Negotiations happen all the time. They don’t need to be scary.

In my job, I negotiate with the client to determine the best course of action. I don’t always get it right. Sometimes, it can get frosty, especially if I don’t agree to the clients demands.

I knew I wanted to get better at negotiating. I signed up for a two day course run by SavageMacbeth. These guys are the best of the best. They can help you better apply influence, problem solving and negotiation skills to get better deals with customers. If Carlsberg made negotiation courses, they’d make this one.

I wanted to share the main takeaways I took from the course. Of course, this is only a snapshot of what negotiating is all about. I do recommend signing up to SavageMacbeth’s course.

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1) Control your emotions

It’s ok to feel passionate about a topic. It’s not ok if you let your emotions run wild, and you take it out on others. How you communicate through your body language and words can tell a person a lot about how you feel. Commercial deals won’t get done if you offend the other side. Taking a break is sensible if you are struggling to regulate your emotions.

2) Tell people what you want, don’t allow them to guess

Be specific in what you are looking for. It can anchor your conversation. If you are vague then people can take advantage of that. Before you engage in negotiations, plan what your objectives and goals are. Be clear on your pitch and walk away position. Ask yourself what you’d be happy with at the end of the negotiation. Setting a clear agenda at the top of the meeting can help to ensure you keep your focus. It helps you to take control of proceedings.

You might receive an outrageous proposal. To counter, you could say something outrageous in turn. In light of new information you may want to revisit your objectives. It’s acceptable to leave the room to take a moment to breathe and reflect. In fact, I’d encourage this.

3) Share bad news early

If you’ve made a mistake, it’s better to own up to it early. Be open and transparent. It helps to build trust. You may find your mistake isn’t a big deal in the grand scheme of things. Another way to handle this is to share good news alongside the bad. For example, I could tell the other side ‘they can’t have what they want, but the good news is that they can have X’. This might help the other side better accept the news.

4) Get creative

Try to understand what the other side wants. If the negotiations are not aligning, then problem-solve. For example, the ‘slice-and-dice’ technique is all about breaking things into more manageable chunks. You could say something like ‘if you accept this condition, then I am prepared to give you that’.

5) Set specific roles in a negotiating team

Your lead negotiator should be empowered to make decisions. Also, have someone who asks questions and another who clarifies what is being said. Clarification is a powerful technique to reset the conversation after detailing what has happened so far. Be sure to summarise the deal at the end. You want to make sure both parties leave the room satisfied.

6) Authority

Use influence to add weight to your points. If your product is ‘award-winning’ and ‘in limited stock’ or you have another buyer waiting in the wings to buy it, this gives you authority. Be mindful of not overplaying your hand.

7) Listen

The most important skill of all. Pick up on language and signals. They can help you identify where there is flexibility. Ask yourself why someone has reacted in a certain way. If people repeat something then it is important to them. Do not interrupt people, it is rude. If you hear the word ‘no’, it’s not the end of the world. It’s an opportunity to explore further.

8) Ask open questions

Coaching skills are powerful tools in negotiating. The GROW model works well in negotiation. As in coaching, asking ‘why?’ can come across as confrontational. Here’s some questions I like:

  • If someone says ‘that’s difficult’, you can respond with ‘how can we make it easier for you?’.

  • ‘Why is this important to you?’, ‘can you explain the basis of your proposal’, ‘this feels important to you’ and ‘what else?’ to understand their position.

  • ‘You can have that if you…’ to trade something of value.

  • ‘Is my proposal acceptable?’ to understand if you are close to their position.

  • ‘Which aspects of my proposal cause you concern?’, ‘under what circumstances would this be acceptable’ and ‘is there any circumstance you can do this?’, ‘is there anything I can do to make you feel more comfortable?’ to understand what the other side wants.

9) Create unity

Words like ‘we’ and ‘I am happy to help you’ create shared empathy. Be careful of making concessions. Don’t make unconditional offers without receiving anything in return. Beware of the ‘last minute offer’. The need to get a deal done can mean agreeing to something that is not beneficial for you.

10) The shopping list

Make a pitch and go through the list and have conviction in what you are asking for. If the other side says ‘you can’t have everything in the list’, you can trade away the things that don’t matter to you as much for the things that do.

11) Time is your friend

Time can relieve pressure in the negotiation. You can use time to take a breather or be creative when seeking a resolution. Time can be a useful trading device. You might not be able to agree to something now but it might look different in the future. You are leaving room for further discussion.

What are your favourite negotiation techniques? I’d love to hear from you.