The art of the deal – negotiation – requires creativity and skill. It tracks a fine line between conflict resolution, compromise, and avoiding an argument. At various points in all our lives, we need to engage in negotiation. How do we polish this key skill? Here, we look at some of the primary qualities required for effective negotiation skills.
People negotiate daily, often without considering it a negotiation. Negotiation takes place in organizations, including businesses, non-profits, and within and between governments as well as in sales and legal proceedings, and in personal situations such as marriage, divorce, parenting, etc. Humans learn aspects of this from their early days.
Negotiation is communication between two or more people or parties intended to reach a beneficial outcome over one or more issues where a conflict exists with at least one of these issues. Negotiation is an interaction and process between people who wish to agree on matters of mutual interest, while optimizing their individual benefit. This beneficial outcome can relate to all of the parties involved, or just for one or some of them. Negotiators need to understand the negotiation process and other negotiators to increase their chances of success. They need to reach agreement, avoid conflict, establish relationships with other participants, gain profit where relevant, and maximize mutual gains.
Negotiation is aimed at resolving points of difference, to gain advantage for an individual or group, or to craft outcomes to satisfy various interests. Compromise is reached by putting forward a position and making concessions to achieve an agreement. The degree to which the negotiating parties trust each other to implement the negotiated solution is a major factor in determining whether a negotiation will be successful.
Many people associate negotiation with sales skills used typically by sales representatives and real estate agents, but it is also a key skill in many widely-varying jobs. Some prime examples include lawyers, construction project estimators, purchasing managers, and so on.
PR professionals frequently negotiate during their daily work. For example:
Take heed of the following qualities if you’re interested in sharpening your negotiation skills:
Here are 3 practical tips you can use to increase your effective negotiation skills. This helpful source provides many tips and good advice on negotiation techniques:
The difference between “we” and “I” may seem subtle, but it can make a world of difference during negotiation. Perhaps think about this beforehand as to when you can say “I” as opposed to “We” so it doesn’t make you sound egocentric
We tends to be a bit formal while I introduces a more personal, comfortable, human tone — like you are chatting.
Said another way, We = a manager from my organization. I = I’m letting my guard down (or at least signalling that I am).
It’s imperative to humanize yourself during a negotiation… and the best negotiators know this.
– or “approved cost,” “approved fee,” “approved package,” “approved contract terms,” “approved conditions,” “approved arrangements,” etc. Not “list price” or “standard price” or “our price.”
One word can make a world of difference. In fact, according to data, sales cycles stretch out by 19% when the phrase “list price” or “typical price” or “standard price” is used at any point in the discussions. Instead, try saying APPROVED PRICE. Swapping out “list” or “typical” or “standard” for APPROVED makes the other person believe the price is more set in stone. Using “approved” signals someone more senior than you has set the pricing, already determining what’s possible and reasonable.
Bottom line: The approved pricing implies it can’t be changed easily, so there is no need for the other person or group to spend time negotiating about it. Even sales proposals need to be couched in the right terms, or risk falling into a negotiation stalemate.
Building rapport, making a human-to-human connection — helps your opposite number to feel comfortable with you. It is vital to obtain information from them while avoiding confrontation. One of the best ways to do this, to get the other person talking more, is to use the mirroring technique. Mirroring phrases is simply repeating back the 1-3 main words from one the other person. Having them repeat their own words eliminates friction. Bonus: It also means they are talking more… and you are talking less. When doing this, use an “upward voice tone,” indicating you are asking a question. Here is what it might sound like:
Research has proven that mirroring also applies to body language you can use for more effective negotiation skills. It is a powerful way to establish and strengthen rapport. Mirroring is behavior that copies someone else during communication with them – in displaying similar postures, gestures, or tone of voice. It may include imitating gestures, movements, body language, muscle tensions, expressions, tones, eye movements, breathing, pace of delivery, accent, attitude, choice of words, metaphors, or other features apparent in an interpersonal exchange. Phew! That’s a lot of opportunities for mirroring.
Mirroring happens very naturally when people are speaking. A listener will typically smile or frown or nod their head along with the speaker. So when you are negotiating with someone, seek to mirror their behavior.
But it needs to done sincerely. If you fake warm feelings toward someone by mirroring, they are likely to realize the dissonance at some point. So wait a few seconds before you imitate them, and do it in a natural way.
In future, try to remember mirroring with the people you deal with – your boss, your spouse or partner, your friends and your work colleagues – when you are negotiating with them.. Try to gauge whether extra rapport develops between you. Do it often enough and it will become automatic – and people will like you better, creating stronger interpersonal relationships as well as warmer feeling from the person you are negotiating with in business.
Negotiating in most business situations has changed with the arrival of the pandemic. Much interaction has gone virtual. For a start, you have limited opportunities to observe the body language of other parties when you are in a Zoom meeting. Milan Prilepok, global leader of McKinsey’s negotiation services, makes several helpful suggestions for remote negotiations, including:
Arrange shorter, more frequent meetings. It is easier to program an hour of everyone’s time several times for remote meetings than to find a day or half day that you would have in face-to-face negotiations. And you don’t have to travel!
Prepare a detailed agenda. This is more difficult than previously due to remote discussions. Prilepok recommends writing your agenda in conjunction with your negotiation counterpart. He notes that both parties need to outline how the business outlook has changed due to the pandemic, and should explain how their organization is placed at present, and the future issues they believe they are likely to face.Arrange ahead to use video technology compatible for both parties, and familiarize yourself with the equipment usage. Sorting out technical hiccups is immensely frustrating for other parties, and reduce trust in your professionalism.
Set up communication back channel/s like Slack or texting so your team can compare notes discreetly. This helps you to shape the conversation, to focus on particular aspects, or so your team can coincide thoughts about taking a break. But don’t use the messaging channel integrated into the videoconferencing tool, because you may all-too-easily fall into the trap of sending your own team’s internal messages to the other party in error.
Allow time for breaks because changes to business conditions resulting from the pandemic may lead to discussion of new information that has surfaced during the negotiation.
At the conclusion of the virtual meeting, allow enough time to confirm agreed positions and to discuss any further contact.
Negotiation is a skill used throughout our lives, including in many professional capacities. If engaged in a situation where negotiation is required, then follow the above tips that relate to clearly communicating your intent, being inquisitive, being prepared, listening, and reading cues, while also persevering through the potentially long-winded negotiation process. Sharpening these skills and adhering to them will provide you with a strong advantage when you intend to reach a mutual agreement
This WikJob article may also give you further insights on negotiation skills, especially in relation to your own job.
By Silvia Arto, Vice President of the Global Alliance for Public Relations and Communication Management, Chair of the European Regional
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