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Negotiating: How to Get a Better Deal for Your Business

By: Eric Giltner
Senior Area Manager
Grand Forks Area Office

A question often asked by businesses is “How can I cut costs?” Many business owners regularly review expenses to reduce or cut costs. But sometimes cutting costs has unintended and negative consequences for your product or service. For many expenses, a better approach would be to negotiate a reduced cost.

You can lower many of your business expenses through the art of negotiation. Unfortunately, many people equate negotiation with confrontation - a situation to avoid if at all possible.

Negotiation can be a positive and rewarding experience if you follow five simple guidelines:

  1. Prepare, Prepare, Prepare. Do your homework before entering a discussion. The best negotiators know that success results from 90 percent preparation and 10 percent bargaining. If you are familiar with the concerns of the “other side” and know your facts, you will be able to present a stronger case for your request.
  2. Adopt the Right Mindset. Try to stay away from an all or nothing point of view. Remember that you are working toward an agreement that benefits both sides. Also, remember to negotiate on the issue and not against the person on the other side.
  3. Know the Difference Between Position and Interest. Position is what the other side is seeking, but their interest may lie somewhere else. Take the case of two chefs who both lay claim to the last lemon (their position) in the refrigerator. When we investigate their interest in the lemon, we discover that one wants the rind for zest and the other wants only the juice. By determining each side's “interests”, you can usually reach a better agreement.
  4. Absolute No No’s. Avoid using absolutes such as “you always” or “you never” in your negotiation discussions. Use of absolutes often results in a defensive reaction from the other side and a breakdown in negotiations. Also, avoid using the word “demand.” Instead, use a phrase like “Can you live with this offer?”
  5. Written Words. Don’t let a pre-printed contract outlining the offer intimidate you. So what if their position is in writing? Everything is negotiable and the document can be easily changed and reprinted. Also, it is a good idea to keep written notes of each conversation and offer during the course of your negotiations.


If you are prepared and sincere in your negotiation efforts, you will often be able to reach a better deal for your business and improve your bottom line.  If you want to learn more about the art of negotiation, please contact one of the SBA resource partners at

Eric GiltnerEric Giltner has been a Business Development Specialist and the Grand Forks area  manager for the U.S. Small Business Administration since 1998, having formerly been assistant to the dean of the UND College of Business and Public Administration.  He received his B.S. Degree in Geological Engineering and his Master's Degree in Business Administration from the University of North Dakota. Eric can be reached at



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Profiting From Tax Compliance

The Importance of Financial Management