Effective Negotiation Skills

negotiation techniguesA condensed list of negotiation skills and tips from studies, skilled negotiators, and personal experience.

Lists of skills and techniques are helpful, but they can’t replace self-confidence and actual negotiating experience that are so valuable in negotiations. Don’t despair if you’re lacking in these. They’re helpful, not essential. If you’re nervous, it helps to remember that the other party may have the same feelings.  If the other party is deceptive, avoid them.

Now the list:

  • First, the obvious: Prepare!  Learn as much as you can about the other party’s needs, expectations, and personalities, as well as existing contracts, risks issues, your needs and bottom line…
    • Preparation builds self-confidence and helps you stay focused.
  • Practice for the actual negotiation using a mock trial.
  • Know the six techniques of influence* and how to protect yourself when they are used to manipulate. 
  • Stay focused. Don’t allow the other party to side track the negotiation by bringing up something from the past. Tell them you can discuss that topic later, but right now you are discussing the topic at hand.
  • Help the other party understand your needs and expectations so they can work on meeting them. Note: This isn’t the same as “showing your hand” or revealing all your information. It is about collaboration.
  • Create a collaborative environment if at all possible. It’s best if both sides work together to solve each other’s problem or ensure that the needs of both parties are met. See next point.
  • Collaboration isn’t always possible, of course, so be prepared to use other negotiation techniques such as confrontation or compromise.
  • Develop the ability to remain silent. It is a very effective technique at the right times. Few people can remain silent for a long period of time.  If you can, you have an upper hand.
  • Allow enough time to complete the negotiations, or have a contingency plan. Don’t allow someone to time pressure you into making a deal. This is a powerful form of manipulation.
  • Be ready with counter offers. A negotiation tactic sometimes used by the other party is to ask for something new and very important at the last minute, hoping to get something extra for free. If you are prepared you can say, “We can probably manage that if you….”
  • Sometimes it is better to lose than compromise. In a compromise, both sides lose something. If there is something to be gained by it,  then losing this battle might be the better strategy.
  • Learn to be assertive. This is not the same a being aggressive. This is getting what you want in a respectable manner. The objective again is to break down artificial structures or barriers, discover what the other party wants, and convey what you want.
  • The biggest disagreements often come from within your own negotiations team.  I once had more difficulty convincing  my team not to use a flat percentage than I had convincing the other party to reduce their demand from 10% to 7.84%.
  • After my last comment, I should probably add this: Avoid using round numbers like 10% whenever possible. It often leaves the other party wondering if they could have gotten more, and they become unhappy with the deal. This sounds deceptive, but working with actual costs rarely results in flat numbers.
  • Finally, don’t be deceptive or manipulative. It’s unethical, it violates most company policies, it can destroy your reputation, and it can damage or destroy current and future negotiations.

*The six techniques of influence: Reciprocation, commitment and consistency, social proof, likability, authority and scarcity. From Robert B. Cialdini‘s book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion

*See also Why Do People Say “Yes?” The “6 Weapons of Influence”, By Patricia Fripp, CSP, CPAE and David Palmer, Ph.D, CPA

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© 2010 – 2012, Tracy McBroom. All rights reserved.

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