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Negotiation Techniques

by Kerri Harris

Negotiation Techniques Image - Chess Peace

Editor’s Note:  Learning proven negotiating techniques are important in getting what you want. As the author indicates, most of us are involved in negotiating in some form or other on a daily basis. Here is a look at the process of negotiation and tips you can use to improve your negotiating skills as you progress through the process of negotiation.

The average person engages in some form of negotiation on a daily basis. From time-management struggles to managing employees, work/life balances issues and even parenthood, opportunities to hone negotiation skills are everywhere. Improving your negotiation skills can mean greater peace of mind, increased harmony among the team, and the chance to advance personal and business relationships toward future success.

There are several basic common elements to improving your negotiation techniques:

  • Assessing your needs and wants and what you are really after.
  • Knowing the needs and wants for all other parties involved.
  • Staging the discussion.
  • Identifying areas for compromise.
  • Following-up with an action plan.

Assess What You Need and Want from the Negotiation

Before engaging in formal negotiations, it is prudent to first determine your needs and what you want to achieve. Legitimate needs are those issues or items that, when left unaddressed, can cause distress and obstacles that are not easily overcome. Wants are those issues that are sometimes nuisance items with the potential to pose a greater threat in time, but that can be dealt with before the threat can occur. These items can include morale and comfort-level issues for you and your team. Try looking at each of the needs and wants you identify from various angles to truly identify the root cause, implications, and some possible solutions. Document your ideas to have on hand during formal negotiation meetings. This advance work will not only help focus your discussion, but also lend credibility to your argument.

For instance, a legitimate need can be identified when increasing demands for your department have already caused significant workload balance issues and the coming year promises to bring far more high-priority tasks your way. Without additional resources and the budget to support them, what will you do? Is there another way to transition additional tasks to resource outside of your team? What partnership opportunities are available in other groups that may allow a work-sharing arrangement? Employee morale may also be suffering, which imposes additional needs to address merit increases or non-compensatory bonus offers.

Your concerns should be documented and ordered according to a need or want value and in order of importance. The list you create will provide the essential framework from which you can launch your negotiation strategy. During negotiations, some of your items will be used to barter and trade for those higher-priority needs as the parties focus on achieving at least some of their goals.

Research the Other Parties to Negotiations

Negotiations should never be considered a “winner takes all” proposition. In fact, the goal is more akin to formally compromising to the mutual benefit of all parties involved. In order to achieve your goals and successfully engage other parties, you must first do the research required to identify their pain points and desired goals. Most project leaders and divisional directors focus on cutting costs and reducing time to completion metrics. Typically, they focus on balancing resources and driving results aggressively when needed. Your past successes in this effort may be commendable, but don’t count on them carrying much weight in a negotiation effort going forward. When budgetary dollars are on the line, internal competition can be tough. Therefore, you should focus on those areas where you can highlight your value proposition in the future.

To help achieve an accurate picture of those needs and wants you need to address for the other party, it is crucial to do your homework beforehand. Take the initiative by asking that manager out to lunch. Keep the conversation casual, but stay focused on future company plans, the division, and how you and your team can play a key role in that plan. In a casual setting away from the office, people are often more comfortable and willing to share insights or personal views that will help in the negotiation process. Additionally, it will help build rapport that can ease the discussion later and elevate added tensions that sometimes arise during tough negotiations.

Stage the Negotiation Discussion

When and where negotiations take place can play an essential role in shaping the outcome. Also, keep discussion points concise and focused on the discussion at hand. If additional discussion points come up, do not add them to the current meeting. Instead, elect to call a separate meeting to address those issues and include some bullet items clearly outlining the topic. That way, the stakeholders will be well informed and better prepared. When negotiating with your manager or other colleagues, choose to sit close and on the same side of the meeting table. This should be a collaborative discussion and your posture should reflect that. Be polite, be calm, and move for a break if things do escalate and tensions rise.

Stick to the Negotiation Game Plan

Always stick to your plan and remain strong on your highly valued needs. Street Life Correspondent and tongue-in-cheek negotiation coach, Mr. Mafioso writes, “In negotiations, concessions are always made. But no matter how much you concede to close the deal, the core of what is important in a deal should not be waived.” Undermining your own position and failing to achieve critical goals may actually compound the initial concerns that prompted the meeting in the first place.

Review your strategy and offer to negotiate on those items that are not rated as high needs and wants. Consider offering to remove these from the discussion in favor of adopting a goal from the other side that helps address their pain points. If your highest objectives are called into question, reiterate the problem and solicit feedback for possible solutions. By creating stakeholders, you gain additional support from them to implement a viable resolution that they can help champion with you. As the discussion progresses, be comfortable enough to break and reschedule further discussions at a later date. Remember that your best position is that of problem-solver for yourself and others. The conclusion of each negotiated deal should leave everyone feeling happy and satisfied with the terms.

Follow-up Negotiations with an Action Plan

A common mistake many people make is simply walking away at the conclusion of the meeting. This leaves the door open to creating instances where one side may forget decision points or recall elements of the exchange quite differently. The worst possible scenario in negotiating is having to forward the same petition twice. This allows other managers time to counter all of your arguments and mount formidable arguments of their own. Take a few minutes at the end of the discussion to recap on the issues and the decisions made. If needed, consider scheduling an additional time to speak about milestones and actions plans as well as a clear timeline. Don’t stop there! Get it typed, confirm it again via email, and be sure to send if off for all parties to review and formally ratify as a means of finality.

No matter what the issues on the table are at the moment, you can give yourself the edge by being prepared and concise in your argument. Being informed and doing your homework thoroughly only breeds confidence which will show and add a surge in your favor. Managing the discussion from initiation through to the end not only affords you the resolution you need, but also a great reputation for being proactive, a forward thinker, and a notable collaborator. That is a worthy goal for which any novice negotiator should strive.

Additional Resources on Negotiation Techniques

About the Author

Kerri Harris is an Interactive Communications Specialist and key member of the Public Relations department at NCR Corporation in Dayton, Ohio. In that role, she is responsible for delivering corporate communications across various electronic and digital media, project management, and customer service. Kerri also coordinates and conducts training programs to improve client services, conflict resolution, and process-improvement techniques. Kerri has completed studies in Phi Theta Kappa’s Leadership Development with Ohio Senator Tom Roberts, and has served as Communication Chair of the Professional Resource Council. Currently, she also serves as Chair for NCR’s Intranet Council.