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10 Steps to Negotiate Like a Pro

Published on: November 15, 2022

two business people shaking hands

In the words of business negotiation expert Chester Karrass, “In business, you don't get what you deserve; you get what you negotiate.” When it comes to buying and selling, establishing the terms of contract agreements and fostering productive business partnerships, you cannot overestimate the incredible power of the art of negotiation.

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What Is Negotiation? 

The Australian government agency Business Queensland provides an exceptionally apt and succinct definition of negotiation as “a process where two or more parties with different needs and goals discuss an issue to find a mutually acceptable solution.”

In the business world and elsewhere, negotiation generally involves a significant amount of “give and take,” during which all parties offer concessions that mean little to them while protecting benefits that provide them the most significant advantage. Ideally, all concessions offered will greatly benefit the parties that receive them. The ultimate goal of most negotiations is achieving a “win-win” scenario in which all parties leave the negotiation table happy. 

Why Negotiation Is Important

While most people know that negotiation skills are valuable, far fewer understand why. Business Queensland specifically identifies relationship building, long-term solution development and problem avoidance as the primary advantages of effective negotiation.  Harvard Law School builds on this list through its Program on Negotiation, contending that negation “holds the key to getting ahead in the workplace, resolving conflicts and creating value in contracts.”

These various key advantages demonstrate why negotiation has long been an essential, ubiquitous and unavoidable part of overall business operations. It has always been true and probably always will be: successful business leaders are generally exceptional negotiators.

Different Types of Negotiation Styles

Business experts have identified five basic negotiation styles closely related to the well-established Thomas-Kilmann conflict management styles from the world of behavioral psychology. Relatively self-explanatory, these negotiation styles are accommodating, avoiding, collaborating, compromising and competing. During the typical negotiation process, the parties involved will often employ many, if not all, of these styles at specific times to accomplish particular ends.

How to Negotiate

Categorizing negotiation styles may be quite simple and straightforward, but the reality of facing another person in the boardroom is infinitely more complex. From making strategic contract concessions to presenting compelling value propositions, negotiation skills often separate success from failure in the business world.

In light of the extreme importance and complicated nature of business negotiation, business schools around the world include the subject as a prominent part of their undergraduate and graduate programs. Husson University Business and Management program students receive in-depth education and training in many areas that relate to effective negotiation.

Beyond enrolling in a college or university business program, you can start becoming a more effective negotiator today by following these ten relatively basic steps:

1. Stay confident

Although genuine confidence can be difficult to come by, it is the best negotiation tool you can have while staring down the other person during heated contract negotiations. Different methods of fostering confidence work for different people, but you should always take measures to appear confident, even when you don’t feel confident. 

2. Be aware of your body language

Certain forms of body language such as, posture, hand gestures, facial expressions, and physical orientation can communicate confidence (or a lack thereof) better than anything else. 

3. Know the value of what you are negotiating for

The negotiation process is driven by a series of complex value appraisals. Therefore, there is nothing more important than gaining a firm understanding of every negotiation element at stake as well as its component and contingent worth. You must also be able to accurately and rapidly calculate the implications of gaining or losing any of these elements.

4. Prepare beforehand

From conducting cost/benefit research to practicing your presentational approach, every component of effective negotiation can be improved by diligent preparation. 

5. Listen

Remember that speaking is only half of the overall communication equation. You are bound to botch your response if you don’t listen carefully and actively. In fact, poor listening often results in a final negotiation outcome that strictly favors the other party.

6. Be objective

Human beings cannot escape subjective thinking. We tend to see things from our own points of view and constantly assess information in relation to personal opportunities and risks. We can improve our value judgments and professional relationships during negotiations by striving to remain objective.

7. Ask open-ended questions

Closed-ended questions typically require specific facts and short answers like “yes” or “no.” While this might work well when finalizing or “closing” a deal, closed-ended questions tend to halt and stymie effective ongoing negotiations. Open-ended questions, by contrast, give all parties more freedom to explain and elaborate upon their wants and needs. “How do you feel about this proposition?” and “What might you be prepared to offer for this concession?” are great examples of open-ended questions.

8. Know when to stay quiet

People mistakenly assume that the person talking always has the upper hand and that the person who remains quiet has little or no control over the conversation. However, wise negotiators know the power of silence. Beyond promoting effective listening and careful thought, strategic periods of silence can demonstrate resilience and place uncomfortable pressure on the opposition in any negotiation.

9. Remain patient

It may be a bit of an oversimplification, but negotiations can be likened to a staring contest. The party that “blinks first” is often the party that loses. For this reason, patience is a crucial attribute of an effective negotiator. At the very least, all parties must understand that complex business negotiations rarely occur overnight.

10. Be willing to walk away

The ultimate test of a negotiator’s ability to stay quiet and remain patient is their willingness to walk away from a deal altogether. The party that is more reluctant to walk away will always be at an inherent disadvantage when it comes to effective negotiations.

In Conclusion

While anyone can take a few easy steps toward improving their negotiation skills, professionals who want to succeed in the business world must ensure they are the absolute best negotiators in the room. Remember that even the best negotiators can get better with the proper education and training.

Offered entirely online, the Husson University Business and Management program gives you 24/7 access to courses on negotiation among a broad spectrum of business subjects, laying the foundation for a career in the market or industry of your choice. With an average class size of just 19 students, Husson brings a “small college” feel to the virtual educational environment.

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