Negotiation. It can seem like a dark art to many. It’s undoubtedly an underutilised skill. However, the art of persuasion is just another life skill, the same as any other and anyone can learn how to negotiate well.
The thing to remember is that negotiation isn’t all about getting your way or playing ‘hardball’: it’s about opportunities to influence others and achieve favourable outcomes for both sides.
Here are my seven top tips to win when at the negotiation table.
1. Know the Other Side
Who are you negotiating with? What are their motivations? Don’t assume they want the same as you, or that their logic and ways of thinking are the same as yours. Do you know what they want to get out of the negotiations? What makes them tick?
Successful negotiation hinges on your ability to read the other person, to understand what it is they are looking for. Empathy is essential here; you need to be able to stand in the other person’s shoes, metaphorically speaking, to secure favourable negotiation.
Their body language will be a good indicator of what they are thinking and being a good listener will enable you to ‘tune in’ to the other person too.
2. Make it Personal
‘It’s just business.’
No, it isn’t. Everything we do is personal to a point. This excuse is just a way of getting around the fact that you might be treating people poorly in negotiations. So, don’t do it.
Leveraging power over the other side downgrades the negotiation to a transaction and neither party will come out of it feeling good.
Take the time to meet face to face as phone calls and email don’t cut it for successful negotiations. The best communication happens when you’re present in the room. Keep your body language accessible and make eye contact. Keep your feet firmly on the floor and maintain an open posture. It‘s surprising how little micro–movements of the face can give away what people are thinking, so be conscious of them.
And remember, you’re negotiating with someone, not against them! So, using language like ‘mutual concerns’ or ‘common ground’ will resonate with the other party.
3. Don’t Just Ask for the Bare Minimum
You don’t get if you don’t ask. So, think big. What else could you bring to the table that will benefit yourself and them?
Fear of asking for too much leads many people to simply deal with the bare minimum, but that’s a missed opportunity. It’s unlikely that asking for more will kill off the negotiations and you never know; you might get more than you thought possible.
So, don’t be afraid to trade up, as my headmistress was fond of saying: “Aim for the stars and you might hit a tree.”
Of course, you could hit the jackpot and get everything you asked for too!
4. Include Bargaining Chips
Don’t forget those little intangibles that you can pretty much give away without it costing you anything in time, money or resources. Be prepared to use these to leverage more significant asks in your favour.
For example, an employer negotiating with an employee may offer work from home days or flexible hours. It won’t cost you much in the long run, but it could save you a lot in recruitment if it persuades your employee to stay with you.
Similarly, if you are working with another company, offering to link to them from your website will cost you nothing at all, but it will be beneficial to them.
5. Think About The Recipient Of Your Offer
Millennials are already in the marketplace. Closely followed by the first of Generation Z.
To get the best out of negotiations with them, you will need to consider other factors in your negotiations. For example, your company’s culture, ethics and workplace diversity. Also important is flexibility and work–life balance, so be prepared to discuss these too.
6. It’s Not Poker
Don’t be tempted to keep too much to yourself. Clarity promotes trust and you need to get the other side to see your rationale by providing them with a broad view of your thinking.
Being clear and transparent will also lend credibility to your negotiation – if someone thinks you are holding important information back, they won’t trust you and talks will stall.
7. Play Fair
Don’t damage your reputation and that of your company, by being unscrupulous in your negotiations. Recognise a fair deal and be prepared to compromise.
If you can’t get a quick agreement, don’t worry. Just because you don’t come to a satisfactory conclusion straight away doesn’t mean negotiations are over. Be prepared to listen to the other side and take time to think about how you can reach an agreement and/or compromise.
I was reading an article in Forbes the other day, which concluded that establishing good long-term relationships should be one of the goals in negotiation.
Fair negotiations are a good business practice and will inevitably show you in a positive light, as someone others want to do business with in the future.
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