Published on February 19th, 2020 | by Bibhuranjan


7 of the Most Effective Ways to Boost Your Negotiation Skills

In today’s business climate, if you can’t negotiate, you will be losing opportunities to your competitors. Weak negotiation skills can lead to higher operational costs and poor interpersonal connections. In contrast, improving your negotiation skills can lead to higher efficiencies and faster growth.

Negotiating can be intimidating for most people. Yet, most of us are regularly in positions where negotiating can result in better results. To gain more from your business deals, here are seven top tips to improve your negotiation skills.

Practice and Study

As with developing any other skill, negotiators get better with practice. Get a friend or trusted colleague to play devil’s advocate by pretending to be your client, supplier, or boss.

Role-playing can reveal your weak spots, opportunities for leverage, and your personal biases. Having someone to bounce your ideas off can prepare you for the real deal-making. Games and simulations during onsite negotiation skills training can hone your skills for thinking on your feet. You get to practice your responses and improve your speed of analyzing the other side’s reasoning.

Skillful negotiation can be learned through diligent study. Studying improves your knowledge. By knowing your facts and figures, you can confidently face other negotiators with a coherent argument.

Compare Leverage

Leverage is a possible concession that costs your business little to nothing which the other side values highly. Leverage works reciprocally, as the other side may offer a concession that costs them next to nothing for something you value greatly.

Maybe you have access to more resources or are in a position of authority you can use to sway the other side.

Before each discussion, compare all relevant factors that may give each side leverage over the others.

For instance, you can create a list of what can be traded in a negotiation, and then attach a ranking to each item for each side. Analyzing leverages can clarify the reasons why you may need to be more or less flexible in satisfying the other side’s position. A leverage analysis may also define the risks and merits of the deal. Avoid unilateral concessions and work towards mutual concessions. Always trade each concession in return for something your business values.

Prepare Thoroughly

Preparation is the first step to a successful meeting. Understand the complete situation and analyze possible options. Have a clear sense of what’s at stake. Gather all relevant data and run through all possible outcomes. Ask yourself and your team the following questions:

  • What do I hope to get out of these discussions?
  • What am I willing to concede?
  • What line can’t I cross?
  • Are my requests justifiable?
  • What are the best-case and worst-case scenarios?
  • What are the other side’s core needs?
  • What more concessions can I gain from the other side?
  • How would an ideal agreement look to both sides for creating a win-win deal?
  • What are my alternatives?
  • What pressures am I facing?
  • What pressures are the other side facing?
  • Who are the key decision makers, and what are their key performance indicators (KPIs)?

Aim for Win-Win Agreements

Effective negotiators aim for agreements where everyone feels like a winner. With empathy, expert negotiators try to appreciate each side’s struggles and validate their concerns. By understanding both sides, the negotiator is in a position to close the deal quickly.

Without empathy, a prospect’s concerns are not validated. The prospect might become defensive and overwhelm you with objections.

Try and understand the driving force behind the prospect’s position. What are their motivations and priorities? Figure out what kind of people you are dealing with and talk in a language they find relatable.

For instance, when dealing with analytical people, you may have to provide lots of information and ask for their thoughts. Competitive people will require bare minimum details. Emotional people prefer meeting face-to-face and following up with phone call (as compared with emails).

Working towards mutually beneficial agreements leaves a positive vibe and makes it easier to fulfill the contract’s terms. Also, positive vibes are far more likely translate to fruitful long-term relationships.

Train with an Expert

When facing an important meeting, it pays to get professional skills training. A top negotiator can focus on improving your persuasion skills and creating winning strategies. Top negotiation coaches are experts in predicting and explaining which strategies will work and which ones won’t.

A negotiation coach can assist in setting goals and figuring out negotiation techniques to apply. The coach may also guide you in understanding what happened after the fact. A professional coach offers skills training in four distinct stages:

  1. Offers advice consistent with their negotiation behavior.
  2. Stresses the importance of thorough preparation.
  3. Rehearses newly gained skills using role-play and negotiation simulation.
  4. Gathers and analyzes feedback by debriefing the final results.

If you choose to train with an expert coach, avoid the pitfall of passively taking notes. Reflect on how the coach’s concepts relate to your own experiences. Implement new ideas in simulations and real-life interactions.

Understand Competing Motivations

Many negotiators fail because they focus too much on positions. Skilled negotiators put more emphasis on learning why others take the positions they take.

Ask questions to find out the real interests others have. What informs their decisions? Why is their position so desirable for them? Get under the surface and understand what others want to get out of the meeting. Most times, you will be surprised to discover that their motivation goes beyond pricing and money issues. By finding out the real motives, you will be better able to craft a win-win solution.

Accept Your Mistakes

It’s vital to own your mistakes for you to improve. Most people exhibit some flaws in thinking, personal biases, and blind spots. For example, some personality types tend toward being overconfident. Highly competitive negotiators tend to be overly confident, while at the same time underprepared.

Negotiation trainees may at first feel threatened and go on the defensive when they realize they have been making decisions based on faulty information or misguided intuition. Negotiation instructors take their students through simulation games to identify these flaws in a low-pressure environment. When students recognize their judgment biases, they can work to adopt better thinking patterns to apply in real-life interactions.

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Editorial Officer, I'm an avid tech enthusiast at heart. I like to mug up on new and exciting developments on science and tech and have a deep love for PC gaming. Other hobbies include writing blog posts, music and DIY projects.

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