Saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you,’ holding the door open, and helping a stranded motorist are just small examples of the good home values Midwestern people possess. In the eyes of a Midwesterner, we’re only strangers because we haven’t met yet.
When you get right down to it, being perceived as ‘nice’ is extremely important.
‘Nice,’ isn’t typically a word that would be considered positive in a negotiation setting. “Cutthroat,” “Take ‘em for all their worth,” “Get all you can get,” — might be more familiar terms or phrases used during the negotiation process.
Have you ever heard the adage ‘the nice guy or gal always finishes last?’ Well, that doesn’t have to be true, even in the prickly and tense world of negotiation. The nice guy or gal can indeed finish first. How you might ask? You can use your Midwestern charm and values to negotiate the best deals for yourself and your clients.
According to Penny Rosema, a negotiation expert, President of Two Views International, and fellow Midwesterner from Lowell, MI – you can leverage the power of your Midwestern charm by keeping the following principles in mind:
1. Prepare, Plan, and Follow a Process:
There are a few key considerations in every negotiation: You must do your due diligence and plan for the conversation. “Don’t fall into the trap of thinking the negotiation starts when you sit down at the table,” said Rosema. “Assume your counterpart has already planned ahead, your goal is to be the most prepared person at the table.”
What’s involved in the planning and preparation process? Create your ‘pie in the sky’ wishlist, also known as your strategy list. What does a great deal look like? List everything you could consider a win in the negotiation process. Make it exhaustive. Have fun by dreaming big. This gives you a great starting place. Next, prioritize the most valuable items on your strategy list. Write out the items which you or your client can’t live without. Add those to the top of your list. Planning will take the stress away from the negotiation process. You won’t feel like you need to put up your guard and you can relax into the process by pouring on the charm, aka ‘Midwest Nice.’
2. Look at the Situation from Both Sides:
You want the full view; yours and your counterpart’s. “It’s a common mistake to think about the outcome from ONLY your perspective,” Rosema stressed. You need the full picture. Ask yourself, “what’s important to them in this scenario?” Write down all your assumptions about your counterpart. For example, do you assume they need you more than you need them? Do a deeper dive by asking, “why” three times. Asking “why” will help you get clarity on the root importance of the items on your assumption list. Partner with a trusted colleague or friend to role play the assumptions you’ve developed.
Take it a step further and you play the role of your counterpart. Putting yourself literally in their shoes will help you be a better negotiator. For example, if you’re working with a newer hotel venue, you might assume they want your event because it’s high profile and they want to win your business for the other six events you’re hosting this year. Not sure what some of the assumptions might be? ASK! Part of the preparation process is doing your research. Learning to ask politely but assertively is definitely in play. Your Midwestern charm can shine brightly because you’ve thought through both sides.
3. Know When to Walk Away:
Kenny Rogers said it best in his iconic song, The Gambler, “You gotta know when to hold “em, know when to fold ‘em, know when to walk away, and know when to run.” This advice is not only good for poker players but for meeting professionals, too. Be clear about what your walk away point is — when deals can’t be made. We often find our Midwest ‘nice’ keeping us from confrontation and giving in to others. Understanding the power you hold in the negotiation, and being prepared to voice it, is essential. Let’s say, you’re working with a hotel venue and they won’t comp hotel rooms for your VIP guests — be clear to them this is why you’re willing to walk away from the deal. Keep in mind, doing nothing is an option as well.
4. Silence is Golden:
According to Rosema, one small tweak can make a huge impact on your negotiation success — knowing when to be quiet. Once you’ve laid out your ask, pause and wait for the other person to speak. I recommend to my clients, “Count to ten in your head before you speak. It might feel like an eternity to you, but it’s very effective in the process,” Rosema states. There is something magical about staying silent. Odds are that the deafening quiet will make the situation uncomfortable. Being uncomfortable creates tension. Your counterpart will want to break the tension. The first person who breaks the tension concedes their position.
Using these tips along with your friendly Midwestern ‘nice’ will make you a powerhouse during your next negotiation.
Amelia Mimi Brown is a leadership development expert who works with organizations to create magnetic managers. When she’s not speaking around the country, you can find her making delicious meals with chef and hubby, Mr. Brown. Connect with her by email at Mimi@AmpUpSuccess.com or by visiting www.AmpUpSuccess.com. Below is Mimi's Vendor Negotiation Cheat Sheet to help you understand where you can negotiate with different vendors.