Mastering negotiation skills is essential in order to conduct business successfully. In reality, we negotiate on a daily basis, without ever being conscious of it! However, for many, even just thinking about negotiating brings on a wave of stress and thoughts of conflict and confrontation, since to them, negotiation automatically implies that there must be a winner and a loser to the deal.
However, skillful negotiation renders it possible to find a solution that suits everyone; which can be achieved through discussions with the objective of finding an outcome that is beneficial to all parties involved. It is all about exploring both positions in depth while entertaining a desire to find a mutual understanding which will benefit both parties.
In the context of optimal negotiation, there should in fact be no loser or winner. Indeed, it is not always so in real life, but it remains crucial to aim for it and make efforts towards that goal.
Here are 7 negotiation skills that are advantageous to have in your arsenal.
Negotiation Skill #1 – Being Prepared and Understanding the Other Party
“Knowledge is power, and power is being informed.”
Contrary to popular belief, negotiation does not start when both parties meet in order to negotiate. In fact, a great part of the outcome is determined before the meeting even occurs! The larger the stakes, the heftier the amount of preparation required.
The first step to negotiation consists in understanding the personality of the other person and knowing how to put oneself in their shoes. In order to do so, it is necessary to be prepared: What is their reality? What are their interests? What are their needs? What do they have to gain? What do they have to lose? What are their motivations? What is at stake?
The more you understand your opponent and the higher the level of preparedness, the better the position you are in for optimal negotiation. Understanding their personality is quite beneficial if this work is done before even the meeting even occurs!
Being prepared also means having built your network of influence before the meeting. It is quite rare that all of the negotiation happens solely between the two people present – there are often other powers at play. Having an understanding of these and benefitting from their involvement before the negotiation always tend to contribute to a winning hand.
Negotiation Skill #2 – Knowing How to Listen
In order to understand the needs of the other party, knowing how to listen is most indispensable!
It is profitable to lend an attentive ear before the negotiation in order to be able to harvest all the necessary information and to understand the other, but it is also crucial to listen well during the negotiation process so as to fully grasp the intent of the other party, their reasoning, non-verbal expressions and hence be able to react in consequence.
In all interpersonal dynamics, there is the self and the other, and both of their perception of reality. Active listening and empathy are excellent tools to better understand them.
Here are a few tips to develop and enhance active listening in a context of negotiation:
- Make yourself available and let the other express themselves without interruption;
- Ask open-ended questions and invite the other to further elaborate about their thoughts;
- Be at ease in moments of silences (oh, so essential!);
- Be aware of your body language as well of that of the other individual;
- Reformulate what your discussion partner states in your own words;
- Project empathy and
Active listening will allow you to develop your sense of empathy, a skills that allows you to better know others, understand their feelings, capture their point of view and feel a sincere interest in their preoccupations; all of which allows you to develop harmonious relationships with others. In order to negotiate an understanding that would be beneficial to both parties, it is most essential to understand the needs of the other, and, for that purpose, there are simply no better skills than active listening and empathy.
Negotiation Skill #3 – Controlling Emotions
A negotiation that is ruled by emotions has little chance of fully satisfying everyone’s needs.
A serious talk with somebody who loses control of their emotions, someone aggressive or someone who feels victimized will never bear fruit in the long term and will end up turning against you.
Controlling one’s emotions means knowing how to stay calm while expressing oneself, all the while continuously using tact and diplomacy.
Developing your emotional intelligence will definitely be a great help for skillful negotiation!
Negotiation Skill #4 – Knowing How to Express Yourself and Navigating the Negotiation with an Objective in Mind
Someone skilled at negotiating is fully aware of what they want out of the exercise, knows how to ask for it and says no to whatever is undesirable. Seems simple, right? Despite that, many negotiations fail for those very reasons.
Attempting to negotiate with an individual who is unable to express what they want would not only be a challenging operation, but it would also be quite difficult to satisfy their needs. The very basis of negotiation is tackling the discussion with a clear mission in mind and taking action in consequence.
A too-aggressive of a demand might be just as much of a deterrent as a lack of request altogether. In these situations, dosage is key: it is most crucial to know the person in front of you (Skills #1 and #2) and adapt your actions in consequence.
All in all, knowing how to express your thoughts goes hand in hand with making the right decisions during the course of the negotiation, while always keeping your ultimate goal in mind, of course!
Negotiation Skill #5 – Seeking out Collaboration
A negotiation does not have to be synonymous with two parties engaging in battle with one another. The best negotiators genuinely seek to work as a team, approaching the situation with a collaborative mindset.
If your sole purpose during the negotiation is to “win” to the other party’s detriment, the loser will inevitably end up being you. In order go through the motions of a negotiation, it is essential to take the other party’s needs into consideration.
Negotiation Skill #6 – Knowing the Scope of Your Influence
The power of influence lies in the art of negotiation and persuasion. For the latter, one must be equipped with a good set of arguments, base oneself on solid logic (both of which come hand in hand with preparation), put the emphasis on positive elements and know how to express one’s thoughts calmly and appropriately. In order to be able to negotiate, it is necessary to know how to listen, how to find a solution that befits all, how to establish trust and have body language that expresses openness.
If you are capable of mastering the art of persuasion and negotiation, you will be able to influence the thoughts and opinions of others, which is useful in order to reach your goal.
Negotiation Skill #7 – Developing Trust
All negotiations are based on a certain degree of mutual trust since this type of encounter it is essentially an exchange of promises and commitments.
Trust is in fact the result of a relationship and not its starting point – it has to be developed and constructed with time. This is another dimension of the idea that you need to be prepared before the negotiation happens; in this case, a bond of trust must already be established. How could this be achieved? By consistently honoring commitments and promises. If you promise to do something, even something small, deliver on that promise. If not, it is unlikely that you will be deemed trustworthy during negotiations.
Knowing how to skillfully negotiate is an essential ability in today’s business world. In order to master that skill, one must be well prepared, know how to walk a mile in the opponent’s shoes, how to listen, control one’s emotions, express oneself eloquently and be influential, all the while possessing a sincere desire to collaborate and harbor a climate of trust. Develop these negotiation skills and you will be on your way to becoming a true master of negotiation!
What about you? Which skills have you developed with your experience? Share them with us in the comments section below!