Always be prepared for a negotiation
This is the most important rule you should follow no matter what negotiation you are going to conduct. It may take some time, so try to discover as much relevant information as you can. Here is a simple step-by-step plan:
- It doesn’t matter whether you go alone to a negotiation or with a team of colleagues, you have to set up a team of specialists in the different fields to get the necessary preparation done. For complex issues, this may take the whole department. Then you have to assign specific tasks to the individuals on your team.
- Make each member of your team focus on a very narrow topic. The more topics you cover and research thoroughly – the more useful information you will have!
Make an agenda for the negotiation, and divide complex topics into sessions
Write down all issues that will have to be discussed at the negotiation table. Simple and similar points can be collected in one short paragraph, but hard and complex issues should be broken down into their component parts. Now you have an agenda. If you have more than 3-5 topics, then you will probably find that it will be way more productive to have multiple sessions. And don’t forget to send your agenda to the other parties at the table and invite them to include their ideas to help develop a common agenda.
Remember: negotiation starts before you take a seat at the table!
Bargaining starts the very moment when the other party or parties know that a negotiation will be held. From that moment onwards, all the parties that will be included in the process should start preparing and organizing.
Organizing the negotiation will put you in a powerful position
If you have an opportunity to organize the negotiation process, there is a chance that fewer manipulations will be implemented, but don’t use this possibility to make the other party uncomfortable. If you hold the first session at your place, then it is better to hold the second one at your counterpart’s location. And bear in mind that the best approach may be to meet at an independent venue.
Find out who will make final decisions
Before a negotiation starts, always check if your counterpart has the actual power to make decisions. In other words, you should only conduct negotiations with people who are empowered not only to discuss agenda topics but to implement them. And find out if the actual decision-makers are the people you will be meeting with!
Do not turn a negotiation process into a one-man show
We all have seen in movies how big bosses hold negotiations and come out on top by using a lot of manipulation tricks. Please, never do that! It is very interesting to watch on the screen or live during bargaining, but this is not the way for you to succeed in reaching the best solution for all parties. If you must use manipulation at all, just don’t do it a lot.
Mix negotiation styles
There are five styles of negotiations based on “win-lose” theory.
The “avoiding” style means everyone loses.
The “competing” style makes you the winner and the other the loser.
The “accommodating” style results in others winning while you lose.
The “compromising” style occurs when everyone loses something and wins something.
The “collaborating” style brings about a solution favorable to everyone, and nobody loses.
Sometimes it is better to use the “accommodating” style on issues which are unimportant to you but very important for the other party to contribute to building a productive relationship. And remember – compromising doesn’t rhyme with the best style!
Focus on interests, not on positions
At negotiations you will hear proposals first – these are positions. Don’t spend a lot of time on them – instead try to find out what your counterpart’s actual interests are. To do this you have to understand why he is making the proposals he has put on the table. The best tools are to ask pertinent questions and use the information you researched while preparing for the negotiation.
Follow body language
Pay attention to the body language that your counterpart uses and be careful with your own. Non-verbal communication is one of the big parts of the communication processes. Our brains are able to read body language, intonations, gestures, and other non-verbal signals unconsciously. But it is way more effective if you know how to read these signs and how to make the right poses and gestures to look more convincing.
How to deal with deadlocks
There is a deadlock in every negotiation, and sometimes there is more than one. Don’t be afraid of this, and don’t blame yourself or others when deadlocks occur. An easy way to deal with a deadlock is to move to the next issue on your agenda and leave the complicated ones for later. Repeat this with every obstacle point and come back to them later in the session or take some time to think about it and add it to the next session’s agenda.
You don’t have to say "yes" or "no" right now! Take time to think
So if you have followed these easy steps and reached the final point of signing an agreement… Well, it is not the final point. When you have an apparent agreement, take it and read it carefully. You also have to agree on sanctions or “what will happen if each point in the agreement is not implemented”. And when you have reached a common understanding on sanctions and have an agreement, read it carefully before you sign it.