The essentials for winning negotiations

Some managers react with skill and confidence while others become nervous and inconsistent when negotiating. What is it that creates confident and effective negotiators?

Seven positive qualities

The answer may be found in these qualities, which top negotiators share:

  • They recognize that what they say in the opening moments may set the climate for the entire negotiation. It tells the other person whether they’re looking for a successful outcome for both parties or are interested in a personal victory.
  • They create a positive climate by acknowledging the strengths and weaknesses of both sides.
  • They listen carefully and evaluate the information received before responding.
  • They avoid cliches and pat answers and try to satisfy the other person’s concerns before pushing for a decision.
  • They use questions to establish needs, clarify issues and advance alternatives.
  • They try to develop new possibilities  rather than proposing either/or ultimatums.
  • They’re willing to take risks, push themselves to higher performance levels and create new opportunities for growth.

Three possible outcomes

Good negotiators understand three possible outcomes of any negotiation:

  1. Win-win. Both sides win something of importance and both sides give up something that is of lesser importance to them. Both parties walks away with positive feelings and will be willing to negotiate with each other again.
  2. Win-lose. One manager wins and the other loses. It may mean a quick victory for one manager, but a long-term relationship is threatened.
  3. Lose-lose. Both managers lose, usually because each is more interested in “winning” than in reaching a good compromise.

Strategies for reaching win-win

Here are five strategies that may help create win-win situations:

  1. Build trust and share information. Trust is the single most important thing you need in a negotiation. To build it, establish a track record of credibility. Stay in contact, admit  mistakes, be clear and exact in communications and stay positive and optimistic.
  2. Ask questions. Listen when the other manager talks. Try to understand the other person’s interests. Find the information you need to create trade-offs.
  3. Come up with solutions not currently under discussion. Creative solutions may be found by identifying the underlying interests of both parties and brainstorming for a wide variety of potential solutions.
  4. Avoid giving concessions too early.  Find out what other concessions the manager may be seeing before granting any. Try to get the other person’s set of requests on the table before responding.
  5. Try not to let egos interfere. The manager who thinks “winning” is more important than reaching a good compromise will never become a good negotiator.

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