Negotiations are an important part of being a small business owner. Even if both sides of the table are in accord, there is often a sticking point, something that can turn future negotiations sour. It’s much worse when you have to fight for what your company deserves. Negotiations aren’t something you should learn on the fly, lest you let a vital opportunity leave the room. Here are a few tips that should make you a better negotiator.

1. Add More Things to Negotiate With

One of the biggest mistakes you can make at the negotiating table is to bring the bare minimum of items. Negotiation isn’t just about getting the other side to agree with you, it’s about compromise. If you only bring what you absolutely need up, you won’t have anything to give up so you can get what you want.

Going to the table with a long list of demands makes negotiations easier. Just be clear with your team beforehand as to which parts are absolutely vital and what items can be let go. Your small business may need a lot, but some demands are more important than others.

2. Take Negotiations Slowly

On-demand culture is everywhere, and it sneaks into whatever crevice it can get to. Negotiation rooms are no exception – people want things resolved now, so they can get on with their business. Don’t fall into this trap. Keep talking things over and focus on incremental progress. If you need a deal to come through tomorrow, today is too late to start negotiations.

3. Provide as Much Information as Possible

One of the biggest barriers to a successful negotiation involves trust. It’s practically impossible to end negotiations well when there’s no trust in the room. Fortunately, there’s a shortcut, and that’s by providing the other party with as much information as possible. Not only will this develop trust, it’ll tell them that you came to the table prepared.

Think about what questions they’ll likely have and do the necessary research to answer them. Bring any relevant paperwork to dissuade any concerns that they have. If they surprise you with something, promise to bring relevant information during the next meeting.

4. Get to Know the Other Party

Before you hire someone for your small business, you’ll want to interview them. Not only do you have to figure out if they’re on the level, you also have to figure out if they’ll fit in with the company culture. This interview will also inform you how to motivate them in the future, as you’ll often get to know what they want out of the job.

The same approach should be taken at the negotiation table. Don’t just focus on your wants. Get to know the other party so you have a better grasp of what they want out of the deal and why they want specific items. Doing that will give you a better idea of how to play things better.

5. Remember That They’re People Too

It’s far too easy to vilify other parties when the future of your small business is on the line. Every request to strike an item from the deal can feel like a personal affront if you’re not careful. If you go into negotiations looking for a fight, you’re guaranteeing a fight. Focus on getting a good deal.

Remember that negotiations are not a battle. You’re not there to win by getting a better deal than they can. What you’re looking for is to improve the functions of your small business by making a mutually beneficial deal with another entity. Once you realize that you’re actually working with the other party rather than against them, you’ll do better at the negotiation table.

6. Never Set Deadlines

Businesses don’t negotiate for small things. They negotiate for incredible advantages and developments. It’s all about big changes, which can get stressful as negotiations can take weeks to complete, if not longer. It can be tempting to set a deadline just to get things done, but this will only make things harder.

7. Offer as Many Intangible Benefits as Possible

So you’ve talked things over and both parties have agreed on a list of items. For one reason or another, the other party is hesitant. You can’t blame them – there’s something missing. It’s not that they’re not getting what they want, it’s that it somehow isn’t enough. This is where intangible benefits come in.

Not everything in business is quantifiable, like a social media following. While having more followers is generally positive, there’s no set number to its value. Offering something like shout-outs or a small campaign for them using your brand recognition can easily turn a hesitant party into an eager one.

8. Find Positive Ground Before Getting into the Nitty Gritty

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to take on hard tasks first. As a small business owner, that can actually make you productive. However, that’s not always going to work at the table. If you start by attacking tough issues, you run the risk of alienating the other party. Even if those issues and sticking points were inescapable, you still started off negotiations on a negative note.

Instead of going for those first, open up negotiations by finding positive common ground. These are the things both sides can agree on that benefit everyone involved. By starting off this way, you colour the interactions positively.

While there is no hard-and-fast guide to getting better at negotiation as a small business owner, these tips should help guide your thought processes and mindsets. If you’re having trouble, put yourself in the other party’s shoes. What would they want and how can you help them get there with what you have to offer?