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In every medical practice or healthcare business, negotiation is essential. And negotiation techniques aren’t typically taught in medical school. I’ve learned my negotiating skills in the school of hard knocks, over a thirty-year career in health entrepreneurship. But I want to help you avoid the mistakes I’ve made negotiating employee salaries and benefits, vendor contracts, and lease agreements.
I’ve learned — sometimes the hard way — the terms have a direct impact on your bottom line. That means you must know how to negotiate and continue to sharpen your skills so you’re always getting better. You can never be too good at it. In fact, overconfidence is one of the most common mistakes made in business negotiations — so it doesn’t hurt to hone your negotiation techniques no matter how experienced you are in business.
Know what negotiation should accomplish,
Do you view negotiation as a win/lose scenario? If so, I’m sorry to inform you that you’re doing it wrong. You shouldn’t strive to win a negotiation, even though you are trying to get something you want, because negotiation should benefit both sides. The goal is not to take advantage or manipulate. You should view negotiating as a mutual agreement to ensure each party gives a little and potentially gains a lot.
Practice saying no.
A negotiation should never be something you can’t walk away from — and that means you’ll need to practice saying no. If you’re a natural people pleaser, it can be tough to say no. However, if someone is asking you to flex to their terms in a way you’re uncomfortable with, you should be prepared to walk away. Practicing saying no in everyday situations — such as when a friend asks you to help him move but you simply do not have the time — can allow you to reduce the emotional weight of saying no and be prepared to do it when there is much more at stake than an afternoon of your time.
Do Your Research, Every Time
Though negotiation is an act of collaboration and cooperation, you still should not look weak or ill-prepared for negotiation talks. To avoid frequent “um”s and pauses in your presentation and counter offers, do your research prior to each and every negotiation. Talking to an employee about his salary and discussing your rental agreement with your landlord are two very different tasks, so they will require their own research and preparation.
- Know who you will be talking to – You will always want to listen to the other party to understand their needs, but a little research doesn’t hurt. Whether you are negotiating with a company or an individual, you can learn about the other party’s leverage points, motivations, and other unique circumstances to know what they really want before you even begin talking.
- Know the market – Having recent, real-life market examples to bring to the table in a negotiation can be powerful, since these will assure the other party that a better deal is not likely to be had. A few minutes researching the market could be the difference between securing a deal and having someone walk away from your offer.
Prepare Your Best Alternatives
A good negotiator will know that you can’t always get what you want, even if you are an exceptionally smooth talker. That’s why you should head into negotiations with a best alternative scenario, so you have a baseline for when to accept or reject an offer.