Even for those that don’t consider themselves a “deal-maker”, negotiation is an important skill to have at your command.
For many, the thought of “negotiation skills” either doesn’t apply to them; or sounds something of an unattractive and unwanted quality. But that ability to confer with another party with a view to compromise and agreement runs throughout our lives and careers.
Working with our team. Delivering to our clients. Managing our stakeholders. Answering to our leadership. Interviewing with our prospective employers. Negotiation is everywhere.
Negotiation need not be a negative. Rather, it is a positive – if we update our perspective and learn to love the process. So here are a few thoughts to add to your negotiation repertoire – starting with influence.
The nature of influence
We’ve all been sold. We’ve all been instructed. We’ve all been taught. And from those experiences, we all know that the approach is never so effective as when we’re involved and engaged in the process.
So it is with any form of influence: giving information is rarely as effective an approach as seeking information.
People like to talk. People like to be listened to. And people like to be heard. And this works well for us and our negotiation:
- If they tell you what you want, you have a better chance of satisfying requirements.
- If they make the suggestion, you have a better chance of it being accepted.
So make your First Rule of Negotiation: ask more, talk less.
Ahead of time
Your Second Rule of Negotiation: be prepared ahead of time. You know how to prepare for an important meeting or presentation. Here are a few negotiation-specific preparations to add to your list.
- Know your negotiating self. Before entering a negotiation, take a personal inventory. How do you feel about negotiation: positive or negative? What kind of negotiator are you: softly, softly – or win at all costs? What version of your self do you want and need to show-up in this negotiation?
- Do your deal homework. Who are you negotiating with? And for what? What are your priorities? And what are your non-negotiables? Do you have a “best alternative” lined-up? And after all is said and done: what’s the bottom line?
- Decide your strategy. Negotiation is about flexibility and adaptability. To introduce options to your negotiating strategy, think in terms of elements that together form different packages of offer. This will give you some room for manoeuvre.
- Practise double- and triple think. You’ve thought about what you want out of the negotiation. What do you anticipate the other party wants from it (double think)? And what does the other party think you want (triple think!)?
- Know what a win is. Get clear on your outcomes ahead of time. Define your “settlement range” by asking what’s best case and what’s worst case. And commit to rejecting anything below your bottom line. Thinking in terms of your settlement range will keep you focused on outcomes – but give you some adaptability.
In the moment
Your Third Rule of Negotiation: stay present in the moment.
- Prioritise trust and rapport. Negotiation is a sophisticated form of communication – and without trust and rapport, there is no communication. So come from a place of trust. Offer certainty. Offer autonomy. Honour your commitments. Tell the truth. Respect confidences. Act with integrity.
- Stay focused on the agenda and outcome. As with any high-pressure meeting or presentation, it’s easy to get off track. Stick to the agenda and within the topics of discussion. And stay focused on the overall outcome you’re looking for. Be flexible in the exchange – but keep bring things back gently to the point at hand.
- Develop your external listening. We’re constantly in a dialogue with ourselves. And when the inner dialogue becomes the focus, you won’t be listening externally. Turn-off your inner voice and tune-in to those involved in the exchange. Listen externally. Listen at all levels. And listen to what’s not being said.
- Don’t forget to close. You’re in the negotiation for an outcome – so don’t forget to close it out! With so many proposals being countered, expanded and compromised upon, it’s important to underline the final position and the close. So map it out. Be specific. Be polite, but persistent. Get it in writing. Don’t skirt the issues. And remember: your options for closing include walking away from the deal that isn’t right.
- Learn to love the process. Like so many things in life and work, we get far greater results when we learn to love the process as much as the outcome. No need to rush the exchange just to get it over with.
The secrets to negotiation
Negotiation is not about putting forward your position and interests and staunchly arguing for them. It is about establishing a relationship between what the other party wants, what the other party needs and what you have to offer.
All that starts with a renewed perspective of negotiation and influence based on: seeking (not giving) information; being prepared; and staying present.