Negotiation Do’s & Don’ts From The Master Negotiators

by drjim on December 4, 2008

Master Negotiators Use Many Different Skills To Achieve Their Goals

Master Negotiators Use Many Different Skills To Achieve Their Goals

If only there was some book, some DVD to watch, or some class that you could take that would provide you with access to all of the secrets of those master negotiators whom we are always reading about. You know the ones, they negotiate the billion dollar business deal, the hostage negotiations, they settle the labor strikes, and they come up with solutions to lawsuits before they hit the courts. Just what are their secrets?

As we’ve discussed before, there are no such courses, DVDs, or courses to take because of the nature of negotiating: it’s not just a couple of key ideas, but rather a whole bunch of very small things that when taken together make a master negotiator.

However, there is no need to despair! The good folks over at Karrass have been doing research into what makes a good negotiator for quite some time. Based on this they have been able to pull together a list of ten things that a master negotiator needs to be able to do.

What I’m hoping that you’ll get from this list is the awareness that there is nothing earth shattering here. No great secrets are revealed. No hidden negotiating ninja secrets are being brought to the surface for the first time. Rather, a set of skills are being identified as being those skills that a master negotiator needs to have.

It’s not that a master negotiator has just one of these skills that makes them so skillful. Rather it’s the fact that they have ALL of these skills that makes them a master negotiator. Now there’s something to think about! Here’s the list, let’s see how many of these negotiating skills you already have:

  1. Nothing Is Fixed: Don’t let the other side of the table try to intimidate you with “last & final” offers, firm fixed prices, or even “take it or leave it” statements. Remember – this is a negotiation and that means that everything is negotiable.
  2. Deeper Is Better For Both Sides: Although you are negotiating directly with the person(s) on the other side of the table, you are really negotiating with their entire organization. This means that before your negotiating partner can agree to your terms, they are going to have to get buy-in from their organization. During your negotiations you need to cover all of the key details in enough depth that the other side will be able to thoroughly explain the deal internally.
  3. Got To Get Satisfaction: Forget win-lose, win-win, etc. Negotiating is all about making sure that both sides come away feeling satisfied with the outcome. Although it’s easy to focus on the stated negotiation issues, be sure to look for other “hidden” issues that are also important to the other side. Addressing these issues will boost satisfaction and increase the probability of reaching agreement.
  4. These Boots Are Made For Walking: One of the most powerful negotiating techniques is also one of the most difficult to do – leave & walk out. This by itself would kill a negotiation, so you also have to master the other half of this skill – you need to know when to return later.
  5. Conflict Is King: The very reason that you are negotiating is because there are differences between both sides. Differences mean that there will be conflict. You need to be able to deal with conflict. If you have an overpowering need to be liked, then you will end up giving too much away during the negotiation just to be reassured that the other side likes you in the end.
  6. Too Much: In any negotiation, you can screw up. You can end up asking the other side for more than they are willing / able to give. When you realize that you’ve done this is the time for you to take a step back and tell the other side that you are willing to renegotiate. No matter what, make sure that you show empathy for the other side’s situation.
  7. No Such Thing As Too Much Education: You will never know everything that there is to know about negotiation. There are so many small tricks & techniques that it will take you a lifetime to master even some of them. This means that you always need to be reading and studying in order to boost your knowledge of negotiating strategy & tactics.
  8. Aim High: Where you end up in a negotiation has a great deal to do with where you set your target. If you aim high, then you will be prepared to take the negotiating risks that go with higher goals. Lofty goals don’t come easily so you are going to have to be willing to work hard and to take your time.
  9. Be Testy: Since you can never completely know what the other side of the table is thinking, you need to always be testing him / her. You just might surprise yourself when the other side gives in to one of your demands. Once again, this type of testing requires that you take your time and be very, very patient.
  10. Take Your Team To School: Negotiating is often a team sport and you want your team to be in the best shape possible. You need to make sure that your team has been trained to negotiate the way that you want them to. This is the one area that investing in quality training (just like the training offered by Blue Elephant Consulting) can really pay dividends.

How many of these tips do you already use in your negotiations? Which ones were new to you? How do you keep improving your negotiating skills? Leave me a comment and let me know what you are thinking.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Omar January 30, 2010 at 10:36 pm

Thanks for the tips. As of now I’m trying to negotiate with a businesswoman in regards to a collaboration. We’re in the initial stages.

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Dr. Jim Anderson February 5, 2010 at 10:55 pm

Omar: Good luck!

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