Negotiation Tactics for Project Managers

As a project manager, you have a vital and important role to play. In projects of all sizes, you’re responsible for setting the goals and executing them by a deadline, and managing your team from start to finish. Not to mention doing all of this within your budget. Since you are the go-to contact for your team, clients, vendors, and sponsors, you must be able to successfully communicate all the necessary information to reach the desired outcomes. Because you’re working within a budget and communicating between many different services, there are plenty of opportunities to negotiate on a day-to-day basis. To be the best project manager you can be, you can master the art of negotiation, keep your projects moving andexecute a successful outcome.

Interactions That Benefit 

Project managers have to be able to talk and listen to several different authorities. Therefore, negotiation skills can help with interactions between:

  • Customers
  • Suppliers and manufactures
  • Team members and reports
  • Positional authority
  • Organizational structure concerns
  • Shared resources
  • Project teams on local or global teams

Poor communication and negotiation skills in any of these areas could result in a stalemate, leading to project delays and compromised professional relationships. When you are working within a deadline, preventable delays are the last thing you want to occur. Knowing how to negotiate with all levels of involvement can benefit the success of the entire project.

Challenges Faced by Project Managers

Project managers have a lot on their plate and overwhelm, disorganization can lead to communication breakdowns. Functioning as the point of contact for team members, vendors, and clients, project managers must also manage onsite operations. When working as a project manager, you may need to apply negotiating techniques to challenging situations such as:

  • The project charter
  • Authority boundaries
  • Contract terms and conditions
  • Changes to scope, cost, or schedule objectives
  • Assignment roles and responsibilities
  • Prices
  • Liabilities
  • Numbers
  • Project dates and deadlines

With the many responsibilities placed on the project manager, negotiation tactics can make handling any issue more effective and efficient. Knowing how to negotiate prices can help you better stay within the budget of a project. Effectively negotiating contract terms and conditions helps protect all involved parties and assures the project will be handled correctly, payments will be made on time, and helps lay out the expectations right away, so there’s less room for error once the project has begun. Successfully negotiating greatly increases your potential for a successful project.

What Is a Successful Project?

A good place to start as a project manager is having a clear idea of what defines the success of a specific project. Some general measurements of a successful project might be if you stayed within the budget, if the project was executed properly based on the client or stakeholders’ desires, and if the project was delivered by the deadline. It is important you identify the goal from the beginning. While some people will be much more clear with their expectations and goals, others may take a bit more effort to understand.

Be sure to ask questions when you are unsure about anything and have as clear of a vision as possible so you know what you are expected to deliver. When the expectations and goals are clear, you’ll be able to negotiate the rest of your time, spending, and services appropriately.

Having effective communication from the start helps project managers create a work environment where people can work at their best. Clearly outlining the end goal of a project helps create focus and gives you the information you need to negotiate a successful project from start to finish.

How Do I Negotiate?

At the root, negotiation comes down to effective communication. When you have the ability to communicate your position clearly and listen to those you’re speaking to, you’re more likely to find a solution that not only best serves the project’s needs but ideally works for everyone.

Hard Bargaining

Depending on your communication style, there are a few different negotiation tactics to try.  Some prefer hard negotiations or hard bargaining, which often puts one party in opposition to another. Hard bargaining often includes tactics such as a take-it-or-leave-it approach and can even go so far as being belittling or insulting. While this approach is used by some, many people find it aggressive and damaging to developing a long-term relationship. Even if hard bargaining gives you the result you wish at first, it may not be the most sustainable approach.

Soft Negotiations 

On the opposite end of the negotiation spectrum is soft negotiations, wherein a person often offers more than they should.The soft negotiation tactic may lead to a faster solution, but not necessarily the best solution. You may end up compromising too many of your own projects needs to make accommodations with another party.

The Principled Approach 

While people use the soft and hard negotiation approaches and reach outcomes, the principled approach is considered to be the most effective method. Because the principled approach looks at the bigger picture, it allows you to reach the desired outcome while also respecting those involved and their interests. It also allows you to explore the options available. For sustaining long-term professional relationships, you may consider a more open-minded approach where the ultimate goal is a win-win for both parties.

Tactics for Project Managers

Successful negotiation doesn’t have to be difficult. It often requires the ability to be prepared, know the main objective, and approach the problem with a willingness to listen and make changes if necessary. Helpful tactics for project managers include:

  • A project manager is usually the face of the project, and your attitude and approach will set the tone. Even on challenging days, maintaining a positive attitude can help build stronger relationships with team members and other stakeholders of the project. The team and stakeholders’ confidence in your positive approach helps builds your confidence and credibility as a leader.
  • As a project manager, you have a lot of responsibilities. Working with multiple people, teams, and departments can pose many stresses day to day. It would be easy to feel overwhelmed at times, which may create a desire to rush through the problem to find a fast solution. Sometimes that’s necessary, and sometimes you’ll want to slow down, ask questions before making assumptions, and address the issue with a clear head and all the information.
  • Gather information. You can never know too much. As a project manager, you want your finger on the pulse of the project. Know just what your client is looking for and what you need to make it happen. If an issue arises, do what you can to understand what went wrong to be sure they don’t happen again.
  • Know your bottom line. Project managers often work with clients and vendors to secure the products and services they need. It is important to know how to negotiate costs and, first and foremost, know the budget of any project. Knowing your bottom line gives you the boundaries for your negotiations.

Refining Your Negotiation Skills

As a project manager, your job is to execute a successful project and manage the process from beginning to end. Being the point of contact for your team, clients, and vendors, you are the expert. Brushing up on your negotiation skills will help you ensure your projects stay within budget, are done correctly, and are completed on time. If you do it right, not only will your project be a success, you can sustain positive professional relationships for the long term. Shapiro Negotiations Institute offers training in the art of negotiating. If you are a project manager looking to refine your skill, we can help. Contact us today to learn more.

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