Harnessing the power of professional negotiation


a strategic catalyst for business success

Life, in its multifaceted complexity, continuously presents us with a mosaic of negotiations. These negotiations range from casual discussions, such as picking a restaurant with friends, to more weighty decisions, like advocating for a salary increase at work or entering complex transactions. While some individuals exhibit a natural knack for negotiation, others struggle with articulating their needs or gathering the confidence to negotiate effectively. This deficiency can precipitate missed opportunities or unfavourable outcomes, embodying the adage of negotiation expert Chester L. Karrass: “In business as in life, you don’t get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate.”

In the fast-paced, highly competitive world of business, effective negotiation serves as a cornerstone of commercial success. A comprehensive survey conducted by Deloitte affirms this, with an overwhelming 85% of business executives endorsing the critical role of negotiation skills in achieving business success. However, it is a sobering reality that not all business owners possess this complex blend of technical knowledge, strategic acuity, and effective communication skills. This is where the expertise of a professional negotiator becomes pivotal.

Negotiations are embedded in the heart of most business transactions, acting as the lifeline that connects a company to its ecosystem. Be it procuring raw materials from a supplier, finalizing a contract with a potential client, or managing internal workforce dynamics, negotiations play an instrumental role in driving towards fair, profitable outcomes.

However, the complexity of these negotiations can be daunting. They can be time-consuming, emotionally charged, and laden with bureaucratic hurdles. When two or more parties with diverging interests sit at the negotiating table, tensions can flare, stalling the conversation and impeding resolution. Engaging a professional negotiator in such instances can provide the necessary diplomacy, expertise, and neutrality to navigate these choppy waters, giving businesses a distinct competitive advantage.

According to an insightful study conducted by Harvard Business Review, professional negotiators can yield considerably better deals than their less-experienced counterparts. The study illuminated that seasoned negotiators were able to boost profits by an impressive 42% on average, compared to a modest 28% profit increase for less experienced negotiators.

This substantial disparity underscores that hiring a professional negotiator is not an extraneous cost but a strategic investment that ensures more favourable outcomes. By driving higher profits and delivering a greater return on investment, the services of a professional negotiator ultimately pay for themselves.

A skilled negotiator does not plunge into the negotiation process unprepared. Instead, they adopt a strategic approach by initially identifying the client’s desired outcomes. These may include a BATNA (Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement) and a Wish List, a catalogue of other beneficial objectives the client hopes to achieve from the negotiation.

The post-negotiation phase involves an analysis of the outcomes against these predetermined objectives, providing an empirical evaluation of the efficacy of the professional negotiator’s involvement.

Organizations with a formal negotiation process tend to perform better in achieving their desired outcomes. These entities approach negotiations equipped with clearly defined targets, a robust strategy, and a capable team entrusted with executing this strategy.

In my experience of leading teams in large and complex negotiations it is my observation that clients who approach negotiation with clear achievable targets, a strategy and a team capable of executing the strategy nearly always achieve their goals.

A survey conducted by the International Association for Contract and Commercial Management echoes this observation. Organizations with a formal negotiation process in place boasted an 89% success rate in achieving their desired outcomes, compared to a significantly lower success rate of 68% for organizations lacking such a process.

Professional negotiators wield the power to not just secure better deals but also to weave stronger relationships between businesses and their clients or partners -“The art of negotiation is not about winning or losing, but about creating a solution that benefits all parties involved.” Unknown

Negotiations can stir emotions, particularly when disagreements or conflicts of interest arise. Trained negotiators are adept at managing these emotions and establishing rapport with all parties involved, fostering trust and mutual understanding. In doing so, they sow the seeds of long-term partnerships that unlock growth opportunities and enhance collaborative potential.

Professional negotiators can also serve as a robust line of defence against fraud and collusion. By embodying an independent perspective and ensuring adherence to the highest ethical standards, they can minimize the risks of unsavoury practices that could cause legal repercussions or reputational damage.

Despite the compelling advantages of employing professional negotiators, businesses must also navigate certain challenges associated with their involvement.

One of the main challenges is finding the right negotiator for the job. Negotiators come in different shapes and sizes, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Some may be better suited for certain types of negotiations, while others may have more experience in specific industries or regions. Business owners may need to invest time and resources in finding the right negotiator for their needs, which can be a challenge in itself.

Another challenge is managing the costs associated with hiring a negotiator. Skilled negotiators can command high fees, especially if they have a proven track record of success. This can be a deterrent for businesses with limited budgets, who may struggle to justify the costs associated with hiring a negotiator. Business owners may need to weigh the potential benefits of hiring a negotiator against the costs involved, and make a decision based on their specific circumstances.

A third challenge is ensuring that the negotiator is aligned with the business’s interests and values. Negotiators may have their own agendas and motivations, which may not always align with the interests of the business. It is important for business owners to ensure that the negotiator is acting in their best interests and upholding their values, and to have mechanisms in place to monitor their performance. This can require a certain level of trust and transparency, which may be difficult to establish in some cases.

As undeniable as these challenges are, they can certainly be managed with a meticulous selection process of the negotiator, transparent discussions about their costs and your expectations, and an ongoing performance monitoring.

Negotiation is an art, a dance of diplomacy that navigates the delicate balance between competition and cooperation. In the world of commerce, it is a dance that can spell the difference between success and failure.

Engaging a professional negotiator provides businesses with an essential toolkit to navigate this dance successfully. It brings expertise and resources that result in superior outcomes, enhanced efficiency, and more robust partnerships.

As the business arena grows increasingly competitive, investments in negotiation expertise will yield significant dividends. Negotiation skills can be honed and perfected with the right blend of training, resources, and practice. By making the right investment today, you are setting the stage for sustainable business success tomorrow.

In this ceaseless journey of business success, the path is paved not with solo victories but with shared triumphs. Therefore, invest wisely in negotiation, your invaluable ally in the compelling narrative of your business’s triumphant future.

Jourade is an accomplished business leader and finance expert with a track record of driving accountability, profitability, and change. With over a decade of experience in high-profile appointments, Jourade has earned a reputation as a trusted partner to several C-suite executives, helping them achieve their business goals and objectives.

Previously, Jourade served as Country Director for Crown Agents Ghana Ltd and Crown Agents Investments Ghana Limited, where he played a pivotal role in managing and expanding the company’s operations.  He has also led several complex negotiations on behalf of clients including the Government of Ghana.

Currently, he is the Founder and CEO of Quartsons Business Solutions, a boutique consulting firm specializing in accounting, finance, consulting, and corporate training.

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