by Molly Fletcher | September 01, 2016
Most people hate to negotiate, for a lot of reasons. When we don't want to do something, or we're afraid, we're starting out at a disadvantage. In my experience as a sports agent, that kind of starting point hurts our chances of making the best deal.
Whether you're negotiating with hotels, other suppliers, your own higher-ups or clients, following are some effective strategies for pushing past emotion or fear, and forging solid deals that can lead to lasting business relationships.

1. Arm yourself with facts
Facts are the bedrock of negotiating. Collecting as much information as possible is part of setting the stage and finding common ground. When emotion runs high, our home base is comprised of the facts we have gathered.

Don't underestimate the power of facts to cut through emotion. Facts are our destination, and if we keep our eyes on where we are going, emotion is more likely to take a back seat.

2. Don't take it personally
In negotiating, we become vulnerable to emotion because we are risking rejection. No one likes that. But we don't have to take it personally.

It's important to realize that while the outcome of the negotiation might mean a great deal to us, the results are separate from who we are. This distance is so important. The more that we make it about us, the more emotional we are likely to get and the less likely we are to reach a great result that works for both sides.

3. Find common ground
Too often people approach negotiations like a battleground. They hold their cards close to their chest, not wanting to reveal too much too soon. But this approach can hinder negotiations. Instead, be proactive about finding common ground. One way to do this is to evaluate your relationship with the other side and discover if you are delivering value -- what I call building a favor column. It may seem counterintuitive, but adding value demonstrates what a relationship with you is like and creates connection.

There are three silent questions that are implied during a negotiation. Do I like you? Can you help me? Do I trust you? If you want the answer to be yes to all three, building a favor column is a powerful means to establish common ground.  

It's also important to counter disconnects inside a negotiation with curiosity. Negotiation will test your patience and tap deep into your emotions. Instead of getting defensive, become curious. That curiosity is an important tool for moving away from personalities and understanding the problem at hand.   

Negotiation doesn't have to be adversarial. Approaching negotiation with curiosity and openness is a subtle yet powerful shift that can change the dynamic by signaling your desire for connection. Finding common ground can lead to discovering win-win scenarios.

4. Ask the right questions
You have to build a strong baseline of knowledge early in the negotiation (or even before), or you will not be positioned to make your most optimal move. You have to continue to be 360-degrees aware throughout the deal, expecting everything to be fluid and confident in your ability to know as much as possible about the factors that matter most. What are important questions to nail down?

Attaining 360-degrees awareness starts by knowing the goals, needs, gaps, values and fears of the other side, so your actions can parallel where they are as the negotiation unfolds. Solid questions will help you understand the other side's inner baseline and values, and provide an engine for reaching a mutu­ally beneficial deal. Being 360-degrees aware positions you for future deals with the other side, because you are not just about gaining information. You are building relationships.