Tips for Improving Your Negotiation Skills
Life can be seen as a series of negotiations. As a child, you barter with your parents to be well rewarded for your chores. Later, as a teenager, you haggle with the salesman for a better price on your first car. As an adult, you press for a promotion at work. These and other experiences have helped us develop our skills at getting what we want (or as close to what we want as possible). We may not even think much about our negotiating abilities except when we find ourselves on the wrong side of a deal.
Many freeze up at the thought of having to engage in a negotiation, but these interactions do not have to be tense or frightening. They can be great opportunities to hone your negotiating skills and develop your character and, maybe, gain yourself an edge in life. Below we offer a few tips to help you improve your bargaining skills.
Know your goals and expectations and those of your counterparty. Only with a clear understanding of your goals and expectations and those of your negotiating partner can you create a successful strategy to obtain the best deal. Think about how you will evaluate the outcome of the negotiations. How will you know if you have realized your goals? What physical evidence can you use to judge the degree to which you have reached your goals? How will you feel? Be sure to think about the answers from your counterparty’s viewpoint to try to glean some insight.
Take advantage of free information by listening and asking questions. Many times we can get a better picture of the other party’s motivations and thoughts through our active listening. People often unwittingly provide information that could be beneficial if we understood its true significance. Prudent questions can also get us valuable information. Taking in isolation, these tidbits may not seem important. When viewed together, though, they can offer some clues that can be factored into our negotiating strategy.
Negotiations can be win-win propositions. Even though each party is trying to secure the best terms, this does not necessarily mean it has to come at the cost of the counterparty. It is possible to have fully satisfied parties on both sides of a negotiating table and this should be the goal, if possible. Entering a negotiation with this positive mentality will help you create more balanced proposals and should result in more acceptances of your terms. Based on what you believe to be the goals and expectations of the other side create an agreement that leaves both parties feeling like their expectations have been met satisfactorily. If the initial proposal is not accepted, adjust it based on input from the other party until you arrive at a final agreement.Ask for more than you expect to get (but not too much). A good way to gauge how much the other person is willing to give up is to ask for more than you expect to get and carefully watch the other person’s reaction. Many times we underestimate our negotiating position and are afraid to ask for too much. The key is not to present outrageous proposals that are sure to be rejected and could actually be viewed as insulting. This is a fine line. Ask for too little and you will miss an opportunity to gain an advantage. Ask for too much and you will chase away the other person, creating bad will from the beginning and setting a bad tone for further discussions.