SCF's Lessons On Leadership

Five Practical Tips for A Better Negotiation

Preparation and confidence are key to achieving your ideal outcome.

By Susan Croft May 9, 2016

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Some people think master negotiators are born with that special gift—part of their DNA. It is certainly true that you can watch children in a play group negotiate for a special toy more successfully than others; in fact, babies learn to negotiate with their parents very early in life. However, negotiation skills can be learned with practice and I’d like to share with you five tips for an effective negotiation.

Preparation is essential in any negotiation. To enter a negotiating engagement without thorough prep exposes you to too much risk and too many surprises.

  1. Determine what you want from the negotiation and what you would consider an ideal outcome. Be bold. If it's a salary increase, think about the greatest percentage you could possibly get. Next, you must determine what would be acceptable given the market and economic conditions in your company or industry. This is the figure that you would be OK with and is hopefully not too far off your ideal outcome. Finally, you must determine what would make you walk away from the negotiation. In doing this you must explore all your options. This is known as your BATNA – Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement. Michael Donaldson, in his excellent book "Fearless Negotiating," calls this process the “wish, want, walk.”
  2. You need to identify trade-offs, particularly if you are accepting less than you had hoped for. These might be things you would be OK giving up providing the other party meets you halfway. Identifying these trade-offs will help take the sting out of not achieving your “wish or want” position. Also understand what the other party might want and determine who will be on their negotiating team. Are they decision makers, influencers or just passengers?
  3. Build rapport at the start of the meeting, whether it’s in person or on the phone. Empathize with the other party’s position, acknowledge past differences and identify the possible outcomes you are both seeking. Be positive and friendly—it really helps get the negotiation started in the right way.
  4. Idenitfy your own USPs—Unique Selling Points. It’s a term frequently used in selling but equally applicable in negotiation. Your USPs represent the value you bring to the other party—essentially the reasons you are in this negotiation. It might be you or your organization’s expertise, experience, special skills, knowledge and networks. You must be prepared to bring these to the table and communicate them effectively at strategic points in the negotiation.
  5. Be focused in your communication. Speak with brevity and impact, and remember to mirror your language with tone of voice and positive body language. This means you enter the negotiation with confidence—back straight, head up, good eye contact, smile and strong handshake. Listen carefully, take notes if you wish, and when you speak be clear and assured in your message.

Good luck with your next negotiation!

Susan Croft is a global trainer, public speaker and coach.  She has written three books and specializes in leadership development, negotiation skills and personal effectiveness. She is an SCF Leadership Academy faculty member, and has taught at several colleges in the U.K. and U.S. For more information about the SCF Leadership Academy, contact Lee Kotwicki at (941) 363-7218 or [email protected].

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