According to Harvard Business School professor Deepak Malhotra, "Negotiating is not about dollars and cents, it's not about deal terms, and it's not about emotions."
"At the end of the day, negotiation is always fundamentally about human interaction," Malhotra says, speaking to CNBC at the iConic conference in New York City on Wednesday.
To help anyone improve their negotiation skills, the author of "Negotiating the Impossible" offered 22 "quick fixes" to the audience. Here are some highlights.
Preparation is key. Always start with a strategy meeting, says Malhotra: "You do not want to walk in there relying only on your intuition or gut instinct."
And while you're preparing, "invite more people into that strategy meeting than you think you need. I have never regretted bringing in a couple of other folks."
You want to walk into every negotiation with what Malhotra calls a "learning mind-set," and that means being prepared to ask a lot of questions. "I know a lot of people who talk too much during negotiations," says the expert. "I know almost no one who asks too many questions."
That being said, it's not just about asking a bunch of questions. You also have to ask the right questions, which will vary depending on the context, says Malhotra: "One little hint: In general, 'why' is more important than 'what.'
"People talk about 'what' all the time — what they want: 'We want the deal done in six months. We want more money up front. We want exclusivity.'" The key, says Malhotra is to "figure out why they want these things. … When you shift the conversation from 'what' to 'why,' you often find more ways of resolving the dispute."
Always send a follow-up email. It's an effective strategy for a few reasons, says Malhotra: "First, it allows you to make sure you're still on the same page — that what you thought you agreed to actually has been agreed to.
"It also allows you to reframe the situation if you didn't frame it well in the room. Sometimes you walk out of a room and say, 'I think we came across as too desperate.' Or 'We came across as too aggressive.'"
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The third benefit of sending a follow-up email is that you may get more information, says Malhotra, particularly if you forgot to ask a specific question during the meeting.
Finally, keep in mind that a negotiation should never end with a no, Malhotra says. "Negotiations should end either with a yes or with an explanation as to why not. If you're going to walk away and the deal is still a no, still push. Still ask questions."