10 Negotiation Basics for Beginners

Negotiation skills are handy when you’re trying to close a sale with a customer, discuss prices with a landlord or supplier, or agree to a sale of property or equipment. It’s easy to think you’re a good negotiator, until you’re actually in the middle of a deal going downhill. One expert explains negotiation this way: “There is no question that finding a deal which makes everyone happy is difficult, but this is exactly why it is so highly valued.”

While everyone has experience with negotiating, there are still ways to improve.

1. Do your research. Knowing what to expect (instead of guessing or “seeing what you can get”) will give you more confidence when you open the conversation. For example, before you try to discuss the cost of rent with a current landlord, find out what it might cost to move into a comparable building.

2. Build rapport. This might mean small talk or taking the time to get to know the person you’re negotiating with, or it might mean trying to find common ground. Show respect for the other party and use active listening skills to understand what they’re looking for in the deal.

3. Listen up. Most of us tend to talk too much, which means we’re not listening to the other party. It’s important to understand the key issues for the person you’re negotiating with, so ask probing questions and listen carefully.

4. Know your priorities. If you’re looking for a new service provider, consider how important price is relative to other factors like timeliness, accuracy, customer service, or quality. As the saying goes, “fast, cheap and good, pick two.”

5. Be clear and direct. Use your communication skills so the other side knows what you’re looking for in the deal.

6. Be prepared to act decisively. While some people prefer to sleep on a decision or take more time to do extra research, this could mean that you end up missing out on a good deal, only to end up with something less optimal.

7. Create value for everyone. Instead of approaching the negotiation as a battle with a winner or loser, look for the win-win. This way, both parties leave the negotiating table the same or better than they arrived and achieve a relationship that creates long-term benefits for both sides.

8. Manage emotions. Keep your emotional reactions in check during the negotiation (because experts will use emotions to their advantage), and try not to take any of it personally. At the same time, be professional and respectful in your own behaviour. The ultimate goal is to have a productive relationship that’s beneficial to both sides.

9. Understand your timeline and the other party's timeline. As well, keep in mind, when a negotiation drags on for too long, more issues can crop up to scuttle the deal.

10. Know when to walk away. Sometimes it’s impossible to reach an agreement on the terms you want or when the other side is being unrealistic in their expectations. If a deal falls apart, move on.

Whether the negotiation works out or not, take time at the end to reflect on how it went. We’ve all had successes and failures in our attempts to reach a deal, so try to learn from every negotiation, because there will always be a next time.








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