Sharpen Your Negotiating Skills


The word “negotiation” may evoke feelings of competitiveness or terror, depending on your personality type. Most people fall into the latter camp, even those who outwardly display characteristics of boldness and forcefulness, which are often considered useful for winning arguments. The truth (breathe sigh of relief here) is that the art of persuasion really comes down to good old-fashioned planning and preparation. Sure, knowing how to talk the talk does become relevant at some stage, but it’s the groundwork that goes ahead of it that really counts…

Know the rules of the game

This comes down to understanding what the stakes are and what value is on the table, so that you can uncover relevant bargaining chips to bring along with you. First up, be very clear in your mind about what you want – if, for example, you are entering into a salary negotiation with a high-level executive, be sure of what their skills are worth to your business, how many other suitable candidates might be able to fill the position, and, the bottom line, what your budget is. This will make you less likely to be swayed by emotional factors when in discussions. Also know what other strings you have in your bow; using the example above you might be able to offer non-financial incentives like flexi-time, extra leave etc.

Know your opponent

Then it’s about doing some preparation on the person you are going to enter into negotiations with, and ascertaining what is of value to them. If your business specialises in corporate identity design, for example, and a printing supplier happens to mention that their business could really do with a fresh look, you could consider offering some work to them in return for discounted services. Of course, these are very simple scenarios, but more complex negotiations hinge on the same principle: if you understand the context of the negotiation, who the parties involved are, what drives them and where their limits are, the better the chances of understanding your own reactions and emotions as you start your discussions.

Know your approach

We all know the feeling of having prepared our stance on a matter and then going into a meeting and being completely blind-sided by someone’s response. Part of preparing for negotiation is going over some pre-programmed reactions which will help you to maintain a composed manner and not get flustered or defensive – you should even practice saying them so that they sound natural. For example, “We’ve enjoyed being involved with your business over the past ten years and believe that our services have played an important contribution to its success, and look forward to continuing this relationship” sounds a lot better than, “so now you’re trying to cut us out after all we’ve done for you”. When in doubt, be hard on the facts and soft on people!

Go for gold

With your homework behind you, all that remains is to go in and confidently and calmly assert what you believe is a fair outcome. And you don’t need to play the smooth operator – there’s nothing wrong with being yourself, and being a “nice guy” – if you are firm in standing for what you believe in, being pleasant does not equate with being a pushover.

Business Summit