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Negotiation expert: Be assertive and challenging



Ed Brodow, a prominent negotiation expert and author of the book "Negotiation Boot Camp," recently released his top 10 tips for negotiating in 2012.

While many of Brodow's tips, such as "do your homework" and "always be willing to walk away," will likely be familiar to even novice negotiators, Brodow also explained some vocabulary he uses when talking about negotiations.

Brodow specified that there is a difference between aggressiveness and assertiveness. In Brodow's formulation, assertiveness means advocating for your own interests confidently while still being respectful of a counterparty's interests. Aggressiveness is demanding that one's own needs be met while disregarding the needs of those across the table. Assertiveness is a positive trait in a negotiator, according to Brodow, but aggressiveness is not likely to be effective.

Another word Brodow defined was "challenge." He stated, "'Challenge' means not taking things at face value." He said some negotiators are fearful about challenging statements they see as authoritative, but this can work against them.

"You must be able to make up your own mind, as opposed to believing everything you are told," Brodow advised. "On a practical level, this means you have the right to question the asking price of that new car. It also means you have an obligation to question everything you read in the newspaper or hear on CNN."

While Brodow's tips are likely to be helpful for those engaged in negotiations for IT contracts, Andre Gharakhanian, a Silicon Valley legal strategist, recently provided more specific advice for tech SMBs. In an Inc.com article, Gharakhanian shared his thoughts on how an SMB should approach contract negotiations with a much larger enterprise. He said a small- or mid-sized tech business should identify just a handful of non-negotiable elements of a contract, which might include retaining intellectual property rights to software, and accept that the larger company might get its way on other points. However, once an SMB starts working with a large enterprise client, the SMB is in a position to create value that will give it leverage in future negotiations.