Negotiation Strategies to Land More Consulting Clients

The best negotiators know everything they can about the other side they will be dealing with. This step is critical.

Let’s be clear on one thing right away, negotiation is part of life.

Whether you’re a consultant, business owner, employee, parent or child…we all negotiate in one form or another at some point.

And when you realize that it makes the case for us all to become better at negotiating that much stronger.

Here are several strategies and tips to help you become a better negotiator

Bring a Solution

Neil Patel, co-founder of KISS Metrics and Crazy Egg, suggests that you start your negotiations off by identifying the problems your potential consulting client is facing. Once you have opened their eyes to all the areas that are ripe for improvement…you are perfectly setup to show the other side the solutions that you bring to the table.

Naturally, your solutions will be the answer to all the problems the other side has. Think about this, if someone has just clearly outlined real problems that you’re having and then shows you that they can get rid of those problems, well, you’re likely to get them to do so.

Of course, you can’t discuss problems and solutions without knowing what they are…

Do Your Research

The best negotiators know everything they can about the other side they will be dealing with. This step is critical.

Abstaining from research before a negotiation is like taking a test without first studying. I can tell you from firsthand experience that didn’t go over very well.

The more you know about the person you’ll be dealing with the better armed you will be in the negotiation. Inc magazine has a very interesting article on this subject that talks about something called the “consistency principle,” which means “your counterpart will likely abide by certain standards, and defer to your authority if you are able to demonstrate that you absolutely know what you are talking about.”

Give that some thought. The last time you were in any kind of negotiation…the side that led the negotiation was almost certainly the person that was more knowledgeable on the topic. Do you want to lead, or be led?

When a seller makes the first offer, the final settlement price tends to be higher than when the buyer makes the first offer.

To help you prepare for your negotiation, take a look at this great Negotiation chart that Forbes provides.

Go First

Common knowledge says that you shouldn’t be the first one to put forth a dollar or amount. Well, common knowledge may be common, but that doesn’t mean it’s right.

In fact, research from Harvard on this topic recommends that you be the first to make an offer. Why? This has to do with a concept called ‘anchoring.’

By going first you get the advantage of setting the initial stake in the ground. And when you go in with confidence and offer an aggressive offer, the other side, research has shown, will find it more difficult to move away from that offer.

Here’s what the research said: “by making the first offer, you will anchor the negotiation in your favor. In fact…making the first offer affords a bargaining advantage…that the final outcome of a negotiation is affected by whether the buyer or the seller makes the first offer. Specifically, when a seller makes the first offer, the final settlement price tends to be higher than when the buyer makes the first offer.”

Use Your Ears

That’s right. Listen. We’ve all met people that are good listeners and those that are not good listeners.

We all too tend to gravitate and spend time with people that are better listeners. The reason is simple, if the person you’re with always talks over you and doesn’t listen, you get the feeling they don’t care about what you’re saying.

This is just as relevant in negotiations. For one, the same idea applies. Listening shows respect. And respect in negotiations is paramount.

But possibly of even greater importance is what you may miss if you’re not listening well. When you ask the right questions and let the other side speak, and you just listen, it’s amazing how much information you can learn.

A lot of money is left on the table by poor negotiators. The better you listen, the more you’ll learn, and the more you learn the stronger your position in the negotiation.

Walk Away

When you are knew to making deals and negotiating there is often a feeling that you need to make every deal happen.

Regardless of how the deal actually turns out, you may feel that it’s better to land the client than lose them, even if you don’t get all the terms you want.

In some cases this is true. If you honestly believe the client is a good fit, or that they bring strategic value (maybe they are a big name that adds to your credibility, etc) to you than fine.

However, consultants need to remember that their time is the most valuable asset they have. There will always be more deals available.

This is why you should always go into a negotiation knowing what you absolutely must have to walk out of that negotiation feeling satisfied.

When you are negotiating and things are spiralling downwards and the result looks to be below the threshold you’ve set for yourself for this deal, walk away.

Know the other side, do your research, prepare and practice. Feel good about yourself and your confidence will show.

Yes, simple tell the other side that you’d like to make this work, but that you really can’t at the current terms they want.

Two things can happen at this point.

1) The other party comes back to you, seeing that you are standing firm, and will change their offer to make things work, or

2) The deal doesn’t go forward. This is rarely the end of the world and it simply means you will have time to work on the next deal that comes around that is a better fit for you.

Be Confident

Movies make negotiators out to be bone-crushingly tough men that have faces as hard as rock. Well, that’s the movies. The reality is, it doesn’t matter what your age, gender, or ethnicity is when it comes to negotiating. Being confident is what counts. The more confidence you show, the better you’ll feel and the stronger your communications will come across.

Plus, when you’re confident the other side can see it in your body language and hear it in your voice. A Harvard study from 2004 states that: “power and confidence result in better outcomes.”

So how can you be confident? It comes down to preparation. Know the other side, do your research, prepare and practice. Feel good about yourself and your confidence will show.

Frame Your Value

A 2007 Stanford article that looked at six common pitfalls to negotiations suggests that failing to pay attention to the other side is a big mistake. What the article is getting at is that too many people don’t put themselves in the other side’s shoes…

…How are they thinking? What will they be considering?

To deal with this, negotiators use a concept called ‘framing’. This is how the Stanford article explains it: “If you get your opponent to accept your view of the situation, then you can influence the amount of risk he is willing to take.”

So how do you get the other side to accept your view? The key is in explaining where you are coming from. Why your situation is unique and different from what they might be expecting.

Remember, you want to move them from processing the situation within their regular context and instead process the situation as if they were in your environment.

Here’s an example from the Stanford article:

“For example, you are a purchasing manager renegotiating an hourly wage contract with a subcontractor. The subcontractor currently makes $10 an hour. You are willing to elevate the subcontracting firm to $11 an hour. Another organization recently boosted its rate with your subcontractor to $12 an hour. You know that when the negotiators for your subcontractor hear your $11 offer, they may think they are going to have to give up a dollar an hour.

You must get them to focus on the point you are starting from — $10, not $12. You frame the issue positively by talking about all the ways your contract is different from the others. Your contract has some advantages outside of the hourly pay. The other side will be more willing to risk lower wages for the purported other benefits. A common mistake is negotiating from a negative frame: “The other firm’s deal offers more, but we can afford only $11.”

To better negotiations!

PS. If you’ve found other approaches to work in your negotiations please share them with the community in the comments below…

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  • samet

    today i am unemployment and really dress because i don’t know how to find the money or get income.

    • Samet – thanks for the comment. Can you clarify your question if you’re asking one?

  • Michael MacNeil Sr.

    I have been consulting since 2005 and have found it being the major part of my income now. The construction business is too competitive for us now and the small developments are too much high risk. I have found a niche market in consulting on start up developments and now vary excited about a new venture into the Oil Business. I found a lot of similarities in raising capital. In making the Deal Real! Now to ramp up the customer base and duplicate the strategies. Mr Walton said “i’ll give you 50 laborer’s for one people person”. fining common ground with Your client. The old Italian’s I worked for in East Vancouver taught me to sit down and eat with your clients, and if they will not do that! Don’t do business with them. Bottom line don’t be afraid to ask question’s. It will help You keep the light’s on?

    • Michael – thanks for the comment and sharing this. Welcome to the blog!

  • billshields2

    Now business consulting is when you basically advise someone on how to start a business, right? Hopefully so, cause I think when I move to Lafayette, LA. I’m going to need one for certain to help me start my little business.

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