Developing these three essential negotiation skills will give you the confidence to successfully negotiate any agreement.
There are many articles, blogs, and books about negotiation skills, strategies, tactics, tips, etc. It can be a little overwhelming! We all know that body language, professional communication, and people skills are important. But many negotiators—even the really good ones—forget or underestimate the importance of these three essential negotiation skills.
Many managers shy away from negotiations because they feel uncomfortable with it. Developing these negotiation skills will not only make you love negotiating, they will ensure you conclude negotiations successfully in a way that delivers value for your organization and builds the relationship with the other party.
1. Planning & Preparation
The ability and discipline to properly plan and prepare for negotiation are perhaps the most important, yet most underrated negotiation skill. All of the negotiation tactics and tricks that you have in your toolkit are practically useless if you have not done your homework.
To properly plan for any negotiation, follow these three steps of our 5-step negotiation model:
Step 1: Prepare
Determine the outcome that you would like to achieve through this negotiation. In other words, answer the question: What is your best-case scenario outcome?
After you determine that, start to plan on how you will begin your dialogue with the other party. What will you say to initiate the conversation? What are the objectives? And, how do you want the negotiation to end?
This is the step where you are determining your goals, but keep in mind that you will likely have to be flexible in achieving these goals as you learn more about and negotiate with the other party.
Step 2: Know
To be an effective negotiator, you must know the other party. Spend time researching them to understand their needs and opportunities. Get to know their industry and market (if you are negotiating with a business) and uncover their strengths and weaknesses. Think about what their objectives may be for coming to the table with you. Where are areas that they bring value to you, and where you bring value to them?
Also, prepare a list of questions that you can bring to the negotiation table with you. The objective of these questions will help you either validate your research or improve your understanding of the other party. You might ask something like, “What are some of your concerns that I have not yet addressed?”
Step 3: Create
Now that you have set your goals, do your research, and have a better understanding of the other party, think about your alternatives. You know that negotiation is an interactive process that can take many turns.
Think about as many different alternatives to your best-case scenario as you can. What is some possible counter offers the other party might make? In what areas might they have concerns? Also, think about the concessions you are willing and able to make.
2. Emotional Intelligence
Emotional intelligence is an exceedingly important skill to have in just about every aspect of your life and, as a negotiation skill, there is no exception.
Negotiation is not solely a win-lose scenario. The majority of negotiations in both your professional and personal lives include negotiating with someone you will continue to work with and have a relationship with on an ongoing basis. Because of this, you need to make sure that you are building the relationship throughout the negotiation process. Specifically, keep in mind:
It is very important to place yourself in the other party’s shoes and try to understand their perspective. Think about how they might feel about your goals and objectives. Will they feel defensive? Offended? Comfortable and open? Strive to understand their thoughts and feelings by asking questions such as:
- What do you think about this arrangement?
- What might you need from me to make this work?
- Can you see this as a successful arrangement?
Influence & Communication
Throughout your dialogue, make sure that you are communicating openly and honestly, while being respectful, with the other party. This enables you to build a trusting relationship and influence the direction of the conversation with emotional intelligence.
When you do ask questions, make sure you listen to their response rather than preparing for the next question or your response. Do not use blame or absolutes such as “always” or “never” which break down trust and open dialogue.
People do tend to get worked up during negotiations and may let their emotions get the better of them. Remember not to let yourself be triggered by something that the other party does or says (or does not do or say). Manage your own emotions, even if the other party does not manage theirs.
Negotiators with high emotional intelligence, who can manage their emotions, are able to attain and retain more control over the negotiation. You will also be able to walk away from the negotiation—whether it was successful or failed—on the high ground if you keep your cool, do not resort to sarcasm, and stay professional all the way through.
3. Creative Problem Solving
As previously mentioned, negotiations are typically going to happen with another party that you will be in a continuing relationship with after the negotiation. This means that truly successful negotiations are those that were able to find win-win scenarios where both parties are able to walk away satisfied.
Negotiators often end up leaving a lot on the table because they did not think creatively to find solutions. When you seem to be hitting a wall in the negotiation where neither party is willing to budge, refrain from jumping to conclusions about the problem. Just because you’re not exactly seeing eye-to-eye on the issue doesn’t mean there isn’t a path to a mutually beneficial resolution.
Take a step back and consider the Afters of the issue. Ask the other parties a lot of questions to really understand their perspective on the issue, and communicate yours openly and professionally as well.
Review what you have learned from this dialogue, as well as what you have already mutually agreed to about other areas or issues involved to fully explore all your options. Be open to brainstorming possible solutions. This can be difficult to do during a negotiation, but it’s often helpful to take a timeout and just brainstorm all the possible alternatives to the issue that both parties can think of to come to a resolution.
While not every negotiation has a happy ending all of the time, many negotiators fail to develop the essential negotiation skill to solve problems creatively. This ends up leaving a lot of opportunity on the table, for both parties, to create value and build the relationship.