Whether it’s getting a better deal on a car or property, haggling on salary or trying to get out of a sticky situation with the woman in your life, negotiating with dexterity and competence will play a big part on whether you do or don’t get it.
The art of negotiation though – and it is an art – is not something just for financial services bigwigs, career politicians and overly competitive board game battles but instead is a forte that once mastered, will help you many avenues in the game that is life. So, no matter where you’re looking to go, here’s how you get there.
There’s nothing that will set you up for failure more than being underprepared. Make sure you know your facts, your figures, the weaknesses and strengths of the person you’re negotiating with. Getting yourself set up properly before you go into the room is guaranteed to ensure you come out of it in a much stronger position.
Know what you want
It’s all very well having the numbers prepared in your head, but you need to know which of these numbers it is that you want to go after. If you don’t know, how can you fight for it? Know your worth and battle for it. Don’t go in without a clear motive or you’ll end up with a deal only half as good, at best.
Keep calm and don't let your emotions get the better of you
Remember, emotion rarely rules the day. Don’t get riled up and give away your position. The moment you start to raise your voice or get red in the face is the moment the person opposite you has won. Emotion leads to bad decisions and poor judgement, so it’s imperative that you keep a level head to secure the best deal.
Use open-ended questions
Good negotiation is often about good information, and you can’t mine out more of it if all of your questions are ‘yes’ or ‘no’ queries. With open-ended questions, your opposition may let slip a crucial detail that gives you the high ground in this war of wits.
Tiptoeing around a deal or point will often lead to you losing it. Negotiation is usually a fast game, and you haven’t got time to take something away and agonise over it. Make a judgement and be confident in your reasoning for doing so. If you can’t, you’ll leave with nothing.
Listen carefully to what is being said to you so that you can best counter it. You won’t get anywhere by talking over and bullying the person you’re sparring with. If they feel you’re not getting what they’re saying or just plain ignoring it, they’ll shut down negotiations very quickly.
Seek a win-win
You’ll do better at the table if your adversaries are getting something out of it too, more often than not, that’ll just be your business. The best negotiators are those that acknowledge counters, craft around them and don’t just bully someone until they either concede or leave. Seek a win-win and you’ll come away successful on most occasions.
Never give away without something in return
That said, a win-win isn’t you getting what you want, but giving up something else entirely. If you’re willing to compromise on a point, it should be because you’ve received something else in return. Giving up a key proposal for a bit of leeway on another of yours will cost you in the long run.
This is possibly the most crucial detail. Shaky hands, muffled speech and a generally nervous disposition will get you nowhere fast. It’s natural to be nervous, especially if you’re new to negotiating, but you must try to conceal it. You should be confident and collected if you’ve done your research, know what you want to say and have a structured plan on how you’re going to get what you want.
Have an exit strategy
Sometimes, you just need to walk away. The deal is going sour, you’re being beaten or the other team just aren’t giving anything away, no matter how reasonable you’re being. In that case, make a last ditch or just end negotiations there and then. A good exit strategy should be a key part of your preparation, or you could get locked into something that isn’t good for you at all.