Beyond the Build

Customer Relationships

Negotiation: What’s Important to Us.

Negotiation is a part of our business, and for that matter, most things in life.

CBS MoneyWatch recently posted 12 Negotiation Tips for People Who Hate Negotiating, and I was inclined to listen. Here they are:

  1. Go first.
  2. Be quiet.
  3. Know what you want.
  4. Assume the best case.
  5. Avoid setting ranges.
  6. Have a reason for concessions.
  7. Never be Harry Truman.
  8. Make time your friend.
  9. Ignore face value.
  10. Give the other person room.
  11. Forget about winning and losing.
  12. Create a lasting relationship.

While I find all these tips helpful, numbers 7 and 12 seemed particularly important to me.

Never be Harry Truman. He had a sign on his desk that said, “the buck stops here,” as a reminder that final decisions rested with him. It seems to me, if one adopts this attitude at the negotiating table, he will miss out on a lot of good opportunities.

I can think of one particular project that we negotiated for the better part of a decade (yes, 10 years). To date, it has been one of our most rewarding builds from several different perspectives, but fortunately we maintained multiple options throughout these years. When a roadblock was encountered by one set of parties, others in the company led off another trail to help move things along.

This is similar to what we’ve tried to do with all our customer relationships. We maintain multiple connects between our company to the partner so that if one should falter, there are others to pick up the relationship. To me, this is vital, especially in dealing with larger companies. It is not always a matter of price or performance.

Create a relationship. As I’ve mentioned before, you don’t get to make “second first impressions.” The way you negotiate today will certainly affect your business in the future. If I make concessions now, I always try to consider impact down the road. A long-term customer relationship is, in most cases, far more valuable than whatever details you might quibble about today.

Do you have additional tips for successful negotiating? 


Merrill Stewart Jr.

Merrill Stewart is Founder and CEO of The Stewart/Perry Company, a commercial building contractor based in Birmingham.