Not Negotiable! Business Must Negotiate More Effectively

Negotiation is back in the headlines. Problems with negotiations are equally widespread within businesses and highly damaging to organisations across all industries. Most people, in most places, negotiate badly, most of the time. That’s costing businesses a lot.

We can incorporate more effective negotiation techniques and deliver results simply by asking more sensible questions, or by adjusting their method according to the environment. There are learnable and measurable verbal behaviours that can make all the difference between success and failure at the negotiating table.

1. Do your homework – the right way round. Too many people dedicate too much of their time to preparing facts and figures. They think that arriving armed with all the numbers means they’re ready to negotiate effectively. In fact, the most skilled negotiators will spend twice as much time on planning how they will use information of this kind in the interactions that will eventually determine what is agreed.

2. Ask, don’t tell. A skilled negotiator will be much more concerned with seeking information than giving it. Careful questioning provides insight into the other party’s position and allows you to understand their strategic objectives. Also, incisive questioning can create doubt in their mind about their approach. That’s important because doubt creates movement – and movement takes you closer to your goal.

3. Feelings matter. Simply saying: “I’m delighted we’re moving closer to an agreement on price”, or “I’m disappointed that you’re not able to extend the contract length”, is powerful verbal behaviour. While the other party might disagree with you on the substance of the negotiation, nobody can refute comments on your own feelings, which means referring to them can help establish a co-operative climate.

4. Don’t be irritating. Self-praising declarations – “I’m being very reasonable here”, or “I think you’ll agree a contract review within two years is very fair” – are among the phrases called irritators. “I’ll be honest with you” is another example – were you being dishonest before?

5. Counterproposals can be counterproductive. Responding with an immediate alternative to the suggestion proposed is equivalent to saying: “I’m not listening to you, I have certain targets and I’m sticking to them.”

Summing-up: If you’re not listening, you’re not really negotiating. If you are, you might be able to get a good deal in a negotiation with 27 other governments – and you’ll definitely be able to deliver real results in your business.

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