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Get what you want through the fine art of negotiation.

A large number of our daily interactions involve negotiating in one way or another. Whether tipping generously for good service in a restaurant or performing well in hopes of being promoted, we negotiate from dawn to dusk. How expertly we handle these transactions is a crucial factor in determining their success.

The purpose of this article is to offer suggestions for winning more often than not. Let's start with a look at the three main elements involved: information, time, and power.

* Information. Like an attorney preparing a case or a scholar preparing a monograph, obtain as much information as possible about the situation at hand. The side with the most convincing facts tends to prevail.

Since negotiation is an ongoing process rather than a one-time event, begin collecting information early. Here's an example of the value of preparation. Several years ago I was notified that I was going to be audited by the Internal Revenue Service. The letter of notification provided the name of the auditor assigned to my case. Through inquiries I learned that he was demanding and unyielding but that a colleague was more understanding and cooperative. I rescheduled the appointment for a time when the second auditor was available.

* Time. Allow plenty of time for negotiating. As in sales, the 80/20 rule often applies: 80% of concessions will be made in the last 20% of negotiating time.

If your appointment to ask for a long-overdue raise is scheduled for 9:00 a.m. and you know your supervisor has another appointment at 10:00, expect the critical moments to occur around 9:50. Pace yourself accordingly. Don't make your request too early to permit a gracious compromise on your supervisor's part.

Careful manipulation of time sends unspoken messages. Arriving very early for an appointment may signal anxiety, whereas a late arrival might be taken as a sign of overconfidence or even hostility.

* Power. Power is the ability to get things done. In negotiating, the individual with the most influence or power will gain the most concessions.

You do not need to let yourself be manipulated and intimidated by others, however. Study the types of power listed in Figure I, learn how different personality types use them, and develop specific methods for taking control of the situation.

* Opposites detract. How do you see yourself? Are you pragmatic and efficient, extroverted and forceful, and amiable "nice guy," or analytical and detail-oriented?

Such a simplistic view of the human animal is helpful in one regard: Negotiation is hardest with an opposite. If you are amiable and don't like to make waves but are faced with negotiating with a hard-working pragmatist, go to extra lengths to be more highly structured. Curb your instinct to spend time breaking the ice with small talk. Learn to recognize and emulate your opponent's style.

Help your counterpart when you can. Stress the benefits that will devolve from dealing with you. A supervisor at a Midwestern hospital lab won a 75% discount from a national referral lab by providing valuable entree to local physicians' offices. The hospital lab keeps its bread-and-butter tests--CBCs, mononucleosis screens, and UAs--in house while sending hormone assays and other esoterics to the national lab, receiving the discount.

* Positive attitude. The first and, in some ways, most difficult step involves deciding to make the change that the negotiation will facilitate.

It is essential to maintain a positive mental attitude. Expecting to do well increases the likelihood that you will. Don't seem too eager, however. If you are going to buy a high-cost item such as a chemistry analyzer, display reluctance as you enter into negotiations. Revealing too much initial enthusiasm about the product will keep the price high.

* Strategies. Once you know who your opposite number is and what type of power he or she wields, consider possible tactics. Some of these strategies will seem ruthless. If you don't use them yourself, however, they may be used against you.

Plan every one of your strategies in advance. Evaluate opening gambits to get the negotiation going the way you want, middle gambits to keep the game going your way, and endgames to win. Let's see how these gambits work when applied to a hypothetical example.

You are the manager of a hospital laboratory. The hospital administrator wants to add several HMOs, a decision that would necessitate buying a new analyzer, constructing a room in which to house it, and hiring two new FTEs.

* Opening gambits. The first stage is to plan your approach very carefully. Gather information about your adversary. Set your objectives and plan how to attain them. Remember that neither side will get its way completely. A negotiation must end in a way that benefits all concerned.

[Paragraph] The flinching technique. React visibly whenever you hear a price or a negative reply to a request you have made. You need not scream; a look of shock, disgust, or dibelief often can work wonders.

The sales rep from ABC Analyzers quotes you the price: $100,000. You say not a word as your facial expression reveals dismay and alarm. That same day, the hospital administrator informs you that, while there is plenty of money in the capital acquisition budget, there is no extra space for the new equipment. Furthermore, only one additional FTE can be hired. Again, you respond visually rather than verbally. In both cases, you'll have made your point without uttering a word of complaint.

Here's another example. An employee asks you for a promotion. You might respond by saying, "I agree that you should be considered for a new position, but others are equally deserving." With this statement you have rebounded from the question without hurting the staff member's feelings. That is important because it frees the employee to negotiate further.

[Paragraph] Never-argue gambit. Do not protest verbally at the outset. When you argue an issue this early in the game, the other negotiator feels bound to defend his or her point. Control your natural urge to object. It's wrong to turn off the other person right away. Don't be emotional at the outset of what is supposed to be a rational discussion.

Curb your instinct to tell the salesperson that the analyzer is horribly overpriced. If it isn't overpriced and is actually a good deal, don't let him know you realize that.

Avoid debating with your administrator as well. Leave the impression that you will nobly accept the sacrifices that are being forced upon you. You can always argue your point later after the administrator has had ample time to think about it.

[Paragraph] Refusing first offer. However good the deal so far, you can often improve it through negotiation.

After a price has been quoted to you and you have used the flinching technique, make a counter-offer. Today's market is a buyer's market; your figure might be accepted even if it's ridiculously low. The same applies when negotiating your salary. Allied health care personnel are in such short supply that all sorts of allowances, differentials, and bonuses are being offered to attract them.

You may find it hard to turn down the first offer. If you were trying to sell your house for six months and finally got a decent offer, you'd be tempted to grab it. Yet your action might cause the prospective buyer to wonder what was wrong with the house--perhaps a faulty furnace or a leaky roof. "What's wrong with it?" is a terrible question to be asked during a negotiation.

Always ask for more than you expect to get, but be flexible. When you make or reject an offer, indicate that you are willing to negotiate. Making a "take-it-or-leave-it" offer on the front end will put the other person on the defensive. They will probably reject the offer and further talk.

When you're negotiating with a vendor who refuses to give you a discount, you can always show your rep the door. There is danger in taking a hard line, however. Before rejecting someone, make absolutely sure that you can live without him. If your bluff is called successfully and you have to go back with hat in hand, your credibility will be blown with that vendor not only for the current negotiation but for all future ones as well.

You'll need considerably more tact when dealing with your hospital administrator, who is likely to be acutely aware of problems confronting the lab. You can still get the message across that he or she "must do better" by presenting new or additional data to confirm potential problems resulting from understaffing.

[Paragraph] Vise technique. This last of the opening gambits tends to work extremely well. Simply look the person in the eye and say, calmly, "One hundred thousand dollars? You'll have to do better than that."

This sends the ball back across the net into your fellow negotiator's court. While there is always room for improvement on both sides of any negotiation, the vise technique effectively squeezes your counterpart. The best response to your statement is "How much better do I have to do?" You offer $75,000 for the analyzer and are rebuffed.

You have completed your opening gambits and made an offer. The crux of the negotiation begins.

* Middle gambits. By now you have figured out your opposite number's objectives and the negotiating range. It's time to apply the middle strategies toward reaching agreement.

[Paragraph] Higher authority. When the person you're negotiating with has the authority to make the final decision, it will be easier for you to close the deal. Unfortunately, that's not always the case. Example: A prospective car buyer asks, "How much of a trade-in can I get?" The reply: "Gee, I'm not sure. I'll have to check with the sales manager." You're left holding your hat in the salesroom. Something similar happens when you ask for a raise and your supervisor tells yo, "I'd like to give you that amount, but I'll have to check with Human Resources." Your bargaining moment is over; the result may be handed to you later, on a piece of paper, when you're occupied elsewhere.

Instead of automatically negotiating with the local sales representative, find the person with real authority. Ask up front, "Do you have the authority to cut the price by 25%?" If the answer is no, insist on talking to someone who does. At the same time, don't let your opposite number know who, if anyone, will have to approve your own decisions.

That last-mentioned rule may be suspended under the right circumstances. Use a variation of the "higher authority" gambit in dealing with the hypothetical analyzer salesperson. You might say, "I'd have to check with my hospital administrator before spending that much." Then approach your administrator, asking for the extra space and funding for two more FTEs on the condition that you can arrange to buy the analyzer at a good price.

[Paragraph] Give and take. Don't make concessions without getting some in return. Say to the vendor, "If I agree to pay $100,000 for your analyzer, will you give me something else to sweeten the pot?" You might end up with several thousand dollars' worth of free traning for your staff and a break on reagents. When describing the situation to your administrator, point out that the extra room you'll need for the new analyzer willalso improve staff morale and contribute to personnel retention.

Understand from the start that you won't get everything you want. Negotiating for a raise carries the same principle. You may have one figure in mind, while your supervisor has another. The final figure will probably rest between them.

[Paragraph] The hot potato. Normally, negotiators throw problems back and forth until they resolve them. When give-and-take beyond the norm is required, the need to consult a higher authority can be effective as a hot potato. "I'm afraid $100,000 is the final price; it's below list now," says the equipment vendor. Your reply should be, "I know I can get an equivalent analyzer for $80,000 from XYZ Instruments." When you are thrown a hot potato, throw it back. (Preparedness is all.)

* Ending gambits. It's time to end your negotiation, preferably with success on both sides. Finish with a flourish by using the following techniques.

[Paragraph] Good guy/bad guy. You have seen this ploy hundreds of times on television and in the movies, but it's always a surprise when it shows up at work. The key to this technique, a variation on the "higher authority" gambit, is tricky teamwork by the group with whom you are negotiating.

First the "bad guy" gives you the idea that nothing can be done. Then, to your pleasure and surprise, you discover that a higher-up in the seller's organization is apparently on your side. The newly found good guy stands up for you or deplores the bad guy's behavior. Don't be fooled; they are working together.

Let's say the salesperson's supervisor calles you to apologize for the intransigent rep and offers the analyzer for a mere $90,000. Express your gratitude for his concern and repeat your offer of $75,000. When that is refused, say you'll think about it and end the conversation, sounding thoughtful.

Then appropriate the stratagem to your own advantage. Ask your hospital administrator to call the good guy back, apologize for your resistance, and offer $80,000--but only if the vendor will provide the free training and the price break for supplies. This tactic will only work, of course, if you have a close relationship with the hospital administrator and/or use a team negotiating approach.

[Paragraph] The walk-away. As you approach the end of a sales deal, remember that you can always end the discussion. If talks for the analyzer become stalemated, politely say, "Thank you very much for your time: and walk away. Walking out on a negotiation doesn't mean it's over; often the tradeoffs have just begun. Closing the session politely at the crucial moment is sometimes the only way to accomplish your objectives. Bluff only if you're prepared for all consequences.

[Paragraph] Withdrawal of an offer. Naturally, when you walk away, you will do so politely. Often this strategy isn't even meant to be taken seriously. Withdrawing your offer, on the other hand, threatens the negotiation by forcing your adversary to make an immediate, final decision. Do not gamble on this technique, which is bound to cause ill feeling, unless you're at the end of your rope in the negotiation.

You might say to the vendor, "The other company's instrument is starting to look better, and they'll give it to me for $80,000. I'm afraid that unless you can beat his price we have nothing further to discuss." An experienced negotiator will seldom fall for this but will counter by throwing back your hot potato, possibly with a zinger: "It's a shame we can't get together on this deal. The difference is only $10,000. We offer faster delivery than XYZ, and I'm now prepared to train two of your people." At that point, run to the hospital administraor with the news that the vendor will train two FTEs if you can hire them.

Hard-line gambits such as the hot potato, the walk-away, and the withdrawal of an offer won't work for you in the same way when you are negotiating with a supervisor for a pay raise or the lab director for a larger work area. Nevertheless, using these techniques with vendors, contractors, and other outside professionals supplying something for your lab can give you in-house leverage toward concession you want.

[Paragraph] Nibbling. When purchasing a new instrument for hematology or chemistry, consider the nibble. Here's a typical set of negotiations. You say, "Thanks for offering to train two members of my staff, but I'd appreciate it if you would train one on each shift--that is, three." This response invokes the higher authority: I'm sorry, but I'm not allowed to make decisions like that." You counter by withdrawing your offer: "I'm sorry to hear that, because the people at XYZ said they would train four of my technologists at their factory and pay their transportation expenses to get there and back. I guess I'll have to go with the Digital-14-X."

The sound of the name of the competitor's model will put your rep's teeth on edge. The next words you hear may be the beginning of a compromise: "Wait a minute. Let me call my boss and see what I can do." The result will probably split your two sets of demands down the middle.

Hearing your good news and impressed with your negotiating skills, the hospital administrator may agree to extra space and one FTE. Although you haven't gotten everything you wanted, keep negotiating; you never know what might happen.

* Be alert. Learning to negotiate properly is not only an important management tool; it's fun. Train yourself to recognize which gambits are being used on you. When appropriate, turn them around to your own advantage. Use these helpful strategies from the beginning, even before they are tried on you. By playing the negotiating game like a pro, you will give yourself a head start and finish as close as possible to the goal you had in mind.
COPYRIGHT 1991 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Skinner, Orten C.
Publication:Medical Laboratory Observer
Article Type:Cover Story
Date:Nov 1, 1991
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