Negotiation skills are a fundamental requirement for success in our business and personal lives. In business, negotiation is an essential part of leadership, project management, strategy, sales, marketing, finance, HR, conflict management, performance management, and more. In our personal lives, we start negotiating from the time we are born when we are hungry, and we start crying to get our mother’s attention.  As children, we negotiate with our parents to buy us toys, and then we continue negotiating our first salary, purchasing car, property, bank rates, marriage, and so on. As leaders, we are continuously engaged in negotiations with staff, suppliers, regulators, unions and stakeholders. The great negotiators, like chess players, have the ability to read their opponents and be a step ahead. They are willing to make small concessions, but they make small concession look much larger than they are.

Here are seven secrets of success of negotiations:

  1. Preparation. Prepare properly for the negotiation process. Clarify your goals. Gather all information. Analyse your opponent. Put yourself in the shoes of your opponent. Understand your opponent. Lobby prior to negotiations meeting.
  2. Planning. Analyse all possible scenarios – win/win, win/lose, lose/win, and lose/lose. Plan for win/win outcome. Apply problem analysis and solving techniques. Prepare draft agreement, if appropriate. 
  3. Strategy. Develop a strategy for your negotiations, focus and line of arguments. Plan various negotiation tactics for various scenarios. Decide on your opening position and prepare your opening remarks. Develop negotiation strategy and tactics for each scenario.
  4. Communication. Think positively. Communicate clearly, professionally and in a friendly manner. Develop joint ground rules. Reduce misunderstanding. Listen first with empathy to build trust and understand the other person points of view but know when to be assertive, so you don’t lose your power. Build rapport with the opponent. Communicate in a persuasive manner. Be aware of your body language and analyse the body language of your opponent. Communicate the worst and the best scenarios – emphasising the best scenario. 
  5. Tactics. Use various negotiation tactics as required for different scenarios. Transform anxiety into excitement. Hold your cards close to your chest. Do not sell yourself short. Be patient and take your time. Use threats when required. Compromise and be reconciliatory when required. Use the power of silence when appropriate. Praise your opponent when required to build trust. Ask for advice. Focus on solutions/outcome rather than blaming and escalating conflict. Manage your emotions. Make a fair offer and aim for win/win outcome. 
  6. Detachment. Detach from the outcome. Everything that happens, it happens for the best. There is no worst-case scenario. Consider arbitration as the final offer.
  7. Closure. Document or record the agreement. Pay attention to detail. Agree on an implementation plan. Send the email or an official agreement document, dated and signed. 

There are five major negotiation styles: competing, collaborating, compromising, accommodating and avoiding. Successful negotiators adopt several of these styles when involved in negotiations, problem-solving and deep-rooted conflict resolution.

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