Improving Your Negotiation Skills

Negotiation skills

by Farah Barry, Content and Brand Manager at IMI

Negotiation plays a key role in business. Whether that’s negotiating a deal with a new client, convincing your boss that you deserve a pay increase, or pitching to the finance team for a higher budget, you’ll need to ensure that you’ve mastered this set of skills if you want to go far in your career.

The process of negotiation is a give and take, where each side may be required to make some sort of comprise to ensure the best overall outcome. While arguably the most important characteristic of a good negotiator is excellent communication skills, here are a few more tips to set you on your way.

1) Prepare & know what you want

There’s nothing worse than going into an important discussion unprepared. Make sure you’ve done your research ahead of time, and that you understand the implications of what you’re asking for.

Ensure that you have any key facts or figures at your fingertips to successfully back up your arguments, and have a clear understanding as to your boundaries. It may also be helpful to do some background research into the person or company you’re negotiating with.

2) Understand their side and aim for a solution that suits all parties

Successful negotiation is all about give and take, so you’ll need to aim for a solution that suits everyone, or achieves the best balance between everyone’s wants.

In order to achieve this balance, you should consider the other party’s challenges, and allow this to help you propose solutions that you know will work for them. As part of your preparations, consider the opposition you might be up against, and how this might impact on the solutions.

3) Consider alternatives

While you’ll always be aiming for Plan A, you should have a fully developed Plan B in mind as well. Flexibility is always necessary in negotiations, but that doesn’t mean you’ll need to give up on your plans or goals. You might be able to find solutions that incorporate small changes that allow them to fit in better with the needs and wants of the person or organisation you’re negotiating with.

4) Listen and communicate

It goes without saying that to master the art of negotiation, you must first master the art of communication. Communicating clearly is not just a case of the words you use, but also non-verbal signals like body language.

While you’re negotiating, you should aim to practice active listening. This means that you’re free of any distractions, and that you wait until the other party is finished making their point before you formulate your response. This gives you the opportunity to respond in a way that sounds authentic rather than scripted.

5) Authenticity

Your confidence and authenticity will have a major impact on the success of your negotiations. If you’ve established a reputation for reliability and strong morals, you might just find that people trust you more, and therefore negotiations are more likely to work out in your favour.

You can establish authenticity and trust through the way you communicate and interact with the other party. You should always strive to create an environment where both sides feel understood and supported.

6) Know your audience and tailor your response

Authenticity and preparation will go a long way in ensuring that your negotiations are tailored to your audience. The other party will know if you’re simply copying and pasting your pitch or your responses without taking their specific needs and challenges into account, so you should aim to avoid this at all costs.

7) Don’t take things personally

While authenticity and compassion go a long way in ensuring you walk away from a negotiation with a positive outcome, you’ll need to remember that at the end of the day, this is about business.

Hearing strong opposition to your plans – or worst still, a straight out “no” – can be tough, even for established leaders. However, once you understand that it’s not you as a person that’s been rejected, you’ll be able to use your failed negotiation as a learning experience for next time.

Effective negotiation skills can be developed over time and through practice, but with these steps, you’ll be able to kick-start your journey.