How to get your way: the art of negotiation

Effective negotiation skills are a must-have, no matter what situation you find yourself in. Here we will discuss some of the different types of negotiating styles, and common negotiation strategies so that you too can become an expert negotiator!

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Imagine you have been working at a company for a long time. You are ready to make a career move and transition to a more senior role with a higher salary. Although you get the offer, the pay is not as much as you expected.

So, what do you do? Do you go straight to the HR and demand a pay rise? Or do you go to them and have a rational discussion and tell them why you deserve more by negotiating?

Effective negotiation skills are a must-have, no matter what situation you find yourself in. From buying a new car, to bargaining over a starting salary, or even putting your kids to bed – negotiation is related to almost anything we do, which is why it helps to be good at it.

However, negotiating can often be a daunting prospect, especially to people who are uncomfortable with conflict. For example – a recent survey by staffing firm Robert Half, found that only around 39% of respondents tried to engage in a salary negotiation with their employer.

Here we will discuss some of the different types of negotiating styles, and common negotiation strategies so that you too can become an expert negotiator!

 The main topics that this article will cover are:

  • The importance of negotiation
  • The typical negotiation process
  • Some common barriers to negotiation
  • Tips for negotiating strategy
  • What are some good negotiation skills?

What is negotiation, and why is it important?

Negotiation is a process through which people settle their differences and try and come to a mutual decision that reduces conflict between both parties. During a negotiation, it is common to see both parties trying to gain the maximum advantage, but the key is to reach a win-win solution which benefits everyone involved in the deal.

Negotiation helps in:  

  • Building and maintaining relationships, especially when a satisfactory compromise is reached.
  • Formulating longer term solutions which are more effective than one-sided solutions.
  • Avoiding future misunderstandings and conflict by setting clear terms.
  • Creating new opportunities for organizational growth by allowing room to make changes.

A typical negotiating process

Negotiation, like any other business principle, follows a certain process which you need to know about so that you get a desirable outcome. Skipping any of these steps could lead to miscommunication along the line.

In the initial phase, you prepare facts and identify the potential opportunities that can arise out of the discussion. Next, you proceed to assess the interests of the parties involved and aim to create value and build the initial relationship. During the negotiation process, you aim to address everyone’s interests and expand on the value you think that you can create. This forges the path towards a successful future collaboration.

The negotiating process consists of four main steps which are explained below with the help of the example of a raise negotiation.

1.      Preparation

Organising and coordinating the meeting is the first step towards having a successful negotiation. This stage is important because it sets the ground for subsequent events and gives you a clearer agenda of what the conversation or discussion is going to cover.  

Example : In a raise negotiation, you would first invite your boss or HR representative to a meeting, with the clear agenda of discussing your salary expectations.

2.      Clarification

The next step is the clarification of expectations, and the discussion itself. Here, individuals put forth their understanding of the situation and clarify any misunderstandings that they may have had during the initial communication.

Example : Next, you might begin by stating why you feel you deserve a raise and put forth points that support your argument. Be clear about how this fits into your career trajectory, or why you are asking for a raise now.

3.      Bargaining and agreement

In this phase, both parties present their viewpoints and make offers to one another in the hope of reaching a healthy common ground. This is the part of the process where the most bargaining happens. At the end of this phase, ideally, a consensus is reached in which both parties make a decision, which meets the requirements of everyone involved.

Example : Your boss may counter your points with arguments of their own, so be prepared to address any questions. Be clear about your own boundaries and how much you are willing to settle for.

4.      Closing and implementation

The last step of the process is the closing and implementation of the action points agreed upon. After the discussion has been closed, then the actions are implemented which both parties have to comply with or face consequences.

Example : You may take some time to come to a consensus – do not feel pressured to decide immediately. If you come to a consensus, then great! If not, do not be afraid to close the discussion and consider alternative actions.

Negotiation tools

The advent of the digital age has seen the automation of many business processes. From project management tools like Trello, to communication tools like Microsoft Teams, there is a software for almost anything! Likewise, the process of negotiation is also possible to negotiate through tools like Contractbook.

With Contractbook you can make business deals and create contracts that you can share with your team and other people through its various features. The platform has multiple templates that you can customize to meet the latest legal guidelines.

The comment feature allows people to add in their feedback and views and clarify information without having to make multiple calls. Another feature which is extremely useful during the negotiation process is the change tracking feature which allows people to access the contract and keep themselves aware of any changes that are made.

Barriers to negotiation

Not all negotiations are successful at the first go, and in case you cannot reach a resolution in the first meeting, it is always better to schedule a meeting for a later date. One of the biggest hurdles to a successful negotiation is failure to understand and accept others’ viewpoints. Other common issues during a negotiation discussion are:

  • Lack of trust between parties which can lead to falsifying or hiding information
  • Argumentative and close-minded attitudes
  • Last minute changes
  • Failure to prepare effectively for the negotiation meeting
  • Semantic and language barriers
  • Lack of negotiation skills

Negotiation tactics

Developing a negotiation strategy takes time, and there are many tools that you can use. One of the better tools is Lewicki and Hiam’s Negotiation Matrix.  The principle assumption of this model is that people have two main motivations during a negotiation.

The first one is to achieve their own interests, and the other is the level at which they are willing to co-operate. The combination of these two factors give you five different approaches to handling a negotiation which are domination, avoidance, collaboration, accommodation, and compromise.  

The ability to negotiate requires a mixture of interpersonal and communication skills that are used simultaneously to achieve a certain goal. In the corporate world, negotiation skills are extremely coveted and it is a sure-fire way to get what you want at the time you want it. Whether it is a new business deal or a pay rise, you need to be clear on what your final objective is.

Some important negotiation skills and tactics are:

1.      Rapport building

The thought of closing a new deal can be daunting, especially if you do not know much about your counterpart. However, this is a good opportunity to establish a friendly but professional rapport with them so that they perceive you as more of a collaborator than competition.

2.      Active listening

A negotiation is ideally a discussion in which everyone gets a chance to put forth their viewpoint. It is important to be a good listener and give others a chance to voice their opinions, no matter how trivial they may sound. It is not only respectful but can also provide you with valuable information that might come in useful later.

3.      Emotional neutralising

In most cases, being emotive is a good thing. However, when it comes to negotiation, it is important to maintain a calm and composed attitude, regardless of what is being discussed. As far as possible, you must try not to show emotions like panic or fright as that can hinder your ability to make an informed decision.

4.      Innovating

To find the ideal solution, you not only need to be innovative and think out of the box. This is also where foresight and problem-solving skills come in handy. Think of solutions other than monetary and short-term benefits and capitalise on closing in on a more permanent solution.

Conclusion

A negotiation is not a fight or a competition. It is all about communication and understanding. Every business is different and the situations in which negotiation is required differs immensely. This is because of the sheer number of factors involved such as the value of the deal, individual personalities, and relationship dynamics between everyone. These are all variable and can change over time. The key to a successful negotiation is to capitalise on what each party has to offer and evaluate the possibility of creating value for one another, which will lead to the most beneficial outcome in the long run.

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