Negotiation is one of those skills that will always be useful, no matter what you do. You can use it to get a better salary, or just a better phone plan. It’s endless!
We should really learn this skill in school. But now is the second best time… so let’s start learning!
1. Before you get to the negotiation
Put at least an hour aside to think about all your options and alternatives. The trick is to know what you can give and to start from a position that allows you to give without losing what you REALLY want.
Then you want to get really clear on your counterpart. Who are they and what do they want? Make sure you do this with a clear head, get rid of the emotions, and see the person ‘warts and all’. Understand their needs, understand their pressures.
You can also, at this point, determine your BATNA – Best Alternative to a Negotiated Alternative – which is basically your lowest limit, or the highest price you’re prepared to pay or the point where you will walk away. This tells you when to walk out if you need to.
Build your case with all this in mind and include any standards of behaviour that may be applicable. If you’re negotiating in an industrial dispute there are certain expectations of behaviour that are different to if you’re just negotiating a phone contract. So make sure you know them.
2. Prepare an opening gambit
There’s a bit of a dispute about this one in the literature. I’m a firm believer in letting someone talk because people like to talk. That way you get more information that can help you in your negotiation.
The other side favours an aggressive approach where you talk first – be aggressive! If you’re negotiating a salary, ask for more than what you want and this then provides the anchor. Start high enough and you have room to move downwards, start too low and you don’t. We usually fear alienating people when we do this, but alienation rarely happens.
However – if you are female, there is a mounting evidence to suggest that being evenly mildly assertive can make you seem VERY aggressive, so evidence is starting to mount that you probably need a ‘friend’ to negotiate for you. In general, find a salary buddy and negotiate for each other.
3. Respond to the offer
In negotiations, generally you start with one offer. Then the other person counter offers. When it gets to your counter offer, remember the anchor problem and stay objective. Focus on what you really want and what you’re prepared to give.
Whatever you do, don’t show your BATNA unless you absolutely have to as it weakens your position.
And, always counter. Even if your opponent makes you an ideal offer, demand a little bit more. This way you will learn the limits of the deal and you won’t wonder later if you could have gotten more.
Some final notes:
- Always ask for a glass of water – it will be useful later on – see the tips below…
- Watch out for leading statements. If you feel pressured to agree to a seemingly mild statement, take notice. Take a sip of that water and say nothing. If they continue to push, go to the bathroom and come up with a good response. ALWAYS take time out.
- Avoid face to face negotiations if you know the person, especially if you are a nice person, because rapport will cause you to be less objective and too nice.
- If you do negotiate face to face, never put a table between you, sit beside each other and things will be less combative.
- Use open body language and LISTEN carefully to your opponent, everything they say is useful as it tells you more about them.
- Negotiate in your own office as much as possible as you have a slight ‘home’ advantage which will ensure your counterpart feels compelled to use good manners.
So get out there and negotiate – get what you want!