ACVP: Good negotiation skills give edge in tough times

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Orlando, Fla.--There are many different approaches to negotiating, such as gentle, competitive, or a bid for a project. While some negotiation might lead to a win-win or lose-lose outcome, the best negotiation skill is compromise, according to attorney Peggy McElgunn who spoke last week at the Alliance of Cardiovascular Professionals (ACVP) meeting.

There are five key aspects to achieving a successful negotiation. Before beginning the negotiation, it helps to frame your position to yourself--what do you want to achieve? Then reframe it many different ways. Next, determine your goals and identify your bottom lines. Then, do the research, develop an agenda and be open and flexible.

McElgunn suggested it would be helpful to frame the position for the other party. Determine what they might want to gain from the negotiation, understand their incentives for working with you. How can you position yourself to give it to them? "This gives you the power in a negotiation," she said.

Perhaps the negotiation is with an employee who complains incessantly. Your position is to stop the complaining. But if you frame it from the employee's position, you might understand why he or she is complaining. Is there a way to satisfy this person? Are the physicians too demanding or is the person new and possibly overwhelmed? Has the person been around for a long time and potentially need an infusion of energy? "By exploring these questions, you gain a better understanding of the person and have a better sense of how to approach him or her," McElgunn said.

Regarding goals, you need to understand what you're willing and not willing to give up. "Understand your deal-breakers and position yourself to understand the other party's deal-breakers and try not to go there," she said.

Doing research is important to understand what is happening on the surface, as well as what's underlying the issue. "Observe, see, question to help position your stance," McElgunn said. ”If it's a supplier, for example, find out what they are doing with other hospitals--locally and nationally. Your rep might not be aware of the larger picture and this will give you power in the negotiation."

Gather as many facts and statistics and then work with other party. "The more information you acquire, the more you increase your power," she said. "But communicate positively."

While you should have an agenda, you should also come willing to compromise. Be clear, however, on issues you--or the other party--are not willing to compromise.

"Human nature is that people don't like conflict and negotiation is conflict. The ideal negotiation is for you to frame your position in such a way that it puts you on the other side, essentially taking the conflict out of the picture," McElgunn said. "Use a positive behavioral approach by means of praise, support and encouragement. And be flexible."