Negotiation is a vital part of business and can help businesses and employees alike reach mutually agreeable goals that build relationships, streamline business procedures, and drive profits. However, those new to approaching effective negotiations often feel intimidated by the process. From the outside, it can appear that an individual needs innate talent to achieve a successful negotiation and drive the bargaining situation in their favor. However, negotiation is a series of skills that can be learned over time and improved with training.
In fact, many new negotiators are surprised to discover just how straightforward the core tenets of negotiation truly are. There is little need for overly complex strategies, and negotiation certainly does not require the spontaneous development of inborn intuition. Instead, the best negotiation strategies are often simple ideas that many of us already utilize in our day-to-day conversations and interactions.
These four negotiation tips can provide an accessible place for any new negotiator to begin.
Establishing a pleasant rapport can make it easier to collaborate with your negotiation partner when the time comes. By extension, rapport can make it easier to reach a mutually beneficial agreement in the end. The process can begin long before you sit down at the negotiating table.
Whenever possible, try to communicate with your negotiation partner prior to the meeting. While situations do not always lend themselves to sitting down and speaking with the other party prior to negotiations, you can still find a way to communicate and begin building rapport. For instance, even a short introductory phone call can make a tremendous difference in the ease and outcome of negotiations. You’ll feel more familiar with the other person and more attuned to your mutual goals regardless of whether you are negotiating in person, via telephone, or over email.
Don’t Make Assumptions — Negotiate the Process
As mentioned above, successful negotiations begin long before you reach the table. In fact, you will often need to negotiate exactly how you plan to negotiate with your partner. For example, when will you be meeting? Who else will be present, aside from the two of you? What is the agenda for the discussion?
It is important to agree on these points prior to the start of negotiations. Always avoid assuming the answers, as this can lead to conflict and complications during the negotiation process itself. Work with your partner to develop a plan for how the negotiation will proceed, then stick to it to keep the discussion on track and avoid conflict.
Be An Active Listener
On the surface, “listen when others are talking” can seem obvious, especially as it applies to negotiation. However, far too many negotiators make their own point, then spend the entirety of the other party’s response thinking over what they plan to say next. Active listening techniques help you demonstrate that you are truly invested in what the other party has to say and are considering its value before working toward a solution. Thus, active listening is something that all negotiators should remain aware of during the bargaining process.
Once you have begun negotiations, make an effort to hold off on forming your response until after the other party has finished making their point. Instead, as your partner is speaking, put all your focus into listening and internalizing what they’re telling you. You can demonstrate this by nodding or verbally affirming that you are listening as they speak, leaning forward to become more engaged in the conversation, and maintaining eye contact.
After the other party has finished speaking, paraphrase what they’ve said to you before making your own point. Not only does this display that you were actively listening, but it also gives you a chance to formulate your own rebuttal. Paraphrasing and following up with relevant questions also allows you to confirm your understanding of the point, in case you’ve misunderstood.
Ask Open-Ended Questions
During the negotiations process, asking questions can improve your understanding of the opposite party’s perspective and goals. However, it is important to avoid asking arbitrary questions simply to appear invested in the response. You should be able to take something valuable from every answer.
A simple way to achieve this is by favoring open-ended questions over “yes or no” questions. Before you ask any question of your negotiation partner, consider if it is possible for the question to be answered with a simple “yes” or “no” If this is the case, try to expand upon what you’re asking, possibly by adding a firmer direction to the query. Always aim to receive a detailed answer that will provide you with insight into your negotiation partner’s position or allow you to make a better decision regarding your own.
Use These Tips to Begin Negotiations With Ease
Negotiating effectively doesn’t have to be complicated and does not require an expert with innate skills. By integrating these four simple tips, you will find the bargaining process to be far less intimidating and can begin approaching negotiation more confidently. Over time, as you begin developing skills of your own or receive negotiation training, you, too, can become a seasoned negotiator.