Jan 8, 2018 at 12:00am ET By Joanna Hughes

The Brexit vote may have seemed like the political equivalent of a mic drop, but it was only the beginning of a complex process involving many negotiations across a multitude of agreements, deals and treaties. While navigating the UK’s departure from the EU may be the most extreme example, it’s just one of millions -- if not billions -- of negotiations happening in the world right now.

One profession where the ability to arbitrate is particularly vital? Business. Because of this, many MBA and EMBA programs have acknowledged negotiation skills as a core component of leadership by building them into their curricula.

Looking to get a head start on your negotiating know-how? Read on for a roundup of six tips aimed at helping you sharpen your negotiation skills. 

1. Identify what -- and who -- matters.

It’s easy to lose sight of the end game in the heat of the moment. Taking time to identify your motivations, needs, priorities and goals, as well as the motivations, needs, priorities and goals of all other stakeholders, can help you stay focused on your own objectives while maintaining a realistic outlook.

Proposes Customer Experience Insight, “What is the prospect really trying to achieve? What is the full scope of the problems they are addressing? How does your solution uniquely impact them? Is the prospect’s primary purchasing agenda price, value or relationship, or is he or she just playing poker with you? If it’s poker, what tools will you use to call his or her bluff? With this information, you can develop a sound plan to leverage your competitive advantage.”

2. Know your settling points.

Going into a negotiating expecting to get everything you want is not only unrealistic, but also can end up costing you more to stand to gain. In their bestselling book, Getting to Yes: Negotiating Without Giving In, Roger Fisher and William Ury contend, “The reason you negotiate is to produce something better than the results you can obtain without negotiating. What are those results? What is that alternative? What is your BATNA -- your Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement? That is the standard against which any proposed agreement should be measured.”

And remember: This approach doesn’t just apply to you, but also to the other party. Says EMyth, “In negotiating salary increase requests from employees, for example, it is essential to solicit the employee's perspective — and to be able to accurately assess what may not be said aloud. With vendors or suppliers, knowing their break points — the bottom line they are willing to go to — as well as your own leveraging strengths with them, is critical to negotiating deals that are mutually acceptable.”

3. Listen well.

Success in points 1 and 2 rely heavily on one thing: the ability to listen -- and truly hear -- the other side.

Writes Managing Director and Global Head of M&A for VantagePoint Capital Partners Richard Harroch for Forbes, “Some of the worst negotiators I have seen are the ones who do all the talking, seeming to want to control the conversation and expound endlessly on the merits of their position. The best negotiators tend to be the ones who truly listen to the other side, understand their key issues and hot buttons, and then formulate an appropriate response. Try to gain an understanding of what is important to the other side, what limitations they may have, and where they may have flexibility. Refrain from talking too much.”

4. Keep professionalism paramount.

While the short-term goal of your negotiations may be getting what you want, your long-term goals should focus on something else: maintaining a good relationship with the other party. Not only is a positive tone most likely to lead to optimal outcomes, but is also critical if you plan to do business together in the future.

Furthermore, truly bad behavior may not be containable to a single moment or meeting. Because relationships are everything in the business world, a reputation of difficult or volatility may continue to impact your business and your career for years to come.

5. Make it quick.

While rushing through deals is a bad idea, moving quickly can mean the difference between moving forward and stagnation.

Continues Harroch, “You have to understand that the longer a deal takes to get completed, the more likely that something will occur to derail it. So be prompt at responding, get your lawyer to turn documents around quickly, and keep the deal momentum moving. However, that doesn’t mean you should rush through negotiations and make concessions that you don’t need to make. Understand when time is on your side and when time could be your real enemy.

6. Have backup at the ready.

You may feel strongly about your case, but the person with whom you’re in negotiations isn’t just going to take your word for it. Cold, hard facts don’t just speak for themselves, but they’re also impossible to argue with. One of the simplest ways to overcome a particular point of contention is to show -- with data -- why your solution is the better one.

The best part of committing to master these negotiation skills? They won’t just serve you well in the boardroom, but also in all other aspects of your life.





Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.

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