Here it is again; that time-old saying, “Fail to plan; plan to fail”. You may be as bored of hearing it as we are, but there are some situations where it’s as necessary to say as tomato sauce is on chips. Negotiation is one of these situations. Big time!
But still it doesn’t always happen. In businesses of all types and sizes, some parties approach negotiations in the same way that they would write a message in a bottle and launch it into the ocean: aimlessly and with no direction.
Planning is crucial to meeting negotiation objectives. If you are to reach a stable agreement with other parties there are some specific events that must take place before you come to the table.
Here are three of our top tips to ensure you always “get to a yes”:
1: Know Yourself
Understanding what type of negotiator you are is without doubt the single most important factor of all. But it’s surprising how many times a negotiator will focus on strategy and tactics without considering this.
Without this self-awareness, strategy and tactics become almost meaningless.
What type of negotiator are you? What are your ‘hot-buttons’ that trigger stress behaviours? Being ignored? Being talked down to? Feeling bullied?
These triggers cause a significant shift in behaviour, such as moving from being participatory to confrontational, for example. If you have any chance of being an effective negotiator, you must be able to look in the mirror and understand the layers beneath the picture that you see.
2: Know What’s Happening on the Other Side
Once you’re equipped with your all-powerful and all-mighty self-awareness, you’ll need to start painting a picture of the person or people you are negotiating with. Are they like you or very different? Do you have any history from previous negotiations?
Also consider your personal prejudices and stereotypes. Sometimes there is a little voice in the head that influences your negotiating stance and behaviour. This might be telling you that as you ‘lost’ last time, you need to get your own back. Or that negotiating with people from certain industries will always be stressful (mentioning no names!).
The most effective negotiation planning doesn’t just include having a clear view of the desired outcome, it means knowing how to direct the information to support your objectives. It’s surprising how many people begin a negotiation by a rambling discourse as they try and organise their thoughts ‘in public’. If the other party is really listening, this often provides significant opportunities for them to get their way at your expense.
3: Consider the Aftermath
Part of your strategic and personal preparation should concern how much the negotiation matters to you and the other party. If the negotiation involves a current or potential long-term relationship, for example, living with the consequences will become much more important. It’s in situations like this where you really do have to investigate and focus on how to achieve that ‘win-win’ outcome.
Try and avoid ‘pivotal point’ negotiating (telling yourself that you won’t accept anything below a set figure). Instead, clarify a range of acceptable outcomes rather than a single measure of success, such as agreeing with yourself that a price of £23-£26 is okay (although obviously more is better!). Why set yourself up for a personal win/lose battle when there are more acceptable outcomes available?
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