Everything you don’t have, someone else owns it.
And when you own something, you rarely part with it easily. This is where negotiations begin. Whether it is service, product or time, we all go through negotiation to acquire any resource. We negotiate for everything we do, even when we pay the sticker price.
Before we start, it is important to understand what negotiation is. “Negotiation is a dialogue intended to resolve disputes, to produce an agreement upon courses of action, to bargain for individual or collective advantage, or to craft outcomes to satisfy various interests. It is the primary method of alternative dispute resolution.”
Since we do it so often, why are we not good at it? There are multiple hypotheses’: we don’t realize we are negotiating until we are half way through, we are impatient, we don’t like conflict, or we are greedy. Although, the true reason we are not great at negotiation is that we don’t plan.
1. Start with the end in mind
Most people just think about what they want. A good negotiator will map out all the wants and desires for all parties involved. Start building a negotiation plan with noting all the people involved and describing their roles and their goals.
2. Prepare agreeable points
Work on getting the low hanging fruit in your basket. What are the items both parties can agree on right away? Sometimes there is a negotiation to determine the time and place to negotiate. Even in the most difficult negotiations one can find something to agree on. It is advantageous to spend time determining what these are and start with those items first. The entire discussion will be better when you have some early agreement and yes’.
3. Always trade for something
Part of negotiation is to give and take. The other party will ask for things from you. Some of these points you may not have considered and are not significant to you. Even so, make sure you get something in return that is of value to you. Never give anything up for free. If you are negotiating with a person or organization you plan to have future negotiations with, use those future events as part of the bargaining.
4. Aim high
If you don’t ask you don’t get. The best negotiators always believe there is a successful outcome and expect more than they need. Starting at an extreme position is a proven strategy for better results. Setting high goals will become a self-fulling prophecy and deliver higher than average results. The trick is not to set them so high the other part will not even try to negotiate.
This skill is the most talked about but the least used skill known to man-kind. Too often we try so hard to get our own opinion or point across that we stop listening or don’t hear what the other person said. Ordinary conversations emerge on a deeper level, as do our relationships. In negotiations, when we listen, we create the skill in others by acting as a model for positive and effective communication. Also, by listening, being attentive, and observing behaviour and body language, you add context to the words spoken. Potentially you will pick up “tells”, a subtle but detectable change in a player’s behaviour or demeanour that gives clues to that player’s assessment of his hand.
6. Have a Plan B
Some negotiation geeks will call this BATNA, the negotiation theory. The best alternative to a negotiated agreement is the course of action that will be taken by one group or person if negotiations fail and an agreement cannot be reached. Knowing what your best alternative is gives you an advantage if you face an unsuccessful negotiation. Without a fall-back position, you are left with no alternative but to negotiate until a deal is reached, even if that agreement is unacceptable.
Negotiation is not a event but a process. There is no substitute for preparing and planning. If you follow this pointer, your negotiation skills will improve.