One of the key competencies of a leader is to be an excellent negotiator. Whether we manage a team or run our own business, the better our negotiation skills are, the higher the chances of us achieving the results we want. How well we negotiate directly affects our ability to influence others.
I’ve had both good and bad negotiation experiences over the years with leaders I’ve worked with and have learned some strategies that I think work well in negotiations. While the strategies I share are more relevant to a one-on-one negotiation, it can also be relevant in a group negotiation as well.
Here are five strategies that any leader can use when in a negotiation with another person. If a leader executes this well, each person will leave the negotiation feeling that they’ve had a win.
- Be informed before the negotiation. In negotiations, nothing is more important than being prepared. If we consider court cases, as an example, lawyers spend hours and hours of their time prior to appearing in court, on gathering facts, data analysis, witness statements , etc. The team that is less prepared very rarely come out on top. This is no different to any negotiation a leader may find themselves in. If they can find out more about the person, their likes or dislikes, what motivates them, their values, the reason for the negotiation, it will all help towards getting the outcome desired.
- Aim for a win-win outcome. The best negotiations are those in which both parties feel they have had a win. In order to be able to influence someone else, we need to be aware of where they are right now or what is currently going on for them. As a leader, asking yourself, “What do I need to know about their wants, needs and desires?” is the starting point.
I remember I once had a manager who always had to win no matter what. On one occasion, during a meeting with one of our suppliers, he wasn’t happy that the supplier was proposing to offer a different product to what we were already purchasing from them that was a higher priced product. Without even letting the supplier finish what they were proposing, he bluntly blurted out, “We’ll find another supplier because they won’t charge us the price you want.” The supplier was certainly taken back and replied that they would take another look at the prices. This particular negotiation was escalated up to the managing director of the company who had to explain to my manager that it wasn’t about winning all the time and price increases were a normal part of doing business.
There are times when a situation can be reframed so it appears that the other person also has had a win. That comes down to being able to ask the right questions to elicit the right responses from the other person.
- Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Being able to see the situation from the other person’s perspective is extremely valuable. Making assumptions about the situation or person can be dangerous. Assuming that a situation is about money could have a negative outcome as not everyone is motivated by money.
One way of putting yourself in the other person’s shoes is to ask lots of questions at the start of the negotiation. Your intention should be to find out what the other person really wants and what their intentions are. Does the person want money, status or acknowledgement from the negotiation? Being aware of the context in which you’re both currently operating in will help tremendously in reaching a mutually beneficial outcome.
- Share a grander vision. At the start of a negotiation, stating what is possible if you both got what you wanted is a powerful way to make an impact with the other person. In my experience, I have found people entering negotiations tend to be nervous, uptight or perhaps even on edge. When people are relaxed, they are more open to being honest and sharing what their real intentions are without having to be cautious about what they say. Using words like “we”, “us” or “together” will give the other person a sense of belonging and acceptance. That goes a long way towards having a positive experience during the negotiation.
- Stay true to what you believe is the best outcome. Let’s face it — not all negotiations turn out as we expect it to. There are times when we have to be flexible and be willing to give more than we had expected. The key here is to be fair and not take advantage of the other person or even try to dominate the negotiation. This is where a leader’s true character reveals itself. Is it about winning or is it about what is the best outcome for all concerned?
There will be times when you will have to be firm and stay true to what you believe is the best outcome. Clearly explaining your reasons will certainly help diffuse any possible tension that could arise during the negotiation. Your end result should be what will move everyone forward harmoniously.
Leaders are constantly experiencing situations in which they have to use their negotiation skills to reach outcomes that are aligned with either business or personal goals. The strategies shared here will help anyone in a negotiation situation without the stress or tension that are typically associated with negotiations.
Question: What are some of your best negotiation strategies?
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