Let me begin by saying that a skilled negotiator will create high levels of rapport and be sensitive and empathetic to the people they are negotiating with, yet can still be hard on the issues.
The ability to separate the people from the issues, and recognise that negotiations are often fraught with emotional intensity, can help sharpen the focus on the interests of the other party to better balance perceptions. If the negotiation doesn't appear to be going anywhere and your prospect is behaving like a bully you might feel angry and frustrated. You may already have considered simply agreeing to their demands.
In difficult negotiations, there are four vital behaviours that can increase your resourcefulness and consequently your opportunities for getting to "Win-Win".
1. Manage your emotional state
Build rapport by matching the other person's style, pace and approach until you have achieved a 'connection' Personalise the negotiation by using "I" rather than your organisation's name. This demonstrates your belief in your proposal and highlights your credibility.
In the face of feelings like anger, disappointment, frustration, confusion, and resentment, we often react without thinking. In such a situation mentally detach yourself and think about it before you respond. It helps to reframe attacks and tactical manoeuvres as feedback that the other person's interests have not been fully acknowledged. Stay focused on your goal of reaching an agreement.
2. Look for quick mutual wins to build the belief "we can agree"
The more abstract your communication the more likely you are to reach agreement. Therefore, seek to gain agreement at an abstract level first and then get into the detail.
For example, if two people wanted what appears to be very different things, such as a) nuclear disarmament and b) more resources spent on defence, if you looked at finding out both sides highest intention, you may discover that 'peace' was the desired outcome for both people. Therefore, at this abstract level they have found agreement so the negotiation can continue by gradually getting more detailed.
Questions that chunk up your prospect into the bigger picture include:
- For what purpose?
- What's your intention behind (negotiating point)?
Seek to address the easy/quickest areas of agreement first to reinforce the process of agreement is simple and straightforward. If you discover an area where agreement may not be reached quickly then agree to leave it until later. If some points become contentious it can help discussions if you both move your body, because the mind and body are connected, physical movement helps to create mental movement. That's why a walk can work wonders during tough negotiations. Provide regular summaries of what you have both accomplished to install the belief that the negotiation is making progress.
Some sales people write out all the points to be negotiated on separate sheets of paper, then ask each point is agreed they move the paper to a different place, so that the buyer can physically see the progress being made which serves to motivate the entire process.
3. Use active listening skills and ask questions to give you a greater understanding of the other person's viewpoint
Giving good attention to people makes them more intelligent. Poor attention makes them stumble over their words and appear stupid. You are best positioned to change someone's mind after you have listened to that person. People tend to close down and stick to their position until they feel heard. The goal of active listening is for you to hear and understand other people - their words, thoughts, and feelings, and to let them know you've heard and understood them.
Acknowledge their motivations, feelings, and point of view, even when you don't agree with what they are saying. Your goal is to understand the message, not judge the validity of what they say.
4. Build trust by negotiating fairly
Demonstrations of power erode trust. If you are on the receiving end of this type of behaviour, describe your observations, and the consequences of continuing the current process. For example: "You know you've named what seems to me a low price, and so now I'll name a higher price, and then we'll each insist on our position until one of us gives in. I don't find my best negotiations work like this."
Then propose a different way to proceed, for example: "It would help me to understand the criteria of a fair offer if we could take a look at some of the relevant standards in this industry." Before beginning the negotiation it can help to agree the ground rules and stick to them. Act with integrity and hold a healthy respect for the intentions of the individual you are negotiating with. There is always a reason why a point of negotiation is important to the buyer and if we can appreciate more about their underlying reasons, this knowledge can be used and acted upon.
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