What Types Of Skills Does A Negotiator Need To Have?

Negotiators need to be able to organize an effective broad-scale approach to negotiations
Negotiators need to be able to organize an effective broad-scale approach to negotiations
Image Credit: Mikhail Petrov

As negotiators we all realize that in order to be successful in our next negotiation, we need to make sure that we show up with the appropriate set of skills, negotiation styles and negotiating techniques. However, negotiators who are looking for effective negotiation strategies often confront a dizzying array of advice. When we find ourselves in a situation like this it can be useful to take a step back and categorize these strategies into various types of negotiation tactics. If we take the time to highlight the benefits of negotiation in business, the following five types of negotiation tactics can help you think more broadly about how to get a great deal in your next negotiation.

Set Up Tactics

Long before a negotiation starts negotiators typically make a number of decisions, small and large, that can have a dramatic effect on how their talks unfold. Of these decisions, one of the most important questions to ask is whom you should be negotiating with in order to meet your goals. What you need to do is to look beyond your final target: You need to realize that you might make the most progress by negotiating first with people who can influence him or her. A key question is whether to negotiate online (via email, videoconferencing, or text messages), on the telephone, or in person—or a combination of all of these formats. We all know that meeting in person is often ideal, but other communication media do have their advantages. When you are meeting in person, should you meet at your office or theirs? When you meet at your place it may be most comfortable, but traveling shows your commitment and allows for valuable information gathering from the other side.

Value-creating tactics

All too often negotiators view negotiation as a win-lose enterprise, but in most situations, a win-win mindset will lead to better results. When you add issues to the discussion this is often the key to value creation and a great deal. As an example, in a business negotiation about a merger, in addition to discussing valuation and price, parties can discuss personnel issues, headquarters location, long-term strategic plans, and so on. When this is done, you can then explore tradeoffs based on each party’s preferences. Some other promising value-creation strategies include asking lots of questions to learn about what matters to the other side and sharing information about your own interests and priorities.

Value-claiming tactics

Negotiators who take a collaborative approach to negotiation realize that this doesn’t negate the importance of claiming a fair share of the value you’ve jointly created. Engaging in effective value claiming should be based on a thorough analysis of what you want out of the negotiation as well as what the other side wants.

You need to be sure to spend time thinking about your BATNA, or best alternative to a negotiated agreement — what you’ll do if you fail to reach your goals in the current negotiation –and try to discover what the other side’s BATNA might be as well. Negotiators have discovered that they can effectively claim value by making an ambitious first offer, but you’ll need to have a solid sense of the bargaining zone. Research shows that the person who makes the first offer can often anchor the negotiation to their advantage.

Persuasion tactics

In a negotiation, how you present your proposals can influence the other side at least as much as what those proposals include. How you choose to frame information affects whether the other side views your offer as a promising or disappointing, and whether they’ll want to deal with you over the long term.

One persuasion tactic that has been shown to work is to make several offers simultaneously rather than just presenting one offer. You need to value each offer equally so you won’t be disappointed by the other party’s choice. The good news is that there are a number of other persuasion techniques you can use in negotiation, such as drawing on the power of silence, presenting a draft agreement, and looking for ways to get your foot in the door.

Defensive tactics

It would be a perfect world if negotiation were always just a matter of two reasonable people using negotiating techniques and skills as they work patiently toward agreement; however, we often hit roadblocks. When we encounter the other side using deceptive tactics in negotiation, threats, and other unethical or hard bargaining moves, we need to have some defensive tactics ready to deploy.

We can avoid the need to play defense by taking time to get to know the other party and try to build rapport and trust before getting down to business. However, if any red flags pop up, take a break to research your suspicions and weigh carefully whether to proceed. Effective defensive tactics include explicitly agreeing upfront to behave in an honest, forthright manner; conveying that you have a strong BATNA; and making the other side aware of your connections to their organization and social network.

What All Of This Means For You

Becoming a good negotiator is a hard thing to do. It takes time, effort, and a great deal of experience. Negotiators who want to find ways to improve their negotiating skills can often become overwhelmed because of the large number of options that are available. However, it turns out that there are five key areas that we all need to be focusing on.

Negotiators need to understand that the set up tactics that they use can have an effect on the principled negotiation even before it starts. In order to find a way to reach a deal with the other side, using value creating tactics can expand the scope of a negotiation and allow us to not get stuck on any one issue. The reason that we are negotiating is because we want something and we need to use value claiming tactics to get what we are looking for. In order to convince the other side to accept the deal that we are proposing, we can use persuasion tactics. We always need to be keeping our eyes open and have defensive tactics ready to use if the other side starts to use deceptive tactics.

In order to become a better negotiator, you need to find ways to expand your set of negotiating tools. The various sets of tactics that we’ve discussed provide you with exactly what you need. Take the time to study your next negotiation and determine which set of tactics are going to allow you to get the deal that you are looking for.

– Dr. Jim Anderson Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Negotiating Skills™

Question For You: If the other side starts to use deceptive tactics, when should you walk away from the negotiation?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

If you’ve been doing any negotiating, then you’ve probably heard the term “anchoring”. This, of course, brings up the question “what exactly is anchoring in negotiation, and how does it play out at the bargaining table?” If you want to become a better negotiator, then you are going to have to learn how to use this powerful negotiating tool.