Is there anything more awkward than having to negotiate with clients who have also become friends? You have these wonderful client relationships. You know about their family lives. They know about yours. It is always a pleasure to see each other. Then, that relationship hits a potential bump. It is contract renewal time or, as happened recently with one of my clients,your company shifts its business model, and suddenly your interests and your clients' interests may no longer align perfectly around fees, resources, timing, or deliverables. How do you then handle that potentially difficult conversation to resolve the differences between you?
Years ago, a mentor solved this problem for me. She advised that when you have to negotiate, or, for that matter, have any kind of difficult business conversation with clients (or colleagues), simply say, “For this conversation, let’s take off our personal hats for a moment and put on our business hats.”
That simple metaphorical suggestion re-frames the entire dynamic of your meeting. Vision drives action. That subtle mindset switch does three things for both of you. It
- Injects a needed level of clarity and objectivity into the discussion
- Allows you both to deal and speak up for your needs and views as responsible business people
- Reduces personal discomfort
Then, when your negotiation is finished, you simply say, “Okay, let’s put our personal hats back on” and you are back to your original friendly relationship. Time to go to lunch!
Certain conversations are necessary. You may not be always be able to have your cake and eat it, too, but you can have a difficult conversation and still maintain your relationship.
P.S. For a complimentary list of "Top 10 Tips Every Negotiator Should Know," contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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