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Everything is Negotiable

Everything is Negotiable

How to Improve Your Negotiation Skills

The ability of negotiate is a useful skill that most people in business will need at some stage.

Here are the most important negotiation skills:

  1. Find the middle ground solution that links what you want, with what they want.
  2. Don't agree to their first proposal.
  3. Prepare a list of negotiable variables.
  4. Never give-away concessions for free.
  5. Prepare your entry and exit points in advance.
  6. Always have a practical alternative to an unacceptable final offer.
  7. Be prepared to walk away.
  8. Never act on emotion, always act on logic.
  9. Maintain a polite and professional manner.
  10. Keep accurate written records of the negotiations.

1. Find the common ground that links what you want, with what they want.

In order to prepare your negotiation, you need to recognise that the goal is to find the connection between three fields.

  • What you want.
  • What they want.
  • What is logically possible.

The intersection is where you will find the middle-ground solution.

Notice how small the middle ground solution is, when compared to the whole shape. This explains why a negotiated solution is sometimes difficult to find.

2. Don't agree to their first proposal.

From the above, it seems obvious that you should say "No" to their first proposal. Why? Because no-one offers their best offer first. Even if they claim that their first offer is their best offer, you can rest assured, it isn't.

Behind their first offer is their second, third and even fourth offers.

You need to explore that territory. And you won't do that if you say "Yes", too soon.

Say "No" to their first offer and discover what are their better offers.

3. Prepare a list of negotiable variables.

A negotiable variable is something that you can add into your proposal (or even subtract) that will make your offer more attractive to the other party, but will also protect your best interests. The idea is to have negotiable variables that are perceived as high value to the other person, but they are of low cost for you to provide.

To negotiate effectively, prepare a list of these "negotiable variables" and use them as bargaining chips. Prepare these in advance of the negotiation.

You need to decide what negotiable variables you can put into each step, that lies between the top and the bottom of the negotiation staircase.

You should try to estimate what they might be prepared to offer you in the form of concessions or negotiable variables. Again, doing this mental preparation will give you an advantage since you will be more likely to predict the actions of the other party.

4. Never give concessions for free.

When negotiating, never give away your bargaining chips for free. Never GIVE concessions; instead, TRADE them.

The rule is: I will give something to you, ONLY IF you will give me something in return.

This is the cardinal rule of all negotiations.

Never give concessions for free.

Negotiation means "give and take".

5. Prepare your negotiation "entry" and "exit" points in advance.

In all negotiations you will need to decide:

  • Your first offer. Your opening gambit. Your most optimistic request.
  • Your final offer. Your last bid. Your most pessimistic request, before you walk away.
  • The middle-ground solution.
  • When to stop negotiating. Either when you find a solution; or you fail to find a solution and you must walk away with a NO DEAL outcome.

6. Always have a practical alternative to an unacceptable final offer.

Always have a Plan B. That is what you will do if your negotiations fail to find a middle ground solution.

Having a practical alternative to an unacceptable final offer empowers you to walk away from a bad solution.

7. Be Prepared to Walk Away

A No Deal is a perfectly acceptable solution to a negation and is better than one in which you accept what THEY want, but at your expense.

You MUST be prepared to walk away from the negotiation. Therefore, you must have somewhere to walk to.

This is called a BATNA - a Best Alternative To a Negotiated Answer.

If the other party thinks you cannot, or will not, walk away, then they have the competitive advantage and they will drive you into the ground.

You must at least appear to have practical alternatives and be prepared to walk away from the negotiation, without a deal.

8. Never act on emotion, always act on logic.

Negotiations are often emotional affairs. But it is important to NOT be driven by emotions of greed, anger, upset, pride or fear.

Instead, you should order your affairs according to a logical evaluation of all the available evidence.

When you are negotiating, please ensure you are running on reason. DO NOT let your emotions gain control over you and cause you to act irrationally.

Remember that the other person may act in ways designed to upset your emotional stability.

You must keep control over your emotions and play it with cool logic.

9. Maintain a polite and professional manner.

Always maintain a professional and polite negotiating style.

This logical approach will enable you to maintain a cordial, professional manner, during your negotiations. Don't be overtly friendly and congenial, and don't allow any negative emotions to express themselves.

Instead, always be clear, rational, friendly and professional.

Your aim is not to be their best friend, but rather; to find a written agreement that will satisfy the needs of both parties.

Then you will get the best results possible from every negotiation.

10. Keep accurate written records of the events.

Learn the art of listening, speaking and writing at the same time. Police detectives quickly find out that they must keep accurate written notes of what is said during a meeting. By doing this you will have a massive advantage over those people who are not taking notes of proceedings, and you will be a better negotiator.

Negotiation Skills Training Course

If you would like to know more about negotiation skills, please take a look at our one-day in-house Negotiation Skills Training Course.

About the Author: Chris Farmer


Chris Farmer is the founder of the Corporate Coach Group and has many years’ experience in training leaders and managers, in both the public and private sectors, to achieve their organisational goals, especially during tough economic times. He is also well aware of the disciplines and problems associated with running a business.

Over the years, Chris has designed and delivered thousands of training programmes and has coached and motivated many management teams, groups and individuals. His training programmes are both structured and clear, designed to help delegates organise their thinking and, wherever necessary, to improve their techniques and skills.

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Further Reading in Communication - Persuasive Communication

  • Understanding vs Agreement
    Whenever presenting ideas or negotiating with others, it is crucial to make your audience clearly understand your message. Without understanding you cannot hope to gain their agreement.
    Read Article >
  • Everything is Negotiable
    In business you have to trade with other people, which involves negotiating. Therefore, it is important that you learn the proper principles of negotiation, in order to get the best possible outcome for your organisation.
    Read Article >
  • Why are Some People Dangerous?
    Most people would consider themselves rational, and a few may be inspiring. A great leader is both rational and inspiring. However, the inspirational but irrational communicator, is a dangerous combination.
    Read Article >
  • How to Negotiate Properly
    Successful negotiation needs careful thought and proper preparation. Take a look at the common negotiation errors that people make and learn to avoid them. Careful analysis and a logical approach will allow you to become a successful negotiator.
    Read Article >
  • How to Persuade Others to Do What I Want
    In leadership the common desire to make others do what you want is misguided. Forceful tactics lead to poor outcomes. Reframing the question to seek willing cooperation is crucial, as well as highlighting long-term benefits.
    Read Article >

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