Negotiating Tips – How to Improve Your Negotiation Skills

I used to think there were people who were naturally good at negotiation, and those (like me) who were naturally bad; in other words it’s like being tall, or having a good singing voice. To a certain extent this can be true – there are those who seem to like the cut and thrust of negotiation, but unlike height or perfect pitch negotiation is a skill that can easily be learned, and a skill that a person improves with practice.

To get you started here are some tips I have found useful when conducting a negotiation.

  1. Always prepare carefully in advance – find out all you can about who you will be negotiating with and what it is they might want, remembering what it is you actually want to achieve yourself.
  2. Don’t ask for everything you want at the start – you should wait until the moment when your opposite has decided to accept your offer and then you can add ‘I assume this includes ‘whatever’?’ When people feel they have reached a decision, they can be more exposed.
  3. Have a ‘higher authority’ in reserve – if you feel you might need to refuse, say you should check with a senior colleague before agreeing – that way it’s the higher authority refusing and not you.
  4. More listen less talk – do not be argumentative. Agree with what’s being said and then try to turn it around if you disagree
  5. Don’t haggle – negotiating is not like haggling over a price in a flea market. Price may not be as key as, for example, the required deliverables.
  6. Face up, test and challenge difficulties – if someone comes up with a ‘difficulty’ – for example, your budget is £10,000; check it out for its validity. Try saying: “to ensure timely delivery, could the budget stretch to £11,000?” If there is hesitation, you’ll know the price can be negotiated further.
  7. Have a stalemate technique in reserve – if you’ve spent a lot of time negotiating and it’s going well, but you suddenly find a point you agree to disagree on, suggest you ‘set it aside’ and move on to items you can continue to agree on.
  8. Go for the win/win – it’s vital in any negotiation that you should both feel you have won, that the negotiations have been fair, that all targets will be met by both sides resulting in the deal producing further work later. Make sure you have been truthful throughout.
  9. Nothing for free – if you give something away, make sure you get something back in exchange.
  10. Summarise, say and send – take notes, then write a summary of what you think the concluded deal is, say you will send and then send to all parties, preferably same day, even if the other party will not be back at their office until the following morning.

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