Many people perceive negotiation as a zero-sum game where one side wins, and the other loses. However, according to The Negotiation Experts, a mutually beneficial outcome is more often the hallmark of a great deal.
To achieve successful win-win outcomes, negotiators need to have a solid grasp of the right set of skills and the knowledge of when, where, and how to apply them. While there are many skills a negotiator needs in their toolkit, this article looks at the top 5 that, when applied, can help achieve the best possible business deals.
Preparation is a crucial first step in moving towards a successful business deal. Information that is acted upon is power in negotiations. Taking time to prepare allows you to gather information. Most importantly, the information you collect can help increase your leverage.
To prepare well:
- Set your negotiation goals. Be sure to note your most-desired and least-desired possible outcomes.
- Think about what you’re willing to and not willing to compromise on.
- Decide what negotiation strategy and tactics would be most effective.
- Find out as much as possible about your negotiating partner and what they may want and the possible objections they may voice.
Gaining insight into who is on the other side of the bargaining table allows you to understand how to discuss and position the deal.
A big slice of the negotiating pie is information exchange. How you express yourself can ultimately impact the outcome of the negotiation process. Therefore, effective communication skills help you come across as convincing.
Attentive listening is key to effective communication. For one, when you listen keenly you can get insights that are not readily offered. For example, if someone is nodding but has a puzzled look on their face, something you said may have been unclear and you may need to expand on your points for clarity. Also, when emotions run hot and high, strong listening skills can help calm tensions and break stalemates.
Here are a few ways to become an expert communicator:
- Listen more and talk less.
- Make sure your words and body language are in sync to avoid sending mixed messages.
- When someone is speaking, give them your full attention.
- Avoid interrupting, talking over, or finishing the speaker’s sentences.
- Ask great questions.
Negotiations can be emotional and stressful, more so if the stakes are high. When you’re feeling pressured, it’s tempting to want to push for a swift conclusion and rush into making a decision. However, impatience could cause you to leave money on the table or ignore red flags.
Also, in your haste to close the deal, you may offer concessions that could eventually devalue the profitability of the deal. Practicing patience, on the other hand, gives you time to thoroughly review and understand the offer on the table, and build rapport and relationships.
To develop your patience at the negotiation table:
- Remove or limit any unnecessary pressures on you that are causing the haste.
- Don’t rush to accept an offer, even if it sounds ideal. Instead, give yourself time to go through the agreement.
- Be clear and firm on what your “walk-away” point is and stick to it.
Build positive relationships
A negotiation relies heavily on effective human interaction. This is why establishing positive relationships at the bargaining table is crucial. When people feel good about whom they’re trying to make a deal with it helps to encourage trust. The presence of trust at the bargaining table helps stimulate collaborative efforts.
To build positive relationships with the person you are negotiating with:
- Take time to build rapport before the meeting.
- Develop a genuine interest in their business.
- Consider offering unilateral concessions. Of course, these need to be of relatively low cost and risk to you, but great value to the receiver.
- Negotiate in good faith regardless of the challenges you run up against.
Engage in deliberate practice
As with any skill, learning how to negotiate takes practice. When you’re trying to hone your deal-making skills, the quality of your practice has an immense impact. That’s why the experts in negotiation training say that deliberate practice is your most competent support system.
“Deliberate practice” is a term coined by Anders Ericsson, a Florida State psychology professor. In his best-selling book, Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise, Ericcson defines deliberate practice as the process of working in a specific, purposeful, and strategic way to improve a skill.
To engage in deliberate practice:
- Set time aside to work on your skills regularly.
- Use each practice session to work on improving specific negotiating strategies. It’s the best way to ensure that you’re improving your performance and not simply acquiring knowledge.
- Work with an expert negotiation coach or mentor. A coach or mentor can help provide immediate feedback on your strengths and weaknesses. This can accelerate the learning process.