Negotiations are difficult. Whether you are negotiating a merger or negotiating with your child to eat their vegetables, the process can feel impossible at times. Though it is sometimes difficult, negotiations are a key part of life and business. Most everyone has to negotiate at some time or another, even if it’s for something like a salary bump.
For many, the process of negotiation is downright terrifying. Conflict is difficult for many people, and some even avoid it, to their own detriment. It’s important to understand that negotiations do not need to be scary. In fact, with the right strategy and plan in place, you can use negotiation to your advantage in many areas of your life.
Developing the right strategy for a given situation may be detailed, but there are some general tips for how to begin the development process. By preparing yourself and creating a baseline negotiation strategy, you can enter the room feeling confident and leave it with results that work for you.
These are our top ten tips for how to create a winning negotiation strategy while remaining calm and collected:
In most situations, individuals who talk too much are disregarded. Aside from this, however, it’s important to listen more than you speak while negotiating with others. The more information you give away, the more accurately your opponent can negotiate against you. For example, if you let it slip that your company is looking for new acquisitions, your opponent may play hardball on certain aspects of your negotiation because they know that the ultimate goal is growth. The less they know, the better.
Listening inherently has perks as well. Just as you could let something slip by talking too much, you can learn a lot by listening. It’s much easier to get what you want when you have ammunition directly from your opponent. You may be able to score key parts of your negotiation while ceding small issues and ultimately create a situation that benefits you more than it benefits them.
Finally, listening makes your opponent feel heard and understood. These are two very basic human needs that many people seek out in many aspects of their lives. If you make your opponent feel heard, they’ll likely develop a positive association with you. This can be obviously beneficial in negotiations and may make the process go faster.
- Get and Give
Negotiations always involve compromises. If one side simply agrees to the other’s terms, there’s no need for negotiation at all. This means that at certain points, you will need to give your opponent something that they want. Ideally, these will be small concessions that ultimately lead to your success in the negotiation.
Whenever you give something to your opponent, be sure that you get something in return. For example, if you’re negotiating a contract with a vendor and they want a larger delivery window, ask for a small discount in return. This is usually doable on their end and is economically advantageous to you, while still providing your opponent with something they need.
In some scenarios, it may be best to stockpile your requests in exchange for a larger win. Using the above example, let’s say your supplier wants a large delivery window, fewer but larger deliveries, and a shorter contract. Individually, these requests seem fairly small. However, if you bundle them together, you may be able to ask for something more significant in return. Perhaps you can negotiate a larger discount overall or ask for a delivery on a preferred date.
Collecting favors can be beneficial, if you know you want something big from your opponent. This is a part of logrolling negotiations that is important to know.
- Think About Timing
In some negotiations, you may be able to use timing as a way to get what you want. Different industries have different peak seasons, and knowing your opponent’s peak season before you enter negotiations can work to your advantage.
For example, let’s say you’re trying to negotiate an 18-month lease for an apartment beginning in November. The landlord is hesitant to agree, but you point out that an 18-month lease would mean that you’d be leaving in springtime. As this is the prime season for real estate, the landlord may be more likely to agree if he sees how advantageous the timing could be for him.
Be sure to consider the timing of all aspects of the contract. Think of when it would start and end, as well as the season and timing of the contract itself. A trucking company may be hesitant to sign a strict contract in winter because of the weather, but you may be able to get other advantages in return. These types of scenarios can make a significant difference.
- Frame It
Receiving desirable terms in a negotiation is all about framing. It’s important to highlight the benefits for your opponent, while keeping your own advantages hidden away. A good example is framing low prices in terms of advantages for the salesmen. Many industries need to make monthly quotas. Framing your negotiation in a way that implies that you can sign a contract before the end of the month, if the conditions are correct, may lead to better terms for you.
- Have an Exit Plan
In some cases, negotiations need to settle between two specific people or companies. For example, mergers often only happen between two predetermined companies. However, in many other scenarios, you have options. You do not often have to work with a specific person or company if their terms are bad. In fact, most industries are so oversaturated that you can easily find a more favorable replacement if the negotiations are at a standstill.
Being willing to leave is a powerful negotiation tactic. However, it must be used in a controlled way and as a last resort. Threatening to leave at the slightest inconvenience is petulant and can ruin your power in a negotiation. However, if your opponent refuses to budge on a key issue, or if they themselves are being petulant, it’s important to be willing to leave.
To develop an exit plan, consider your hard boundaries before the negotiations. Consider how much you are willing to concede, and what you absolutely need to get, in order to agree to a contract.
- Wait for a Counteroffer
Sometimes, your opponent will home in on a key part of your argument that they may have an issue with. You may be willing to be flexible on this particular point, but it’s important to not do this right away. If you agree to their small point, you have lowered your negotiating power and betted against your own offer. Instead, wait until they give their own comprehensive counteroffer. This may include the point that they had discussed, but it’s important that they work it into an official offer. If they don’t do so naturally, ask them to frame their issues this way.
- Approach With Facts
It’s important that you do your research before entering any negotiation scenario. Being caught in a situation without background knowledge or research makes you more vulnerable and allows your opponent a better chance of winning their argument. Instead, do as much research before a negotiation as possible. Be ready to counter arguments with facts and figures. You may even print reliable statistics and bring them with you. Pulling out research at a key moment helps to strengthen your perspective.
For example, if you’re negotiating a salary, you should do research beforehand about what the market value of your position is. They may say that their highest offer is $75,000, but you know that someone with your experience and qualifications earns $90,000. In rebutting facts and figures, you are showing them that if they want someone of your caliber, they will have to pay more. If they only want to pay $75,000, they’ll have to settle for someone with less experience.
Facts come in handy in the realm of competition as well. Knowing your opponent’s competitor’s prices and policies can back them into a corner when it comes to certain terms. For example, if a supplier claims that they can’t sell office supplies in quantities fewer than 50, but you know that their competitor sells them for the same price in quantities of 30, you can point this out to your advantage. If they see that they could lose the deal, their “policies” might suddenly become more flexible.
- Maintain Decorum
There is nothing that gets rid of your power faster in a negotiation than a hot temper. Resorting to yelling, talking over someone, throwing insults, or other tantrum practices only stands to hurt your argument. It shows that you’re desperate, and immediately gives your opponent the upper hand.
Even if you feel frustrated or angry, refrain from showing it. Be patient, kind, and polite at all times. If you feel you need a break or some fresh air, simply ask to take a recess. Most of the time, splashing water on your face or stepping outdoors can help to re-center yourself. It’s also much more acceptable than visibly or audibly reacting negatively to someone while in the negotiating room.
- Overinflate an Issue
Without being outright dramatic, it can be helpful to act as if an issue is more important to you than it actually is. In doing so, you give yourself something to give up that will put you in a position of power, but that won’t actually hurt your outcome.
For example, let’s say you’re negotiating a salary package and hope to get healthcare benefits, PTO, and a good salary. You may want to ask for something like free parking in your initial offer, even if this isn’t an issue for you. By asking for this, you give yourself something to “give up” that gives you more leverage to get the things that you actually do want.
One of the biggest factors in negotiation is compromise. Very few negotiations end in one side getting everything that they asked for with the other side getting nothing. Therefore, be prepared to compromise when you walk into the room. Still, maintain your requests and don’t falter right away. But you should know beforehand what you’re willing to give up and what you need to get in order to come to an agreement.
Many people enter negotiations simply believing that they can get what they want. It’s more effective to outline your boundaries, what may be able to move those boundaries (if anything), and what you absolutely need from the other person. This gives you the mindset of true negotiation, and ultimately ends in more pleasing results for all involved.
Hone Your Skills
Negotiation, like any other skill, requires practice. Don’t be caught in the dark with your negotiation tactics.