Negotiate For Success Rather Than a “Win”

By Steven E. Sacks, CPA, CGMA, ABC

We enter into negotiations every day without realizing it; whether it is on a professional or personal basis. Irrespective of whether it is a contractual transaction between a company and vendor or if a husband and wife are deciding on which couch to buy, each side is seeking to gain something. Neither side may get everything it wants because an all-or-nothing-at-all approach will be a barrier to making any progress.

Negotiating involves getting and keeping agreements that work for all parties. You can get agreement but the issue is whether you can maintain the agreement and the relationship built around it. Both sides need to have a sense of “victory,” or at the very least, neither side feels that it lost. Because if this should occur then further conflict will result.

Here are some common mistakes when negotiating.

Besides avoiding the “I-win-you-lose” approach, avoid using ego or overconfidence because this will give you an inflated view of your position.

Don’t try to predict what the other party will say and thus create an untenable position for yourself, such as conceding on points that you may think have no importance for yourself but actually with strengthen the other party’s hand.

Related to the last point is making unrealistic assumptions. Think about your preconceived notions and the assumptions the other party might have and run them all through a reality filter to see which ones should be put aside. But it is important to have a clear picture of the position of the other party.

Do not be inflexible. Listen. Listen. Listen. The other party may raise a discussion point you never considered, which may enhance the quality of the transaction for both sides.

Last, if you will make a concession, give a reason for your action so the other side does not see you as a weak and will try to take more advantage of you in other areas. This will also raise doubt about your credibility in further negotiations.

Mental Preparation

Successful negotiating requires that to do scenario planning with yourself. “If he says this, I should counter with that.” Be clear and logical in your position, stay on point and be focused. Make sure the questions you ask are relevant. This requires you listen carefully and completely. Do not think of more questions as you are listening to an answer. It requires holding two thoughts simultaneously. Maybe you can do it, but you are sure to miss nuances.

You will want to create a framework in your mind as to the possible direction the negotiations will take. You may be facilitating the sale or purchase of a practice, dealing with a vendor, or be in some other situation where compromise and consensus is necessary.

In a slightly different take, when it’s all said and done, if only one side is happy, you have not done your job. On the other hand—this may sound counterintuitive—you may have created the right situation if both parties come away feeling less than one-hundred percent satisfied.

About Steve

Steven Sacks is the CEO of Solutions to Results, LLC, a consultancy that specializes in helping individuals, firms and organizations meet the challenges of communicating with clarity and purpose. Visit his website at