Believe it or not, almost everyone negotiates every day of their life. “Mum, can I empty the bins when this program finishes?” is a negotiation. An employee asking for a pay rise is a negotiation. A person selling a product or service is sure to involve some negotiating. Naturally, of course, serious negotiations involve so much more than these minor examples. You might be negotiating a multi-million dollar contract, the terms of an accord or your largest client yet. Real Estate agents and business brokers are just two examples of groups who are negotiating every single day. Here are some practical, realistic and relevant tips for almost every negotiation.
The Secrets of Negotiating
Walk into the negotiations prepared.
Whilst some great negotiators may look to be winging it, many are not. It might be they have researched the business or person that they want to ‘pitch’ to (or negotiate with). They will know what their own perfect spot is and what their own walk away point is. Also be aware of ‘anchoring bias’. Substantial research shows that in negotiations, the first number mentioned (however arbitrary) has a very powerful influence on what follows. We get caught up in that figure or that condition.
A good negotiator will know the language of body language where words are not said.
They will be sensitive to non-verbal cues and ‘read the room’ well. Taking time to learn more about body language will help any person who is entering into the negotiation arena or moving into sales more.
Before you start, an effective negotiator will have analysed the problem and what each party wants to walk away with.
Whilst you may know what you want to leave the negotiation table with, you should also be very conscious of what the other party wants. Whether you’re negotiating on behalf of other parties or on behalf of yourself, your job is to bring those two ends together and have both parties meet somewhere in the middle. Ideally, both parties should walk away from the negotiations feeling they have achieved a good outcome. It may not be the perfect outcome but at least one they feel is reasonable.
Negotiation shouldn’t be opposing others.
Work together as a team as you are doing the negotiations and create collaboration during this period. When both parties perceive a ‘win’ you have a win-win situation and this is the perfect one.
The skills to listen attentively to another party should be present in a good negotiator.
You have to be able to read body language and be in tune with verbal communication as well. When you listen, you will find ways to compromise later on.
Communicating clearly and effectively should be a good sign of a negotiator.
They will have a degree of confidence without coming across as aggressive or arrogant.
Good questions are very relevant to negotiations.
If you craft them as somewhat neutral – often as an avenue to understand and know their needs, you’ll find that very beneficial. “Tell me about your frustrations previously”. Ensure your questions are open-ended rather than questions that can be answered with a yes or no. If you are able to draw out of the other person their ‘why’ the other person wants to make a deal, then you will have a clearer understanding of them and the situation.
Whilst the facts may well be very important in a negotiation, personality and skills also play a big part.
Whilst it might not always be practical to spend a lot of time engaging in small talk (and in some instances it won’t be suitable) where possible, try to do this. Endeavour to have a good working relationship with those in the negotiating table. Listen (sometimes someone will drop you some information which you can use to substantiate your case). Be patient. Be persuasive without being manipulative. Above all, maintain a positive atmosphere during even the most difficult negotiation.
Stay composed and steady. Leading on from the prior point, it’s absolutely critical that you remain calm and even-tempered.
The minute you lose your cool, get angry, aggressive, antagonistic or hostile, you will have lost your cause, especially if your adversary is not overly experienced. Needless to say, making the other person embarrassed or uncomfortable will achieve nothing. Emotion and anger will just lead to a negative outcome, hostilities and closed negotiations. For this reason, a good negotiator needs to be able to think on their feet and communicate very clearly and succinctly. They need to be thinking well in advance on how their words might be taken, and consequently choose their words carefully. If you can see that things are going downhill, it might be wise to take a short break. This could be as simple as asking for a glass of water, going to the bathroom, or suggesting a 5-minute break. Let things cool down and then resume the negotiations. Naturally of course, please be ethical in your negotiations and your negotiation process.
Negotiators and leaders should have the ability to act decisively during the process.
At times you may have to respond to something you were not prepared for or to address a counter offer you were not expecting. A good operator will be a problem solver, will see various opportunities and different outcomes. You may be aiming for a certain outcome and during discussions (this is where the listening pays off) a mention has been made of another desired outcome. You might be able to ‘trade’ that outcome for more of what you were needing … whereby the other party feels they’ve had a win, and therefore are more likely to concede to you a win. On that note, don’t be afraid to remind the other party what points you have given them or concessions you have allowed.
A good negotiator is very patient. In some cases, it may be months before the negotiations are over.
Not rushing the process and being patient, controlled and disciplined may well help you in your cause. In some instances you have to move very quickly, and at other times you do not want to be rushed. It’s human nature that in any negotiation, one party will be eager and the other will be reluctant. Now that might not be true every time, but it’s probably true 80 percent of the time. Be aware which party you are and adjust your manner accordingly. As hard as it might be, patience may well be your friend in some cases.
My final message to you that I wish to share with you is that top negotiators are not born, they are made. The best all started somewhere, were not great at it and I’m sure had a few less than successful instances. Remember that after every negotiation, take a moment to think back and learn from the experience. What worked well? What could you have improved on? Where did you get a little stuck, or what did your opposition do well, or poorly. Don’t forget to learn from other’s mistakes as well. Educate yourself, practice, learn and improve.
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