6 tips to nail your next negotiation

Last week, I facilitated a session with a top notch senior leadership team who are moving from being a group of individuals to a high performing, cohesive team.

In one of the sessions, there was a moment when two of the team members had to navigate a tricky negotiation over resources. I was totally impressed with their awesome display of negotiation, which reminded me how important this trait is in any leadership role.

It’s a myth that negotiation is a tool which only salespeople or lawyers should sharpen. As a business leader, negotiation is a vital hack you should hone.

Whether you’re discussing a project deadline with stakeholders, pitching for resources for an investment, or negotiating a salary with a potential employee, getting adept at negotiation will give you a distinct advantage in your role as a leader.

Here are six simple tips to help you nail your next negotiation:

  1.  Plan. It seems obvious, but knowing what your bottom line is, or ‘walk away point’, as well as your ‘best case scenario’ before entering into the negotiation is a no-brainer. Here are some other useful questions to ponder prior to the big N:
    • What are the constraints at play?
    • What resources do I have at my disposal that may not be obvious at first glance?
    • How much time do we have?
    • Who are the key players and decision makers? (Sometimes they’re not who you think).
    • Do you know what they want and value?
    • What are their alternatives?
    • What is the ‘back story’ they’re bringing to the negotiation table and what impact will that have on our negotiations?
    • What’s our common ground?
  1. Ask for what you want. Aiming for your ‘best case scenario’ can sit uncomfortably, but realising you received less than you could have feels much worse (believe me, I know from experience). What’s the best case scenario? Start with that.

In his book Negotiation Boot Camp: How to Resolve Conflict, Satisfy Customers, and Make Better Deals, Ed Brodow says:

“there is a difference between being assertive and being aggressive. You are assertive when you take care of your own interests while maintaining respect for the interests of others. When you see to your own interests with a lack of regard for other people’s interests, you are aggressive. Being assertive is part of negotiation consciousness.”

  1. Listen and paraphrase. It’s important (as with any interaction in business) to seek to understand before being understood. Too many negotiations have gone AWOL just because one party has not taken the time and attention to truly understand what the other party wants – or where they’re coming from. Talking too much, making assumptions and neglecting to pay attention to what is not being said are common traps for poor negotiators. Listen and paraphrase to check your understanding. And then listen some more.
  2. Be willing to walk away. This relates to point one. If you know what your bottom line is, you’ll know when you’ve hit it. Knowing the difference between your ‘must haves’ and ‘nice to have’s’ helps with this decision.  Always know when to walk away. And do it, if you need to. Tomorrow is another day.
  3. Don’t rush the process. Patience is a virtue when it comes to negotiating. Rome wasn’t built in a day and all that jazz. This is especially important when considering cultural differences. Sealing the deal too quickly can lead to mistakes.  As Barbara Buell says in her article Negotiation Strategy“Accepting a well-priced deal too quickly can cause anger on the other side, too.”
  4. Don’t give anything away – without getting something in return.  My nine year old daughter could teach you a thing or two on this one, believe me! It might be something from your ‘nice to have’ list, and it doesn’t have to be a big thing, but master negotiators, like my two companions this week, ace this.

Negotiation is about give and take – compromise. If you plan ahead, ask for what you want, listen to the other person, and have patience, both parties should leave a negotiation with a positive outcome.

What are your negotiation tips to add to this list?

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Suzi McAlpine

Suzi McAlpine is a Leadership Development Specialist and author of the award-winning leadership blog, The Leader’s Digest. She writes and teaches about accomplished leadership, what magic emerges when it’s present, and how to ignite better leadership in individuals, teams and organisations. Suzi has been a leader and senior executive herself, working alongside CEOs and executive teams in a variety of roles. Her experience has included being a head-hunter, an executive coach, and a practice leader for a division at the world’s largest HR consulting firm. Suzi provides a range of services as a Leadership Development Specialist, including executive coaching, leadership workshops and development programmes for CEOs, leadership teams and organisations throughout New Zealand.

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