Understanding The Why

Understanding The Why

The key to a successful negotiation is understanding in advance what’s important to the other party and what you’re trying to accomplish for yourself.


Everything counts in a negotiation, including the initial preparation vital to getting the proceedings off the ground, on the right foot, and positioning you to get what you want from the proceedings.

There are two ways to approach a negotiation – soft or hard, says business coach Mike Hourigan.
A hard approach typically discounts the other party. “You don’t care about the other people or the end results, all you care about is getting the best price,” he says. “You don’t care about the relationship [with the other party] you just want the best deal.”


A soft approach requires more due diligence and finesse because you intend to return to the other party to do business again in the future, so it’s imperative to establish a good relationship. “Remember, every good negotiation is just the beginning of the next negotiation,” Hourigan says. “So, bear in mind when you’re negotiating with those you want a relationship with, there’s a give and take [to the process].”

Hourigan, the president of Hourigan & Associates, is a featured speaker at this year’s Executive Summit, July 31-Aug. 2 in Pittsburgh. During his session he’ll instruct on how to maintain control of a negotiation – whether it’s buying a car, placing an order with an equipment supplier, or securing a major winter service contract. CLICK HERE for registration information.

To ensure a successful give and take in a negotiation, Hourigan says it’s important to understand why the person you’re negotiating with “wants the what.”

“The problem people have with negotiating is they spend a lot of time talking about price, terms, delivery all before you start the negotiation,” he says. “But they don’t know why they want what they’re trying to get.

“Once I understand the why … it makes it easier for me to give it to them,” Hourigan says, adding it’s just as important to understand in advance what is and what isn’t important to you in the negotiation. “I don’t think of a negotiation as win-win. Instead, I think of a negotiation as fair-fair.”

Mike Zawacki is editor of Snow Magazine.