A business broker's perspective on negotiating for non-negotiators

As business brokers and business valuation experts located in Columbia, Maryland and Princeton, New Jersey we do a lot of negotiating.  This article is part of a series on negotiation.

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We often fail to get what we want in negotiations because we do not decide what we want (and do not want) in advance.

Clear Thinking: The next reason we often fail in negotiations is that we do not know what we want to accomplish prior to the conversation. Comments like, “gee I wish I had offered more” or, “now that I think about it I should have tried to keep him harder” may indicate that problem. In many negotiations it is very hard to separate our emotions from a rational assessment of the facts. We fear losing things that appear important to us. We tend to undervalue getting things that might be easy. At this point, you’re just negotiating with yourself, not where you want to be. When you combine the lack of planning with emotion and emotional responses to situations it is a wonder people ever get what they want through negotiation.

The most effective solution to this is simple but not always easy. At the start of a conversation know what your goal is, where you want to go. Also, know what your bottom line walk away point is.

Yes, plan for your negotiation or conversation. If you are not ready, buy a little time. There is very little that must be decided this second. If you find yourself in an important negotiation and you have not planned, or if upon inquiring about the wants and needs of the other side you realize your earlier planning may not be on point, ask for a break to think. Depending on the situation you might ask for 10 minutes or perhaps a few days. Whatever is appropriate, ask and then plan. Step back, let your emotions cool and decide. Be careful about adjusting your walk away line unless it really is a different situation than you thought. I saw many companies take very large losses in 2010 and 2011 from exceptionally low bids made in 2009. The logic was bid low and make up the lack of margin on volume. Unfortunately all anyone did was lose money. A clear example of why you should not lower your walk away line.

Once we know what we want and what the other side wants we can begin negotiating. There are many “techniques” to negotiating. Some techniques are quite effective and really just ways to communicate clearly and others are cheesy tricks and of little use particularly in long term relationships.

Take away: have clear objectives including your downside walk away line which provides discipline and focus in negotiation.


Gregory R Caruso, Esq., CPA, CVA
Business Brokerage, Business Valuation