Entering a negotiation can be an uneasy experience for many of us; the fear of walking away feeling ripped off or taken advantage of can put people in a panic. These fears are not unwarranted. Many people who regularly enter negotiation deals are well versed in manipulating words and situations to achieve their desired outcome. Luckily, with the help of some professional negotiators and through experiences of negotiation training and courses, we’ve compiled a list of the four most common mistakes people make when negotiating, so that the next time the situation arises, you have the upper hand.
Being a bad listener
George Siedel, University of Michigan professor and author of Negotiating for Success, explains how the best negotiators are those who walk into a deal prepared to listen. Be ready to ask plenty of questions, be open in understanding the opposing side’s argument, and what they hope to gain from the deal. Understanding and emphasising with the other party’s side of the negotiation will give you an upper hand and allow you to identify the points they’re most willing to concede on.
Listening to counter arguments is often a gateway into learning how to best persuade the opposition on agreeing with your position. Many negotiators give insights into how to best persuade them based on the way they present their case. Often, people will use their own reasoning to arrive at what they think is the best way to convince others they’re presenting the best deal; by picking up on the tactics they are using will enable you to gain an insight into their reasoning and thus identify how to best approach persuading them.
Lack of preparation
Industry experts like Siegel, or The GAP Partnership’s Jason Ing agree that preparation is key to the success in negotiation. Walking into a room unprepared will not only lessen your chances of winning the deal, but it will also give the other side an advantage over you.
Before going into a negotiation, know exactly what your objectives are, but also take the time to consider the opposing sides too. Knowing both parties intentions will allow you to anticipate and prepare for some of the points where your negotiating skills will be most tested.
Identify what your desired outcomes are and know what your best alternative to a negotiated agreement (BATNA) is. This will allow you to acknowledge what you have to fall back on if the negotiation results in “no deal.” If you have a strong BATNA, it may give you leverage over the other side.
Having full knowledge of your client’s expectations, compromising points, and recognising un-negotiable points will allow to plan for the deal in advance, and transition through it with increased clarity. It will also decrease the chances of misalignment with client satisfaction once the negotiation has been settled and may allow you to understand how your client is willing to compromise.
Failing to leave room for negotiation
Don’t overlook the importance of your opening position and take time beforehand to establish a position that gives you sufficient room to negotiate. First time negotiators often make the mistake of starting with their bottom line position, whereas more experienced parties do not. Starting with your lowest proposal will make it harder to convince the other party that your initial offer is in fact your bottom line position, and can hinder the negotiating process by making yourself come across as uncompromising.
Being afraid to ask
Never assume an offer is unnegotiable, so don’t fear compromising. Eldonna Lewis-Fernandez, author of Think Like a Negotiator, offers tips for beginners to develop and advance their negotiating skills She recommends using low stake situations, like a yard sale, where haggling is expected, to perfect your negotiation skills by turning your purchase into a game.
Remember, the best negotiations are always the ones with a win-win scenario. Be careful not to get caught up in the “trying to win” game.
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