When we run our consultancy engagements and trainings our clients often ask us what are the top negotiation skills to master to become a master negotiator.
The answer may be a complex one because it really depends on the starting point of each individual, but these are three skills that, when mastered, can benefit everyone.
Some negotiators, often at a subconscious level, believe that negotiating, disagreeing with others and asking for more is inherently wrong. This is because we've developed as human beings in a society that promotes conciliation.
The truth is, to reach excellent agreements, whether, in competitive or collaborative negotiations, one is required to want to maximise a deal. Wanting to maximise a deal often requires openly disagreeing with the counter-party and risking not closing a deal, at least in the short term.
The best negotiators we work with are those that learn the appropriate techniques and behaviours that give you a higher likelihood of structuring valid deals and, most importantly, have a maximisation mindset.
They don't go to the negotiation table to close a deal, they look forward to getting to the negotiation table to maximise a deal.
They look at their counter-party and think:
- in a win-lose scenario: how much more can I get from my counter-party. What is the maximum I can take from them?
- in a win-win scenario: how can we work harder, together, to maximise the deal value for both parties? What else is on the table we haven't seen, that can help us both generate more money?
Closing deals is overrated. Maximising deals is what will turn you into a master negotiator.
Gauge the negotiation temperature in the room
Most people approach negotiations with the same, standard approach which they are most comfortable with. They fail to understand or even stop and analyse if a negotiation is a competitive one or a win-win one.
As a negotiator you should always ask yourself:
- What kind of negotiation are we in, a competitive or a collaborative one?
- Am I, therefore, negotiating against this person/company or with them?
The paradigms, behaviours and mindset you will use will and should change dramatically based on how you answer the above questions.
As human beings, we are naturally scared of conflict. For our limbic system, conflict is associated with possible death, as the other party may fatally attack you. This is an evolutionary mechanism that served us well when the key objective for human beings was to survive. In the society we live in, and if your job is to be a corporate negotiator (sales person, buyer, commercial director, CEO, CxO) we negotiate to thrive.
Whilst every bit of the biological you wants to avoid conflict and live a more comfortable life (increase chances of survival), you need to start understanding that embracing negotiation is essential.
Negotiations almost always begin with disagreements, rejections, commercial conflict, even personal conflict - conflict of interests. In other words. that is when you want something different from what the other party wants.
If you lose your cool get out of your comfort zone because someone else, perhaps more senior or in a position of power, is using conflict against you - you will give them a competitive edge and they will tend to get more of what they want, often at your expense.
Counterintuitively, you not only need to be comfortable with conflict but you need to embrace it if you want to negotiate well. There are different methods on how you can grow into a negotiator who becomes comfortable with conflict, a good place to start is to cognitively understand it is fine for you to say "no", and it is fine for you to say "I completely disagree". Then breathe in the moments of uncomfortable silence that tend to follow. What you will tend to find is that the more you use conflict, the more you will become comfortable with it.
Bringing it all together
There isn't a silver bullet solution in negotiation. There are a set of behaviours, attitudes, and tools that can help you become a better, even master negotiator. Whether you are a professional, seasoned or junior negotiator (we all are, whether are aware of it or not) keep in mind the above three points and feel free to let us know how you applied your learnings to email@example.com.
Our mission is to free you from the discomfort of negotiating and helping you get more of what you want.