In business, success often requires effective negotiation. According to Todd Camp, Chief Negotiation Officer at negotiating training consultancy Camp Negotiations, the deals one strikes today lead to the outcomes of tomorrow. This is why it’s important to set the most advantageous conditions in place from the beginning.
Since Camp helps businesses secure the best terms possible, his advice on how to negotiate can help business leaders of all kinds master this often misunderstood art. “Our approach can seem counterintuitive at first, but it works,” he asserts. “Indeed, it often results in stronger and longer-lasting business relationships than following a conventional model would.”
Say no to Unnecessary Compromise
The first step Camp and his team take is to diagnose any counterproductive mindsets that would impede clients from negotiating most effectively. For instance, in Camp’s experience, some tend to compromise too soon. “A lot of people assume arriving at an agreement means compromising,” he says, “but sometimes — perhaps even many times — compromise isn’t necessary.”
Similarly, Camp disabuses his clients of the notion that negotiations must involve power plays and leverage. “That’s not a good way to start or form a business relationship,” he says. “If you use leverage and power to try and force people into an agreement, that usually comes back to haunt you. When that type of thing comes up in negotiations, you can still negotiate, and we can help you figure out the best way to form agreements with folks that use those types of tactics, but we never recommend our clients use them themselves.”
On the other hand, some clients seek “win-win” solutions, which is another problem Camp immediately seeks to address. “In my experience, these agreements usually take advantage of one side,” he says. “That’s why a structured and more disciplined approach to negotiations is better.”
But how can people take this structured, disciplined approach?
Negotiations are Emotional Decisions
Instead of viewing negotiations as a game, Camp suggests they are a string of decisions. “In a negotiation, all parties have the right to veto,” he points out. “At any given time, one side can reject what the other asks them to agree to. But as expert negotiators, we understand these decisions can change. People can rethink their previous decisions.”
Importantly, Camp says, these decisions aren’t necessarily based exclusively on logic. “Neuroscience has taught us that decision-making is first and foremost emotional,” he explains. “Emotions play a key role.”
That’s why Camp helps clients understand and manage their own difficult emotions.
Build your Case in their World
To maximize the chances of agreement, he advises his clients to build their case in the other side’s world, not their own. “People don’t make decisions in your world — they make them in their own,” he says. “So we work very hard with our clients to ensure they’re getting into the world of the other party and understanding what’s important to them.”
Camp explains that if you center your case on how to help the other side, you can stake out “a very safe and valid position” from which to ask for your own objectives.
Ask the Right Questions
Toward this end, asking the right questions, followed by active listening to the other party, is a critical part of Camp’s strategy. “Interrogative questions that begin with what and how are the best,” he says. Ideally, the two are coupled together. “A what question without the answer to the how question is a start, but it doesn’t talk about the follow through,” he says.
In addition, he trains clients to avoid verb-led questions. These questions begin with a verb — for example, “Is this what you want?” or “Should we do this?” — and tend to generate “yes,” “no,” or “maybe” answers. Instead, he recommends changing these to interrogative questions that elicit more information.
The Best Chance for Win-Win Outcomes
In Camp’s experience, equating negotiations with gamesmanship and power plays can generate a lot of stress, anxiety, and fear. He takes the opposite approach, which many clients experience as a relief. “We help people find the most effective way to tell the truth,” he explains. “We never use bluffing tactics.”
In particular, this approach enables Camp Negotiations to assist people with a win-win or compromise-based mindset to evolve into more effective negotiators, even while facing aggressive people on the other side. “A lot of people who use bluffing and lying tactics don’t even realize they’re bluffing or lying until they see these tactics don’t work,” he says. “So we teach people how to respectfully push back on those types of personalities. Our method keeps you safe while allowing the negotiation to continue.”
By taking Camp’s novel approach, even those who might feel intimidated by negotiations can protect their own interests and secure the most advantageous terms for business deals. As Camp concludes, “If you like the idea of win-win agreements, our system probably gives you the best chance of achieving that. However, win-win is oftentimes not something you will know you achieved until months, if not years down the road as both parties get the chance to deliver on what they signed up to provide. Furthermore, there is no system behind win-win, it is a misused cliche and thus we hold no stock in it.”
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