

I’ve found that considered thought, preparation, a little luck and, yes, determination for a win go a long way.

“Be aware that silence, injected at just the right time, can be the most effective tool in any negotiation process! It’s your cue to keep quiet!”

Negotiation Example

Here’s an example from my experience as a senior executive for a large furniture manufacturing firm.

Situation: An agreement was reached with a furniture retailer for a major product placement in more than a hundred of its retail locations. In return, we (the manufacturer) agreed to provide a substantial product discount on floor samples. About a month after our products arrived and the retailer’s program was launched, we received some potentially bad news. An entirely new team had replaced the buying team we negotiated with to design and plan this program.

Change of Plan: A few weeks later, it became official. We were told that the new team had chosen a new manufacturing partner and discontinued our program.

Result: We now faced the possibility of losing hundreds of thousands of dollars on the highly discounted floor samples that had already been shipped. We intended to recover this investment through anticipated future sales.

Five Steps

Steps 1 & 2 - Genuine, Respectful and Polite Relationship: I reached out to the retailer’s most senior-level executive, thanking her for the opportunity to work with her team and for the chance to become a valued manufacturing partner.

Step 3 - Preparation: Starting with a review of the situation, I presented her with documentation, including:

  • A list of the floor sample discounts they had already received.

  • The timeline of events following the initial agreement, including their previous buying and merchandising team’s long-term commitment.

  • An overview of the loss we faced because of our good-faith investment.

I hoped this would help build a respectful relationship to advance our case. Since we had not met or worked together before, it was the best chance to get her to consider our “ask.”

Step 4 - Win-Win: Trying to find a ‘win-win’ for us both, I requested reimbursement for 75% of the total value of the floor sample discounts that we offered and suggested they keep the other 25% of the value to use as promotional discounts to sell off the floor samples. I then offered another promotional incentive for future product development should they negotiate a new program with us. Finally, I requested that we schedule a conference call once they reviewed all the information.

Step 5 — Stop Talking: The retail executive contacted us within 24 hours of receiving the documents and scheduled a call. I said very little during that call, other than to ask if she had any questions. Now was the time for her to take the lead. Long story short, she accepted the offer, reimbursed us for the requested amount and continued to do business with us for years to come.

Getting Consistent Results

This process works, BUT it only achieves consistent results when time is taken to carefully consider all options and implement each of the five points listed above.

Negotiation is all about building and nurturing relationships. Every player can win by cultivating and maintaining a good rapport at the table. A successful negotiation achieves more than just coming to an agreement. It can establish you as a top-ranked businessperson and protect your hard-earned reputation. Good luck with your next negotiation!

“Everyone likes to win! So, when considering what you are trying to accomplish, think about how to also find a ‘win’ for them.”

Lorri Kelley has over 25 years of experience in various C-level, executive and marketing positions with some of the most exceptional companies in the home furnishings industry. Through her company, Lorri Kelley Advisors, she provides guidance and leadership to companies and individuals passionate about achieving business excellence. Through her Executive Coaching Program, she provides the foundation to equip, educate and empower professionals to accomplish goals and aspirations, drawn from years of experience. Lorri serves as a Board of Director member for GigaCloud Technology, WithIT, City of Hope and the Furniture Prayer Breakfast. Find out more at www.lorrikelley.com.