Everyone uses negotiation skills almost daily, but we don’t realise this. You only need to read the news to see how disastrous bad preparation before entering negotiations can be. How often have you asked yourself “I wish I had thought this through better before I tried to get…”?
Whether it’s agreeing on the topping for your shared pizza, a pay rise or a major grant, good preparation and a strategy on how you will maximise the benefit for both parties are an absolute must. It is a vital skill in our personal lives as well as in work and for business.
Like any skill, repeated application and practice will improve results and increase confidence but you need to have a few basic principles from which to grow these skills. Here are some tips to get you started:
1. Be clear about what you want to achieve
List your desired outcomes. What is the most important for you? Consider also what you might want to ask for but are prepared to sacrifice in order to get your desired result. Demand anchovies, knowing they will be rejected, and then suggest pineapple as a replacement, which now appears very reasonable and acceptable, and in fact is your desired outcome
2. Know what you don’t want
These are the famous “red lines”. This is an outcome that you do not want. At some point both parties need to understand each other’s red lines, then reach an outcome to the transaction that does not upset either party.
3. Create a list of alternative and acceptable outcomes
We’d all like a £100,000 pay rise and an impressive title. However, a £5,000 pay rise and £25 hamper might be what you are happy to get, for now! Your strategy is then to ask high but get to where you realistically want to get to. Don’t box yourself in without having considered other acceptable alternatives.
4. Research the other party’s needs, requirements and red lines
The more knowledge you have, the stronger your hand and the more reasonable you appear. Research and preparation are the largest component of any negotiation and is ignored at your peril
5. Work towards a “win-win” outcome
Winning is not about crushing the opposition, often described as a “zero-based outcome”. Remember you may have to deal with, if not live with the other party in the future. Creating an outcome where both parties feel they have done well, and in fact both feel that they achieved more together is a great outcome. Can you make your pizza larger to fulfil both your needs?
Finally, how you behave and communicate after the end of a negotiation is as important as the negotiations themselves. A positive and supportive follow through may reap great future rewards – that ambitious pay rise or the larger grant… Think about it!