Learn how to become an awesome negotiator

The element of negotiation will always be present no matter what your job entails. Sure, there are job descriptions with negotiation skills written all over them. Like, being salesmen and bankers. These guys do need to negotiate with their A game on. Now, you may think that some jobs are exempted, but the truth is, we all negotiate every once in a while. Say, you need a raise or wish to buy a house, you then negotiate.

Thus, we could all benefit from learning a few negotiation skills.

You’ll discover

- Why having the wrong map is better than having no map at all

- What jazz musicians can teach you about negotiation; and

- Why negotiation is all about being flexible.

The secret to successful negotiation is to prepare a plan beforehand, but not necessarily stick to it.

Imagine this scenario. You find yourself in a very important negotiation for your salary. You very well know that you are worth $120,000 per annum and you do not want to settle for less. Of course, you would demand this figure. However, what would be your course of action if they disagree? Usually, we tend to drop the negotiation and settle for far less than what we demanded on the table.

How can you come in prepared in a situation like this? You prepare a map with many acceptable paths and outcomes to make the most out of your negotiations.
First, identify your ultimate target. What is your stretch goal? How about your baselines? Do you know your minimum acceptable outcomes? These will be your fall back considerations.

Baselines are vital, because naturally, the other negotiating party will have a goal to often contradict you and your demands. Check out this hypothetical salary negotiation: Your stretch of $120,000 per annum got rejected. But good thing, you have your baselines for fall back. It could be $100,000 per annum or $90,000 plus stock options. With a fall back, you get to feel confident about where the negotiations would take you, and that is a plus.

In fact, a military patrol unit was saved from certain death after losing in the Swiss Alps back in the 1930. And its saving grace was the map principle. The whole unit was in grave danger of dying in the wilderness when one soldier had found a map right in his very pocket. What they did not know when following the map was that it would actually lead them to Pyrenees and not the Alps. But their confidence that they knew where they were going gave them enough confidence.

While preparing for a negotiation, consider various scenarios and don’t forget your Plan B.

Cooking a particular meal would require preparing the ingredients first. You should prepare your case first before negotiating. Ask yourself this question—what is the best time to negotiate the deal? Scheduling negotiation is the key. Make sure the timing would be advantageous on your end.
How likes is it that you will come to an agreement? If a deal is unlikely to succeed, you should not put more efforts into it. Instead, spend those resources on something that has a stronger chance of succeeding.
Say, haggling down the price of a vegetable would not work in a supermarket. But it might in a local farmer’s market. Choose your circumstances in negotiating battles.
But, of course, staying flexible and creative is important when things do not go as planned. Therefore, Plan B is vital. In the author’s workshop about negotiations, he usually use a small business owner as an example. The business owner wanted to expand his business through other small company purchases. However, he could only offer less than the minimum price that the other party expected to sell his small company for.
So, instead of buying the other company, he then sold his own to the negotiating partner. As a result, he made a very profitable business deal out of the negotiation by considering his other options.

Good negotiators are mentally and emotionally prepared.

Good professional negotiators are humans who get nervous, too. Despite putting a good poker face on, they usually are unsure of their odds of success, too. But they know how to control their own emotions when it comes to negotiating, and this is crucial.

A surgeon needs to be confident and calm when performing surgery. He needs to be alert to the possibility of encountering complications. A good negotiator must be in a confident and strong emotional state of mind when negotiating as well.

You may not be able to control the circumstances, but you can control your emotions. A good negotiator must be alert, calm, proactive and patient, creative and practical.

In order to identify what hinders you from being in the right emotional state, know what triggers your emotions. This way, you can avoid them. Do you get angry when you are stuck in traffic? Then work on having extra time in the morning before you get to an important negotiation.

Also, avoid going on autopilot. Do no doze off when in the middle of a negotiation. It does not matter if this trick has helped you in the past, but you must focus on what your negotiating partner says to make the most out of the ongoing deal. This way, you can pay attention to their body language as well.

Don’t hesitate to improvise! Harness your inner actor or jazz musician.

Expect the unexpected. Think on your feet and learn to improvise. Think like an actor.

Improvisation is an acting technique that forgoes learning text by heart. It focuses on spontaneous and impromptu interactions. It follows the golden rule, “never say no.” Work with what you are given.

Unless something is truly unworthy to be discussed, avoid saying ‘no’. Work the offer, relax under pressure, and do not guess or assume what the other party will say next. Trying to come up with the perfect answer during negotiations would only cause more harm than benefits. There is a tendency that panic would arise when the answer does not sound nearly as perfect as hoped. You want to avoid this at all cost. Stick with realistic expectations.

Approach negotiations as if you are an actor observing the improvisation technique. With mental presence and enough preparation, you can negotiate better. Improvise like a jazz musician that does not need to read any sheet music, but rather need only to listen, adapt, and influencing through melodies and rhythm. These three are the fundamentals for success when negotiating.

Understanding what the other party says is much more important than coming up with the perfect answer. Pay close attention to subtle clues like the tone of voice, any sign of anxiety, and other cues that would help you better grasp how the negotiations go on their end.

Foresight and good observational skills help to make good decisions.

Like chess, success also requires experience and foresight. In fact, there is a psychological experiment conducted wherein chess pieces were setup in a random order on a chessboard. The participants only had a quick glance of the board before they were asked to recreate the arrangement.

As a result, the professional chess players did no better than the average participants. However, when repeated with arrangements from an actual chess game, the professionals were able to recreate it better due to past experiences from other games.

This experiment helps us to better understand that your ability to interpret what the other party’s tactical moves are depends on your past experiences and enough knowledge about negotiations. Continuous education is also a great weapon in supplementing your negotiation skills. You can read books about negotiation, attend workshops, and observe in other negotiations as often as possible.

Even the very best players could not guess all possible moves. The possibilities and options are as many as the stars in our galaxy. And since it is impossible to follow possible lines of play, a chess master could only anticipate the lines that have the best chance of winning.

Consider those options that give you the greatest odds of agreement. You can rely on your past experience to determine which option does. And when your tactics are compromised, you can look into changing your strategy altogether. And the way to do so is through improvisation.

The first few minutes at the negotiating table are the most critical.

You only get one chance at making a first impression. This applies in negotiation. First impressions set your relationship with the other negotiating party and the atmosphere of the negotiation.

You can follow these guidelines to help you set the right first impression:

Watch your language. Carefully choose your words and phrases. Use your shared interests as your common ground. Instead of saying ‘I’, try to use ‘We’ often.
Mind your posture. Your posture says a lot about your confidence and your stand in a negotiation. Show confidence and positivity using your posture. Stand up straight, do not cross your arms, and create good impression.

In accepting or rejecting an offer, only decline when the offer is truly unworkable. If the offer is suboptimal but has room for improvement, it is often worth continuing. However, avoid pushing too much as it could lead to cancellation of deal.

You can try the yes-no-yes approach when you want to cancel a specific offer without jeopardizing the whole deal. This technique can help you stay true to your own options while compromising to what the other party’s interests. By doing so, the negotiations progress.

Many seemingly unsolvable problems can be solved with creativity and a fresh perspective.

When you face a situation wherein you are stuck in a negotiation, would you give in or get creative?

In the business world, you may have heard the phrase, ‘think outside the box’ more than ‘hello’, but in times like this, it is paramount to actually think boldly. It could save you months of wasted work.

The writer commissioned to write FDR’s biography handed over a 1400-page manuscript to his publisher. The contract got canceled when the publisher asked him to reduce manuscript length by great amount, and the writer refused to do so.

Fortunate for the writer, he found another publishing company that liked his manuscript just as it was and suggested to split the work into two volumes.
As a result, both volumes were a massive hit and are still continuously printing today. This success was an outcome of the second publisher’s bold decision-making that involved splitting the manuscript to two volumes.

Do not hesitate to bring in outsider’s perspective to enhance creativity. In fact, the psychological distance between us and others can help to see things in a fresher perspective. Thus, we tend to be better solvers of other’s problems, because we are removed from such situation.

Think outside of financial terms. This way, you can avoid turning the deal into a zero-sum-game. You want to avoid putting both parties in such situation wherein one party profits and the other financially suffers. Instead, offer financial security.

Like a professional basketball player, if an offer guarantees longer contract, lesser money should not be an issue. What you lose in money, security makes up for. Still a sweet win in the end.

Now it’s time to close the deal.

Closing the deal requires a skill in closing a deal and persuading your negotiation partner to give in to your offer.

It requires honesty and politeness to gather your negotiating partner’s agreement in the long run. Would you want to make a deal with someone who obviously deceives you? Repeat business requires honesty despite the unfavorable consequences.

Now, you need to consider these rules in addition to nicety when closing a deal:

Emphasize loss.

A study on loss aversion states that people are most likely to agree when you focus on what they might lose than what they might get.
For example, you are suggesting that your company should get on board a new project. Pointing out the negative consequences of not getting on board aside from the positive ones could get you to close the deal.

Keep it simple.

According to a research, people are more like to come to a decision when they are faces with uncomplicated options. In one famous study, supermarket customers were offered to taste different jams. Some were offered only a few different options, and 30 percent decided to buy a jar. But only three percent decided to buy a jar each when offered with 24 different selections.

Like in negotiations, less options would guarantee better odds than overwhelming your negotiating partner with a lot of options.

Act according to your personal values and treat others like you want to be treated.

For example, you wish to purchase a cabin in the woods. And you find this beautiful little house exactly where you want it to be and the best part is the ‘For Sale’ sign hanging by the door. You introduced yourself to a kind-looking elderly woman over some tea. You discovered that her asking price was surprisingly low.

Would you accept the offer right away, or counteroffer and negotiate for something lower? Or perhaps would you tell the old woman that her cabin was worth far more?
Say, you went for the first option, then some years later, you wish to make it up for grabs. Perhaps the reason was the pending new highway that was planned for construction nearby. Then a young couple comes after the cabin. Would you open up your reason for selling?

These questions might sound difficult to answer, but they do hold some truths in negotiating principles.

As a buyer, ask specific questions about the condition and circumstances about the sale. Most sellers tend to spill out the truth when asked directly.

As a seller, consider the information you give out to the potential buyers without compromising right perspective. Would you recommend someone else to do the same in your condition? Would you want others to treat you in such a way? Remember, how you make the other negotiating party feel about the deal is how they will remember you. Forever.

Consider this, if the old lady was your grandmother, wouldn’t you want her to be paid fair price for her cabin? And if you were one of the young couple, wouldn’t you wish to be informed about the construction?

The way you decide to handle the ethics of negotiations is absolutely your call. But always consider how you would feel if the situation was the other way around. Remember the golden rule; “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”.

Final Summary

No two negotiations are the same. Therefore, think on your feet. By doing so, when your negotiating partner comes up with a quick, you can improvise. Remember how improvisation is paramount in negotiation.

Actionable advice:

Meditate this evening.

According to studies, yoga and meditation help lessen stress and level up your problem-solving skills and productivity. And these two are very important factors in successful negotiations.