If you come to a negotiation table saying you have the final truth, that you know nothing but the truth and that is final, you will get nothing – Harri Holkeri
For most people negotiation is an uncomfortable deal. Yeah, let’s not sugarcoat it, negotiation is a tricky thing indeed. You will have to think on your feet, control your emotions, stay calm and confident, and formulate a strategy, sometimes all at the same time.
Some lucky people are born with the ability to negotiate well, as for the rest of us, we have to learn the tact and the art of negotiation one step at a time. The good news is, by repeatedly using the right techniques and tips it is possible to boost your skills.
Just like any other skill, taking smart steps and practice can take you a long way. Here are some such tips that will help you become a better negotiator:
1. Kick off with anecdotes
According to a study, the first 5 minutes of a negotiation is enough to predict the outcome of the negotiation.
These first few minutes are important because the other party is trying very hard to evaluate you. This is the time when you work on building trust. One of my favourite ways to do that is by offering an anecdote or previous examples of such negotiations where both the parties walked out happy.
You can say something like, ‘You know, a couple of months back we did a similar deal and it turned out very positively. I hope we can accomplish the same or even better results here. In case, you want to talk to the other party, here is their contact’. Put your business storytelling skill to use here. It is a casual yet impactful way to kick start the negotiation.
Another tip that can help is that try to read into the emotional state of the other person. Are they frustrated, nervous, happy, calm etc. It can give you insight into how you can handle the negotiation.
This is an extremely effective way to build trust.
2. Start higher than where you want to actually land
Anchoring is quite an effective technique used by many businessmen. This technique was proved to be effective to nudge your customers to buy more of your products, influencing people, and more.
This is the most basic tool you will need when walking into a negotiation. When experimenting with my startup, Hiver’s marketing outreach campaign, we ended up learning an important lesson – when we reach out to people we always ask for more, if we get a ‘no’, then we ask for the next best thing.
In our case, we have seen that when we dared to ask for more sometimes people did concede and when they didn’t, they were more ready to accept our second proposal. This is the same principle, I use for negotiations too.
Researchers too agree that starting high in a negotiation is the best way to go.
Even if you think that what you are asking for is ridiculously more than what you will be satisfied with, go ahead and do it because you are the only person who knows that.
But do take care not to ask something so ridiculous that you may end up offending the other person.
3. Be the first to talk
Always be the first one to express what you want from this deal. Why? Because it will allow you to set the standards of the negotiation and the expectations of the other party.
A study published by Harvard business school states that – if you make the first offer, you will tip the negotiation in your favour.
For example, let’s say you want to get 1000 points from a deal, if you are the first one to go, you can start at 2000 points and then may be lower down to 1000. But if the other person goes first and they say they are willing to give 100 points, it is almost next to impossible to rise them up to your desired 1000 points.
Also, making the first offer shows to the other part that you are a confident and determined person. That level of respect is needed from the other party to be able to reach a fair deal.
4. Create a sense of urgency
In business, time is very important, if the other party is going to drag out the negotiation, you may still win but at a huge opportunity cost. The goal should be to get favourable results faster. Creating an environment of urgency is the key to take the negotiation forward quickly.
Also, the more you make it seem like the offer will expire after a certain period of time, the more the other party will want it.
For example, in an e-commerce website when a customer sees the ‘sold out’ display in the options, it triggers a sense of urgency and so they are willing to buy the product that they picked sooner rather than later. All because they don’t want to lose the product to someone else.
This is how negotiation works too. But I always urge people to keep their manners in check when making offers like these.
Snobbish statements like ‘Look we have many people lined to make a deal with us, so be quick about it’ usually are a very bad way to go. Even if you win this deal using such methods, you will fail to build a long term relationship with the other party. Any far-sighted businessman knows arrogance is not a smart way to make good deals.
5. Take them by surprise
This is practical tip that is more applicable to everyday negotiations such as asking for a raise, having a talk with your boss about your hours etc.
Let’s say you want to ask your boss for a salary raise. If you call your boss and say that ‘Hey, I want to have a talk with you about my pay, let me know when is the best time to meet’, it certainly is a polite thing to do.
But, the problem is once you explicitly state the purpose of your talk to your boss, he/she is going to walk into the negotiation room with a battle armor, mentally prepared!
So you just made it much harder for yourself to persuade your boss.
Instead, if you casually drop by your boss’s cabin and ask him if he is free talk and casually slide down into your pay raise request, you have a better shot at winning. In this scenario, you haven’t created any tension before the talk itself and made it sound like a casual but important request.
Remember, with negotiations, tactful communication is the key.
No matter how much you hate negotiation, it is a tool you very much need. Not just for your professional life, but also for your personal life. Angry spouse, livid boss, business deals, buying from a street vendor, you name it, there are many times we need our negotiation skills to tackle a situation.
Like any skill, mastering the art of negotiation will take practice and commitment. That paired with the list of suggestions above can take you a long way.
‘The most difficult thing in any negotiation, almost, is making sure that you strip it of the emotion and deal with the facts. And there was a considerable challenge to that here and understandably so.’
– Howard Baker