Negotiations are a special type of meeting in which the parties (usually two) need each other’s agreement in order to achieve an effective result. Effective negotiations promise some of the biggest prizes – the right deal for the company, a salary rise, a budget increase, etc. Negotiating is sophisticated activity because it requires competence in both communication and language skills and ability to maintain the performance under pressure.
The ability to negotiate is something that everybody ought to acquire. Everyone – from the world statesman negotiating treaties that affect the lives of millions, to the company employee asking for a pay rise – needs certain talents and skills to reach the agreement with other people. This calls for a mastery of the skills of persuasion, compromise, diplomacy, clear speaking, and attentive listening.
“The shortest and the best way to make your fortune is to let people see clearly that it
is in their interests to promote you,” commented, somewhat cynically, the 17th-century French satirist Jean de la Bruyere. It is certainly true that one the basic secrets of persuasion is to convince other people that what is good for you is also good for them. The skillful negotiator is the one whose opponents also come out of the talks feeling well-satisfied with the outcome. Your boss is happy to give you an eight per cent pay rise in order to keep your services and goodwill – and you are happy too, having banked on no more than seven per cent.
Selling and negotiating have much in common. In one you are selling products, in the other ideas. Both usually come down to money. And both involve selling yourself. Once other people view you as reliable, you are on the way to success. To become a successful negotiator one should stick to the following guidelines.
Always take the long-term view in negotiations. See them as a campaign, not as a one-off battle. It is possible to lose individual battles and win the campaign. It is equally possible to win individual battles and lose the campaign.
Prepare your case. First of all, you must know your subject. The strongest weapon in your armory of persuasion is detailed comparison. Collect and set out all facts and figures neatly in tables, or where helpful, in charts and graphs. If you are selling something, you should know what rival products other companies are selling and how your product compares for price, reliability, and service. All this takes time and effort a lot of plowing through dry documents and extracting what is important. But without evidence you will not convince anyone of anything.
Try to know the other person’s subject too. Put yourself in his or her position. Imagine the counterarguments you might face, and have your replies ready. Practice out loud the answers you will give. Find reasons why agreeing with you is in the other person’s interests. What precisely can your product or idea do for him or his company? During the negotiations be direct about this. Don’t waste time, as some inexperienced negotiators do, by going over your early struggles or other irrelevant details. Get to the point and stay there.
Decide on and jot down the order in which you intend to present your arguments – but be prepared to be flexible. Sometimes you may have to change your order, as one tactics is unfruitful and another seems more promising.
Be absolutely clear about what exactly you hope to get out of the negotiations, and what, realistically, you think you are likely to get.