The value in working on becoming the best negotiator you possibly can be is often understated. It is most commonly associated with the business world, and most people will envisage massive deals between huge multinationals as being the most natural environment for these kinds of meetings to take place. However, we firmly believe that you do not have to be at the head of the organisation to benefit from fantastic negotiation skills. At any level within an organisation, being well-equipped to negotiate a better salary can be hugely beneficial for obvious reasons, and the ability does not necessarily need to be confined to the workplace. You could be looking for the best deal on a new car, or even encouraging the kids to get their chores done without resorting to the age-old parenting favourite that “it’s not up for negotiation!”
It is a skill that is rarely taught, but truly valuable to anyone that takes the time to develop it. The following 10 tips will get anyone seeking to improve in the area on the right track.
1. Your Negotiating Partner is Not the Enemy
Regardless of the scenario, nothing beats making an effort to connect with your counterpart in negotiations on a personal level. Even car dealers are human too, and it is natural to be more accepting of compromise with someone that you appreciate. A way in which we like to perceive the negotiation is that the best deals are those where both parties depart with a smile, feeling like they got what they wanted. This can be a more difficult outcome and requires fairness from both sides, but anyone that negotiates with this in mind is likely to encounter a better outcome, not to mention a better relationship in the future if required.
2. Understand the Person Across the Table
Following on from our first tip, it pays to do your research, albeit not only to give yourself the best chance of successfully forming a relationship. The best way to ensure that everyone is happy with the outcome is to have a good idea of what the other side wants. This can begin before any meeting but can continue into the negotiation itself, and it is always worth asking questions to get the best possible idea of what you are working with or against.
3. Start Big
Many people immediately weaken their position in negotiations through the worry that their demands will be so severe that the other party refuses even to enter the conversation. This is rarely the case, and a few moments pondering how much leverage you truly have can make a massive difference. In many cases, the worst outcome is that no agreement is reached – you are no further ahead, but no further behind either. By going in big, you have more to give away as a middle ground is reached, often coming out ahead of your minimum demands.
4. Be Transparent
In business, there will be some facts that the other side is better off not knowing. However, in being as open and honest as possible in any situation, you build an atmosphere of trust. Even this intangible element can be considered a currency in negotiations – the other side may come closer to your requirements because they believe in you as much as anything else.
5. Other Intangibles Make a Difference
Trust is not the only intangible element of negotiations, and it does not need to all be about money and details. In salary negotiations, you can throw in remote working, overtime and other enticements that come at little direct costs but can be highly appealing to the other party. Essentially, what might be of little value to you could have a significant value attached by the other side, and this works in your favour.
6. Money is Often a Driver, But Rarely Everything
The majority of negotiations in which our readers will find themselves participating will revolve around money, but it can pay to deviate from this as being the focal point. If 2 sides find themselves struggling to agree, it is time to consider other factors. Your side can give up money in return for something else, or accept something in return that does not necessarily have any impact on the business’s books.
7. Take it Steady
Just as we have noted that it is important to start big in negotiations to have room to fall back into, do not feel that you need to make a huge impression from the outset. Indeed, if you manage to offer a deal that is accepted immediately, you probably could have got a better one. An initial “no” is a reason for discussion, not an end to proceedings, and should serve as a starting point.
8. Do the Easy Part First
If you have done your research and have a good idea of what to expect, certain elements of any deal are likely to be relatively easy to agree. If negotiating a car purchase, you may have discovered that your dealership makes better money from those that take out finance. That then stands as something they will want from the negotiation. By inferring that financing is likely, it can create an immediate positive atmosphere and give the other party more flexibility for future deal elements.
9. Move Away from Deadlines
A common negotiating tactic is to place a deadline on decisions – but this can often do more harm than good. If anything, they are likely to make the other party push back and can imply desperation on one part. If you hold all the leverage in the process, then these deadlines can play a part, but in an equal discussion, they are not the excellent tool that they may appear to be.
10. Take your Time
Some negotiations take place over a matter of minutes. Others last weeks or even months, and it is important to make use of the available time to discuss and assess the state of negotiations at a given time. If there is something else to be done or another part of the deal that you would like to achieve, then it is essential to be upfront about it and seek the perfect deal even after the deal has begun.