How to improve your negotiation skills - IPBS MIM - Master International Management
How to improve your negotiation skills

You get what you negotiate

Which category of negotiator do you belong to:

Cats: I am a natural. I relish the chance of marching into battle…


Rabbits: My knees turn to jelly at the mere thought of any confrontation

If you confidently chose either Cats or Rabbits your answer was incorrect, and you need to read the rest of this post. The truth is that there are many negotiation styles and it is your ability to understand both your own and others’ approach to a negotiation that will be your key to getting what you want from life.

The Zero-Sum Game

Cats might start a negotiation process with an understanding of only what they want from it. Their common strategy could be to add 10 or 15 percent to their ideal outcome and then accede to a series of compromises in the hope that they will still get what they want. Every gain for the Cat resulting in a loss for the other party.

It is easy to see that this is not a successful negotiation for the losing party but let’s say the Cat wins – what will they surrender using this type of competitive negotiation strategy:

  • The Cat has gained a reputation as an egocentric, antagonistic and self-interested individual
  • The Cat is not considering the future where bridges are now comprehensively burnt
  • The Cat has skewed the interaction towards confrontation with all the hurt relationships, mistrust, anger, breakdowns and distorted communication that entails
  • The Cat has encouraged brinkmanship, manipulation and confrontation in future
  • The Cat has also increased the chances of future litigation

This style of negotiation is clearly suited to people who want to think only about winning while others lose. Once you can think about a negotiation as a joint problem-solving session on the other hand you can leverage your skills towards enjoying better results.

Successful negotiation

To become a successful negotiator, you have to achieve consistent results through a process or strategy that includes advance preparation and effective communication.

  1. The first step in the successful resolution of a problem is for all the parties to understand the problem.The solving of the problem begins with everyone asking themselves why and what they want. It is proven that your chance of success in any negotiation increases if you are clear on your own interests and goals

2. Then, the best negotiators will consider why the other side is negotiating. The parties will have some shared interests (why you want something) and some opposing interests. Opposing interests are the area where the negotiation will happen.What do you have that is of lesser value to yourself but of higher value to the other side?
And an even more interesting question to ask is why? Because why can lead to exploration of alternative solutions which give you much more room for manoeuver and might allow you to sidestep a series of positional compromises. You can add how: How will the other party define success?
If possible, try to identify three options you can implement to move the negotiation from compromising to joint problem solving. Prepare creative and/or unique options for mutual gain. Useful questions to ask yourself while you are considering this is:

  • What if we tried?
  • What if we did?
  • What is in it for them?

3. Finally, you want to establish a BATNA (Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement) is vital. You never want to accept an outcome worse than what you may have done if an agreement cannot be reached. What you accept must be better than your BATNA. Questions to ask:

  • What is their BATNA?
  • Why are they negotiating with you?
  • What is preventing them from doing it with someone else, or on their own?

Your ability to walk away is the key to your personal power in a negotiation. Successful will know, before they enter the room, not only when they will walk away but they will have worked out how to walk away without damaging the relationship.

Once you have done all this homework it is time to roll up your sleeves and prepare for the showdown.

1.     How your behaviour influences the behaviour of others

This is where you have to understand that the world of negotiation is not all about Cats and Rabbits. It is a jungle out there and all kinds of animals can join the party. Your unique, preferred way of communicating might not be the other party’s unique way, but the person who can change their communication style to meet the needs of the listener will be the most effective and skilled negotiator.

You might very well be a hybrid with some characteristics from one negotiation style and some from another in differing intensities. It is useful to remember that the same can be true for the people you negotiate with:

The DOMINANT negotiator

  • Are you good at making decisions?
  • Do you have a desire to control your environment through problem solving and meeting challenges?
  • Do you tend to be very direct?
  • Have you been called intimidating and arrogant, impatient or uncaring and negative?
  • Do you find it difficult to take time to question and listen to others?
  • Do you tend to have a singular approach to goals without considering multiple solutions or outcomes?
  • Will you have a bottom line approach and easily state why something will not work?
  • Do you care more about results than about how people feel?

The INFLUENCER negotiator

  • Are you good at telling people what to do in an indirect way?
  • Do you prefer convincing and motivating people rather than coercing them?
  • Are you focused on completing tasks as a team?
  • Can you see possibilities rather than pitfalls?
  • Are you known as a visionary, political or even unrealistic?
  • Is it important to you to make a favourable impression and do you prioritise relationships with people?
  • Have you been called impulsive and disorganised with attention to detail not as important to you as the big picture?
  • Are you social with a big circle of friends?
  • Is your main focus on obtaining results through motivating people?

The STEADINESS negotiator

  • Do you dislike change even if it is positive?
  • Do you see the positive aspects when you hear of new ideas?
  • Do you consider yourself less powerful than your environment and feel that everyone needs to work harder together?
  • Have you been told that you are a great listener?
  • Are you focused on people and do you consider matters before you respond to them?
  • Are you an extremely dependable and solid team player?
  • Are you very methodical and reserved?

The CONSCIENTIOUS negotiator

  • Are you introverted and reserved?
  • Do you focus on tasks and control with a perfectionist approach?
  • Do you prefer statements that are factual and to the point?
  • Is your approach indirect, reserved, business-like and diplomatic?
  • Are you dependent on facts in order to accept change?
  • Do you believe that if people follow processes and procedures many problems can be solved?
  • Are facts and processes more important than people?

As you assign a profile to someone, you must consider how the person will behave and how you will be able to communicate with them most effectively. Many of the problems you may encounter might occur to you immediately. For instance:

  • The Dominant or the Influencer will want an immediate answer whereas the Steadiness will want to think about the reply
  • The Influencer will have to supply the Conscientious negotiator with accurate facts
  • The Dominant will have to have patience with the Conscientious negotiator who may appear indecisive in a drive to get all the facts
  • The Influencer could quote an unsupported statistic regarding the quality of a product which might upset the Conscientious negotiator
  • The Steadiness negotiator wants to ponder a question while the Dominant negotiator continues to talk and pushes for an answer
  • The Influencer gives the Dominant negotiator an anecdotal reply instead of a direct answer

If you want to move up to master negotiator you can also take the following in consideration: emotions, goals, how they judge others, how they want to influence others, what their value is to their organisation, the tendencies that they overuse, their behaviour under pressure, their fears and the best way to increase their effectiveness.

Consider that in negotiations little things do not mean a lot, they can mean everything.

It is easy to see how you could maximise your negotiating skills by recognising the style of others and understanding your own tendencies.

2.     It’s not all about your Style

  • Choose your time carefully. Be aware that a negotiation might benefit from being held on a certain date or time of day and use it to your advantage where possible. Timelines may similarly impact decisions for the other party. It is good housekeeping not to let the other party know of any absolute time constraints that you may be under
  • You want to prepare your negotiations point by point but keep it as basic as possible. A good trick to achieve this is to frame and re-frame your negotiation until you have it down to only one or two key points. This is the best solution for keeping everything on track and for reaching agreements efficiently
  • Being an effective communicator starts with being an outstanding listener… listen in order to reply, not to understand. The perception that you are trustworthy, can solve problems and can add value to a relationship is nurtured when you are perceived to seek information through effective questioning and listening skills
  • While you are busy communicating, you might also want to consider that communication is 93% non-verbal

According to a study by Dr Albert Mehrabian, of UCLA on the incongruence / mismatch in communication:

Words: 7%
Tone of Voice: 38%
Body Language: 55%

  • Keep the conversation on the issues at hand. Don’t allow yourself or the other party to get side tracked
  • Use a strong voice when you offer a solution
  • Make eye contact
  • Resist the temptation to fill in the silence. When it isn’t your turn to speak use the silence to reinforce your point
  • Write everything down and use the power of the draft before you have even left the room. But do consider that anything in writing cannot be changed

And then there is coaching…

We are all susceptible to judgment biases. If you agree with that statement you are already in a good position to apply better thinking to negotiation. And you might be open to the fact that a top-notch negotiation coach is an excellent idea.

What can a top negotiator bring to your table?

 They will have all the negotiation theory at their fingertips. This means that they will be able to explain and predict what will and won’t work. They can help you set goals, figure out what techniques to try and work back to your last negotiations to help you understand what happened. They will also help you rehearse good negotiation skills.

Are you interested in improving your negotiation skills?

Take a look at our Master Programme to gather more inform