Negotiations are an essential part of any business venture, but they can also be the most stressful. As a result there is a lot of misleading information about how to ‘win’ a negotiation and a lot of hard and fast rules that may actually be weakening your negotiation power. The need to dominate and weaken the other side’s position may work to get you what you want but it will not lead to a successful relationship in the long-run. Confidence and domination are often confused in negotiations. There is such thing as a win-win situation, and you should be aiming to find it rather than cheating the other side out of what they need. So how do you ensure the best possible result for both sides in your negotiation? There are the 3 essential steps.
1. Prepare extensively for your negotiation
Preparation is key. The most important thing you can possibly do for a negotiation is prepare for every possible situation or outcome.
- The first step of any negotiation preparation is to determine whether the situation requires negotiating? Here is the tip – if there is nothing to gain then do not enter into a negotiation.
- If there are advantages then it is time to clarify your aims. What exactly do you want to achieve out of this negotiation and how flexible you can afford to be?
- Now you need to work out who you need to negotiate with to get this goal. You probably have an idea of this already, but this preparation stage involves thinking outside the box about who else could give it to you if your first candidate is unable to.
- Having a clear negotiating partner in mind, it is essential that you carefully decide what information you are willing to reveal in the actual negotiation, what you can offer up if the negotiation takes another direction and what you should never reveal. If you are in a team negotiation this information needs to be agreed upon and sacred.
- From what you know of the other side, work out what their aim will be – this may not end up being the case when you actually enter the negotiation but if you have prepared a lot of different possible scenarios you will be more flexible on the day.
- Practice what you will say by actually saying it. If you are in a negotiation team this is a lot easier as you have willing subjects to debate against. If you don’t then practice in your own time by yourself. Consider it like practicing for a debate or a speech, the more you get used to the words coming out of your mouth the better it will sound on the day. If you struggle with public speaking or speaking from the heart try our business simulation activity Speak Up Speak Out.
2. Active listening – you should listen more than you talk
During the actual negotiation your most valuable skill is active listening. Listening is the most important and undervalued skill in all aspects of business. People assume that hard-line negotiators are masters of talking and while their verbal communication skills are exceptional, they would be nothing without listening skills. These are the type of listeners who repeat your most important points back to you, they gain your trust, gain your respect and when they come back with their counter offers they are not offensive and address your concerns one by one.
So how can you become an active listener? First of all you have to be empathetic in your listening, don’t get too absorbed thinking about how what they are saying can effect you, but try and gain a deeper understanding of their wants and needs. By zoning out to rethink your position you are missing potentially valuable information, which in turn weakens your position.
3. Control your emotions to gain negotiation power
This is not a Jedi mind trick, you cannot ever truly control the emotions of your negotiation partner but you can control your own. Resilience is a skill you should work hard to improve. If stress gets to you, then you should practice deep breathing exercises and emotional state changing simulations. Before you go into the negotiation take some time to imagine a time when you felt in control and happy. This does not necessarily have to be something that happened at work, it could be the time you scored the winning goal in your social soccer team or the feeling you got when you delivered a great speech at your friends wedding. The desire to be the top dog in the negotiation (why do all negotiation metaphors involve dogs?) may be making you appear brusque and domineering. Sometimes these traits will appeal to your adversary but it is much better to go into the conversation with a friendly yet confident attitude. It is not a mind game so much as a discussion about things what both parties want/need.
If your negotiation partner is being rude, unreasonable or threatening, the greatest and most difficult advice to take is to not let it get to you. If they are trying to take advantage of you, you always have the option to decline what they are proposing and walk away. Obviously it is not always that easy. That party may have exactly what you need and no one else does. If they are being unreasonable on your main point try and steer the conversation away onto your second most important issue. If they are still being unreasonable then just be sure to not be bullied into agreeing to anything you have not prepared yourself to. You can always explain that you need time to think about their conditions and postpone the meeting to another time with more preparation for their unpleasant demeanor. Just remember: don’t agree to anything that doesn’t suit your aim and be careful of what terms you are agreeing to.
The real secret to gaining negotiation power
The hype of being powerful and domineering in negotiations is a trick that fools fall into. Often the most powerful person in a negotiation is the one who has a firm idea of their aims, the numbers they are willing to settle for and who has listened carefully during the whole process.
If you and your team would like to get a deeper understanding of the process of a negotiation then you should participate in Negotiation Skills, a training and development event that teaches a small team all about the best way to go about a negotiation will plenty of hands-on practice at the same time. Or contact us to find the perfect team building game or training event for your company.