What if your negotiation skills are the difference between a family holiday abroad, or a week at home?
The difference between a great deal for the public purse, or a public outcry?
The separation between a good Brexit deal or a bad one?
Here are five things to focus on to make sure your negotiation skills are up to scratch.
In my first ever job, I called an Edinburgh biotech firm, determined to get their business.
The call went so well that I was unprepared for the final question they asked:
“Would you be prepared to come to Edinburgh to meet us and seal the deal?“
I fumbled out an answer about how I lived in London and that would be tricky.
I should have realised – that’s often how business is done in Scotland.
It was a perfectly reasonable request, but my answer (a thinly disguised ‘no’) lost me the sale.
You can only achieve your goals if you are clear on what they are, and what you’re willing to give up to achieve them.
Write a list of objectives, from both your perspective and your client’s.
If you are unsure on your client’s objectives, ask the right questions to open them up.
These goals will now act as your guiding stars.
They will help you make decisions in the meeting rather than deferring to a later point.
They’ll also help you tie down a good deal in the moment.
If you’re asked to commit to something that takes you further away from your goals, say no.
If it really was unreasonable to travel to Edinburgh, I should have answered no, but articulated a very good reason why.
Preferably from the client’s point of view.
For example, anytime I spend travelling is time I’m unable to work for you – so I’m best in the office and we can have a virtual meeting.
Now, before a negotiation, I always work out the difficult questions I could be asked.
That gives me a much better chance of saying ‘no’ confidently, before framing the response to the benefit of the client.
I wrote further about the power of ‘no‘ in our first ever blog back in 2015.
Once you know your goals and the client’s, start articulating a vision of what mutual success looks like.
Start sentences with:
“By working together, we can…”
“That will allow us both to…”
“We can benefit from…”
If you do that positively, your future partners will begin to visualise a deal, with equal parties gaining equal amounts.
I remember attending a political seminar in Glasgow when I was a student, when the speaker asked if the audience had any questions.
All the hands stayed down.
Foolishly, I raised my hand, uncomfortable at how things had worked out for the speaker.
As the microphone made its way to me, I remember thinking:
“I have absolutely no idea what I’m about to ask”.
Eventually, I blurted out something unintelligible about the unfolding conflict in Iraq.
Cue personal embarrassment.
There’s a clear rule in negotiation skills:
(S)he who speaks first, loses.
We hate silence – so we rush in to fill it with anything, even if we’re unsure what to say.
Leave uncomfortably long silences if you need to.
Avoid rephrasing or repeating yourself.
Hold eye contact and simply wait for the other person to speak.
You’ve agreed the terms of the deal, but what now?
I’ve seen many ‘agreements in principle’.
They’ve remained just that: a principle, without any money ever exchanging hands.
I now realise it needs more:
“When would you like to do go ahead?”
“Who do we speak to about invoicing?”
“How can we get a signed copy of the agreement?”
Only then is it really tied down.
As the Apprentice candidates jolly around London, and Theresa May and Michel Barnier face off in Brussels, only one question remains:
Whose negotiation skills will prevail?
Andrew McFarlan is the Managing Director of Pink Elephant Communications.
You can view his profile here.
Photo by jeshoots.com & rawpixel.com from Pexels
Some media trainers knock you down…and leave you down. Our media coaches show you how to deal with each knock…and still win through. So you have the presentation skills to perform – with confidence.