Perfecting your approach – the art and science of negotiation

Phil Friedman, President & CEO, CGS

Perfecting your approach – the art and science of negotiation

Leaders must negotiate on a daily basis – with customers, suppliers and partners. While some leaders may have the innate ability to negotiate, it’s the experience, need and perseverance that create the strongest, most-respected negotiators. Over the past 32 years as a business owner and CEO, I’ve learned that you can never stop perfecting your approach.

The most common mistake in negotiation is when you negotiate with yourself. If you’re discussing a contract with a potential customer, you should have in mind a set price and parameters. If the customer makes you go through three, four or five cycles, make sure that it remains a conversation between the two parties and not one that you have with yourself. If you start negotiating with yourself to move the deal along and stretch outside of your comfort zone of set parameters, you will always lose.

It may seem like common sense, but all expert negotiators must do their homework – and this doesn’t just mean research about the other party or financial numbers. Truly skilled negotiators will research, dissect and understand the dynamics of the deal and what competition they might be up against. Can this potential customer or partner get the same type of product or service somewhere else? What is the added value to their company and mine if the partnership goes through? If the potential partner or customer doesn’t have a lot of options, you are in a better position to negotiate. On the other hand, if the other party has a lot of options, you will need to skillfully and artfully navigate the deal.

Finally, and most crucial, is recognizing and knowing that negotiation is both an art and a science. In the end, there should be no losers in a successful negotiation in order for the deal to be sustainable and beneficial to both parties involved. For this to be true, neither party should feel as though they compromised. While flexibility shows good face in any negotiation, it should not be a knee-jerk reaction to a difficult negotiation process. Rather, it needs to be a well-founded way to give both parties the satisfaction of a fair and equitable deal. Taking a break during difficult, tiring, back-and-forth negotiations is also a very effective way to reassess your position and find a way to resolve any impasse. The art of negotiation takes both patience and rationale. Sometimes the slowest negotiation process can have the best outcome for both parties because neither has decided to just “split the difference” or settle. Each party has agreed to a mutually beneficial, sustainable and successful partnership without conceding.

After working through countless deals and closing over 30 successful acquisitions, I have learned that there is no better way to become a skilled negotiator than experience. One cannot rely on innate ability alone. As any leader begins to learn, and later master, the art and science of negotiation, it’s crucial to remember to understand the dynamics of the deal: Never negotiate against yourself and be patient.  While at times it might feel like an uphill battle, in the end, the price of success is hard work.

About the Author

Phil Friedman was born and raised in the former Soviet Union. After spending 12 years in numerous positions in the electronics industry, he immigrated to the United States and settled in New York City. In 1984, Mr. Friedman started CGS, a diversified IT solutions and services company providing software, consulting, systems integration, training and help desk support. Today, with over to 7,500 professionals and a global presence spanning North America, South America, Europe, Middle East and Asia, CGS maintains a leadership position delivering end-to-end, award-winning solutions in over 40 countries around the globe.