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Negotiating during the new normal

With the current pandemic, business conditions are undeniably challenging. This situation has brought forth a “tug-of-war” type of differing mentalities between transac­ting parties: manufacturer and wholesaler, wholesaler and retailer, retailer and customer, manager and employee, etc.

There is now a pressure-packed scenario of low demand coupled with moun­ting obligations from different parties. While some conglomerates are extending support, some companies or individuals are taking advantage of the situation to jockey for more discounts, lessening agreed orders, delaying payments, or worse, avoiding paying past due invoices.

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How do we handle this dilemma, given that most of us are still working from home? How could we be effective negotiators without the usual face-to-face cues?

We asked Jeff Chua, an entrepreneur and expert on sales and human resource management, for his inputs.

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Negotiation is the ability to communicate effectively with the other party to explore common interests, needs and differences and influence them to reach a mutual agreement. This ability has become even more paramount during this time.

Because the context has changed during this pande­mic, it is important to revisit the current position of your business and change or modify the method that could help you achieve your desired outcome and at the same time save the business relationship.

Here are some things to think about:

1. Assess your strategic positionAssess the key issues with clarity. These are some questions that must be answered before you talk to the other party: What special problems and opportunities exist? What sort of objectives should we set? How high should we aim? These questions will help cla­rify what you want.

Then consider the strategies and tactics on how you will approach the negotiation. Consider the strategic implications of each option. Determine the frequency and repeat business with the other party. Analyze your bargaining strength versus the other party. How important is the deal? How far into the future will the impact be, of a decision made today? And how much time do you have?

2. Develop your alternativesBefore entering into a negotiation, you must know your options and alternatives. It involves knowing what you will or won’t do if an agreement isn’t reached. It will help you gauge when to walk away and when a deal makes sense. What you want is of course, the most favorable outcome for your side.

3. Maximize influencing and negotiation tacticsEach negotiation may require different tactics, depen­ding on the parties and issues involved. A variety of tactics if executed properly can help lead to mutually beneficial agreements. One powerful tactic is “framing.” It is positioning a solution in terms of a certain perspective, such as showcasing a “win-win” solution for all parties, highlighting gains versus losses, or pointing out a positive outcome versus a negative.

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Note that even though the communication between parties may be limited to a phone call or an online meet, all the above principles and tips still apply. In the end, the most important part in negotiation is building trust with the other party, regardless of the means of communication. It is still possible to show genuine inte­rest in the other’s point of view. We could continue to ask good questions to probe for information and shared interest. And always think in terms of abundance rather than scarcity.

Chua will conduct a virtual workshop on “Effective Negotiation Skills: Applying the Different Styles of Negotiation for Everyday Application at Work” on Aug. 6-7.

For more information about the workshop and schedule of online courses offered by Inquirer Academy, please email [email protected], or call (0945) 2158935 and look for Jerald Miguel. INQ

The author is the executive director of the Inquirer Academy.

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