How to master the art of negotiation

shaking hand, negotiation

By Denise Louise Jeffrey, negotiation and communication expert

Regardless of the industry, every business is involved in a form of negotiation at one point of another.

Unfortunately, very few of us are lucky enough to be born with a natural flair for it making it feel like more of a nerve-wracking experience than it needs to be.

The good news is, everyone can learn how to become a great negotiator. Next time you find yourself in a negotiation setting, whether it’s striking a deal with a new client, agreeing on a price with a supplier (or buyer), or even fighting your case for a pay rise, bare these three tips in mind.

And, like any other skill, remember: practice makes perfect.

Prepare, prepare, prepare

When it comes to all aspects of business, there really is no such thing as being too prepared. Doing adequate research ahead of your meeting will put you in a strong position to ask the questions you need answered, and to back up your own arguments with facts and reason.

If you’re not familiar with the person you are negotiating with, it’s also sensible to do a background search on them ahead of your meeting. Learn what their role and responsibilities are within their company, what they’ll be hoping to achieve from the deal, and if possible, a little bit more about them as a person, such as their interests and strengths.

Going in prepared means you will have the confidence to tackle any curve balls that come your way and argue your case effectively.

Be adaptable

Contrary to popular belief, negotiation style isn’t so much about personality as it is an individual’s behaviour on the day. Even the most easy-going of people may adopt a tougher demeanour when they’re fighting for the deal they want.

If you’re going to influence your way to a great negotiation outcome, it’s essential that you enter the meeting prepared to be reactive to the other party’s behaviour. Once you’ve gauged their approach to the negotiation, you can then tailor yours accordingly. For example, if the other party are being cooperative, you should be cooperative back. Likewise, if they’re going into a lot of detail, offer the same in return.

Pay attention

The best negotiators are typically attentive listeners who allow the other party to express their case without interruption before saying their part. Not only does this help you gain their respect – which can encourage a more concessionary outcome – but it also helps you to time your own requests effectively.

If you’re making demands from the get-go, you’re unlikely to be met with a positive response. But if you allow the other person to speak first – and make it clear that you’ve heard what they have to say – they’ll be more receptive to your requests. Take stock of what’s being said, and pick your moment carefully; slow and steady wins the race, after all.

In business, the ability to negotiate effectively is probably one of the most valuable skills that you can possess. If it’s something you find a challenge, don’t be too quick to write it off. Instead, put the leg work in and you’ll be well on your way to striking the best deals, building better relationships and excelling in your career.

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