The Art of Negotiation

A ‘negotiation’ is a conversation between two or more parties where the outcome has yet to be decided. Many people enter ‘negotiations’ with a clear and defined outcome in mind and the intention to accept nothing less.  Making demands and negotiating are not interchangeable or even similar and you should be clear which activity you intend undertaking.

Most negotiations are stunted or hindered as both parties seek to gain advantage over the other.  These ‘aggressive’ exchanges often result in the focus becoming personal and subjective rather than impersonal and objective. Properly conducted, a ‘negotiation’ can be a very positive experience for all parties involved and not just during but long after the discussions are completed.

Every negotiation will result in one of 4 outcomes.

The objective of all parties conducting the negotiation would be to arrive at a Win-Win situation for both.

So How to play a Win-Win game?

Be Yourself.

People like to do business with people they can engage with and trust.  Make sure you’re open, honest and be very conscious of your non-verbal communications too. Sitting forward and encroaching could be seen as aggression; sitting back and slouching could be seen as disrespectful and flippant.  Avoid looking disinterested or resting your head on your hands.

Be attentive, sit up straight and maintain friendly, comfortable eye contact.  Use active listening skills such as nodding in agreement, making audible sounds of acknowledgement, gently imitate body language and speech rhythms and ask relevant questions.
If it’s appropriate, share some personal information.  Talking about family or interests could establish a rapport but be careful not to offend or alienate the other party with extreme views.

Never Lie
Don’t overstretch the truth; don’t over exaggerate and never ever lie!  You will be found out at some point and, when you are, all trust will be lost and you will never be in a position to negotiate again.

Be Present
Be present and in the moment, listening to everything that’s said and picking up on subtle verbal and non-verbal clues.  Use questioning to ensure you understand everything and don’t make assumptions. Understand fully your opposite number’s position – what are they proposing; what are they asking for; what do they want and not want; why they want it.

Establish Common Ground
Establish the common ground and then use this commonality to build on.  Where are the shared interests, goals, objectives?  How can you help them whilst also helping yourself?
This also affirms your positive listening skills, demonstrating that you’ve placed the wishes and desires of your opposite at the very centre of the conversation.

Show Respect
Show that you respect your opposite by taking some time to consider their views, desires and perspectives.  Dismiss nothing out of hand and be prepared to explain why you are rejecting something, giving them the opportunity to understand what matters to you.

Make your offer
Now you’re ready to make your offer and this should be based on your expectations but also on the preceding discussions reaffirming that you’ve been listening and that you’re trying to encompass your desires with your opposite’s. This is also the perfect time to discuss where you could negotiate further and what’s non-negotiable but it also helps to explain why some aspects are non-negotiable.  If you can’t move on price because of overheads, say so but explore where you could offset this (perhaps with reciprocal marketing or something mutually beneficial).
The ‘Art of Negotiation’ is quite simply getting a good deal for all parties involved or reaching a consensual agreement for mutual benefit.
Be careful not to compromise too much – this is a business transaction and whilst mutual respect, honesty and flexibility will aid the process, the outcome may be that the deal on offer isn’t for you and you walk away, happy that you’ve explored all options and haven’t betrayed yourself or your organization. That doesn’t mean you don’t respect each other, in fact quite the opposite – you respect yourself as much as you respect them.

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This article was authored by Collin Millar (Twitter @colin_millar), a guest blogger at Business Fundas.Colin is the Chairman of Chartered Management Institute (CMI, Glasgow), an EFQM Business Excellence Practitioner & Accredited Assessor.  Colin Graduated in Management from the Open University Business School and has held several senior positions including Head of Criminal Records Bureau for a Scottish Police Force and Head of Operations for a Scottish based charity.

By Guest

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