Peter Nelson, programme director on Henley’s Influence and Impact programme, has been assessing the fundamental elements of good negotiation skills, and there are several techniques that will help you to achieve the most advantageous outcomes for you and/or your organisation.
First and foremost, do your homework and really understand your adversary, and the market, and what elements are non-negotiable. Chasing those will only cause delays and resentment, and is ultimately unproductive.
Rather than simply trying to bat proposals backwards and forwards, it is often useful to suggest conditional bargaining, in which concessions are made in return for balancing offers. For example, “If I’m prepared to offer X, would you be willing to do Y?”.
Empathy is disarming
Empathising with your adversary from the beginning requires understanding their issues, motivations, aims, attitudes and politics.
“Taking a position such as: ‘I suspect that one of your biggest concerns might be the impact of this on X. If we could help minimise this impact would that …?’ can disarm the other party, avoid conflict and demonstrate your own constructive approach,” says Nelson.
This philosophy can be further enhanced by ‘bundling’, in which demands can be linked, and this is especially useful where you know you have a ‘weak card’. Bundling it with a strong card may enable you to succeed with the weaker card to a degree that would not be possible without bundling it together with the stronger negotiating element.
And finally …
Good negotiators generally have perceptive business judgement and refined people skills, and never underestimate the value of humour.
“It’s important that the humour should never undermine any serious issues that may be at stake, but at the right time, lightening the mood relieves the pressure and reminds all parties that life will go on.”