The Top 10 Skills Every Negotiator Needs To Have

Negotiators need to have these skills in order to get the deals that they want
Negotiators need to have these skills in order to get the deals that they want
Image Credit: Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

As negotiators, our goal whenever we are starting a negotiation is to find a way to get the best deal possible. This is not always an easy thing to make happen. The best negotiators are the ones who can use their negotiation styles and negotiating techniques to both create value during the negotiation and then claim that value as a part of a deal. In order to become better at making this happen, the following 10 negotiation skills can be used.

Take A Close Look At Your BATNA

As just about every negotiator knows, your main source of power during a negotiation is the simple fact that at any time you could walk out of the negotiation and give up on reaching a deal with the other side. This is where your main source of power comes from. What you are going to want to do is before the negotiation starts you are going to want to spend time identifying your best alternative to a negotiated agreement, or BATNA, and taking steps to improve it.

Make The Process Your Process

Every negotiation is unique. It is important that you don’t go into your next negotiation thinking that the way that things are going to unfold is predetermined. Instead, don’t assume that you are seeing things the same way that the other side sees it. This means that you are going to want to determine who should be present, what your agenda will be, and so on. You are going to have to carefully negotiate how you will negotiate in advance. Take the time to discuss procedural issues and this will clear the way for much a much more focused negotiation.

Take Time To Build Rapport With The Other Side

In order to be able to reach the deal that you want to get, what you do before the negotiations start may determine how it ends. What you are going to want to do is to take the time to make small talk with the other side before the negotiations start. Even if there is limited time at the beginning, this is a good idea because studies have shown that doing so can bring you real benefits. The result of taking time to build rapport with the other side is that the two sides may be more collaborative and likely to reach an agreement if you spend even just a few minutes trying to get to know each other.

Become An Active Listener

I personally find this step to be very hard to do. When you are engaged in active discussions with the other side, you need to make sure that you are actually listening to them and not thinking about what you want to say next. You are going to want to listen to the other side’s arguments and then you are going to want to paraphrase what they have told you back to them. The reason for doing this is so that you can double check to make sure that you’ve understood what they have been saying. You are going to want to acknowledge any difficult feelings behind their message. By doing this not only are you likely to acquire valuable information, but the other side may start to mimic your listening skills.

Get Good At Asking Questions

During a negotiation you can get more information from the other side by asking them a lot of questions. You want to ask the types of questions that are the most likely to provide you with helpful answers. What this means is that you are going to want to avoid asking questions that can be answered with a “yes” or a “no”. What you are going to want to do is to ask neutral questions that encourage detailed responses, such as “Can you tell me about the issues you’re facing right now?”

Look For Tradeoffs That Are Smart

The way that we are able to reach an agreement with the other side that will allow us to create a deal is by making concessions. Generally these concessions are made on a single issue, such as price. What you are going to want to do when you find yourself in a situation like this is to find a way to capitalize on the presence of multiple issues to get both sides more of what they want. This means that you are going to want to identify issues that the other side cares deeply about and which are that are ones that you value less. When this has been done, you are going to want to propose making a concession on that issue in exchange for a concession from them on an issue that you value highly.

Be Careful About Anchoring Bias

Negotiators know that the first number that is presented during a negotiation is powerful, it has the ability to exert a powerful influence on the negotiation that follows. This influence is called the “anchoring bias”. As a negotiator you can avoid being the next victim of the anchoring bias by making sure that you are the one who makes the first offer and trying to anchor talks in your preferred direction. If the other side does anchor first, keep both your aspirations and your BATNA at the forefront of your mind. Revisit them as needed.

Always Present Multiple Offers Simultaneously (MESO)

You want to be able to present to the other side with enough options that they will be able to find something that they can agree with you on. What this means is that you are going to want to do is to present several offers at once. If the other side rejects all of them, ask them to tell you which one they liked best and why. Then work to improve the offer, or try to brainstorm with the other side an option that pleases you both. This strategy of presenting multiple offers simultaneously decreases the odds of impasse and can promote more creative solutions.

Consider Using A Contingent Contract

During a negotiation, we can find ourselves in a situation where we come to an impasse because we see how a given scenario is going to play out in a different way than the other side sees it. In cases like this, try proposing a contingent contract — a bet about how future events will unfold. Make the other side place a bet that the future that they think will happen.

Think Ahead And Plan For The Implementation Stage

Reaching an agreement with the other side is a great first step. However, you really want to set things up so that the other side will be motivated to follow through on the promises that they have made to you. One way that you can make this happen is by placing milestones and deadlines in your contract to ensure that commitments made by the other side are being met. You can also agree, in writing, to meet at regular intervals throughout the life of the contract to check in and, if necessary, renegotiate.

What All Of This Means For You

As negotiators we always want to find a way to get the best deal possible. In order to make this happen we have to find ways to create value during the negotiation. The way that we can make this happen is by using the following ten techniques.

During a negation your main source of power is your BATNA and you need to remember that you can walk out at any time. Each negotiation is unique and you need to customize it to meet your needs. Use the time at the beginning of the negotiations to build rapport with the other side. Make sure that you do a good job listening to what the other side says to you. When you ask the other side questions, make sure that you get the information that you need.

Every negotiation involves tradeoffs and so make sure that you get the ones that will help you get a better deal. During a negotiation be careful about initial offers and anchoring bias. Make sure that you offer the other side multiple simultaneous offers to find out what they really want. If you see the future different than the other side, then consider using a contingent contract. Make sure that you are always planning for the implementation stage.

Every principled negotiation that we are involved in involves us working with the other side to create the best deal possible for both sides. In order to make this happen, we need to be able to create the best negotiating environment possible. These 10 techniques can provide us with the set of skills that we need in order to create a deal that both sides can live with.

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

Question For You: Under what circumstances do you think that you should walk out of a negotiation?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

So – does the other side really mean what they are saying? Will they really do what they are promising to do? I’m pretty sure that you and I can’t tell. The reason that we are so bad at detecting deception is because the most common signs of deception, such grammatical errors and as increased blinking, tend to be quite difficult to notice and interpret correctly. In addition, it may be difficult or impossible to determine whether the other side’s claim is true or not. If we can’t count on being able to detect lies, a more fruitful approach may be to find ways to discourage the other side from engaging in deceptive tactics in negotiation in the first place. When you’re seeking to negotiate a deal, the following moves may boost honesty in the other side: