7 Essential Skills to Master the Art of Negotiation

In the workplace, almost every contract is set upon a negotiation. It plays a major role in the recruitment process, which is why HR representatives are trained in the art of negotiation. People working in sales are more or less successful depending on their negotiation skills. The procurement department of every company negotiates deals with suppliers. Teams negotiate deadlines, co-workers negotiate tasks, managers negotiate roles, and much more. Everything in business is the result of negotiation.

Essential Skills to Master the Art of Negotiation

What is a negotiation?

Most of our social interactions include negotiation. Every decision you are taking with your friends or family is based on some sort of negotiation. Deciding where you want to have dinner, what movie to watch, which board game to play, are all based on negotiating.

We even negotiate with ourselves. Making up your mind about anything is technically a result of an inner negotiation. When your hedonistic side wants to eat a pizza and your conscious side wants a salad, there’s some negotiation taking place to decide what it will be.

Of course, the stakes are different for each of these situations, so not all negotiations are created equal. Compromising on Chinese over Italian for dinner probably won’t have a significant impact on your life. But getting $10,000 extra from your sales commission will definitely change a lot. Therefore, it is always important to know how to pick your battles and have some negotiation skills up your sleeve to pull out when needed.

We come to your help by putting together a short guide of negotiation strategies and skills that you should apply to increase your odds of getting what you want in a negotiation.

How to negotiate

1. Be wise

Start big. Always set a bottom line that you are willing to settle for, but never start with that. If you wish a salary of $50,000, ask for $75,000 and let the other party haggle down. Remember the first rule of negotiation is to never accept the first offer.

The best solution in any negotiation is to meet in the middle. This way, no party feels like they’ve been ripped off, and everyone is happy.

2. Be expressive

Use body language. Nonverbal communication is crucial in any negotiation. Act visibly surprised, even offended, if you don’t agree with the offer.

It’s enough to frown, raise your eyebrows, or simply shake your head left and right. The other person will pick up on these social cues and understand you are unsatisfied with their offer. While words are important, at least 70% of communication is nonverbal.

3. Be bold

Use the Vise technique. This is a negotiating gambit with remarkable results. If you are on the receiving side of the negotiation act, use the phrase “You’ll have to do better than that“. This places the ball in the other court and they will have to make the next move.

However, be prepared to get the ball thrown back with the reply “How much better, more exactly?“. Then it is up to you to come up with a number.

4. Be assertive

Always get a trade-off. When you are asked to make a concession, it is the perfect moment to ask for something in return. Agreeing to a concession without gaining anything in return sets up a dangerous precedent. It is like telling the other side that you are willing to make sacrifices without gaining anything out of it. This will encourage them to become greedy and ask for more and more. You’ve seen this done by parents all the time. The kid asks for some extra money on top of their allowance, the parent says “OK, but only if you do the dishes“.

Apply the same principle in business negotiation and in the workplace. Never set a precedent that would allow others to take advantage of you.

5. Be flexible

Know when to take a break. Sometimes negotiations can reach a sticking point, where none of the parties is willing to compromise. If you are not ready to let go of the deal, this is the moment when you should ask for a recess. You can suggest continuing over lunch, dinner, or on another day.

6. Be decisive

Show that you are ready to walk away. This is already common knowledge, but one of the most effective techniques to get your way in a negotiation is pretending to walk away. If you can’t get the desired offer by using all the other negotiation techniques, this might be your last resort.

Let the other party know you have alternatives and you are ready to walk out the door. This power move can give you the upper hand, but also risks negotiation to fail.

7. Be positive

Always end a negotiation on a positive note. Throw in a small gift, or act like the other party got the better deal. Congratulate them for a job well done, shake their hands and make them feel like it’s their victory. This is how you foster fruitful business relationships.

Negotiation means compromise

Avoid thinking of negotiation as confrontation. This will spare you a lot of trouble and help you keep a professional attitude. Especially in business negotiation, you should never take things personally.

The final goal in any negotiation is for both parties to get what they want. Ideally, in a successful negotiation, you give up on things that don’t mean much to you but a lot to the other party. Aim for win-win deals while you keep scoring for your team. In the end, each party should be satisfied enough to be willing to keep doing business with each other.

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