If your goal is to transform the way you do business, enhance your leadership approach and improve how you interact with stakeholders and teams, knowing how to negotiate effectively is the key.
Adhering to myths about negotiation strategies can impede business growth and performance improvement. You might already know the most common myths, like “it’s all about winning” … “good negotiators need to be aggressive” … “you must be in control of the conversation”. These have been heard so often, skilled negotiators recognise they’re not true.
It’s the less common myths about negotiation that are potentially more damaging, because they may already be embedded in your mindset. They can slip into your strategy unchallenged and set you at a disadvantage. If you have a myth embedded in your approach, it may not be until a negotiation goes poorly that you realise how baseless these statements truly are. As a result, you’ll miss opportunities that were within your grasp while others with a better understanding of effective negotiation will step in and succeed.
Negotiation is a growth strategy too valuable to risk on false beliefs when ENS’ a sophisticated, psychology-based approach is far more effective. Instead of being the one missing out on the wins, you could be achieving your goals while sustaining – even enhancing – the relationship with the other party.
Are these 4 myths damaging your negotiation strategy?
Myth #1: “In any negotiation, the facts speak for themselves”
Some negotiators join the meeting intending to slide a report across the table, sit back, explain nothing, not smile, and not question what might lie behind the numbers that are slid back to them. They believe in acting professionally and clinically, and they avoid building a relationship with the other party.
The facts or numbers relevant to the negotiation are certainly important. But they always have a story behind them, a narrative that brings the two parties to the table. Decision-making is always driven by an unseen narrative. What each party wants, and how they measure it, can hide why and how keenly they want it.
The way a negotiation is conducted (the Process) has significantly more leverage for a skilled negotiator than the facts of the negotiation (the Content). There are many number of variables that influence the meaning of facts: the hidden narrative, events that happen between meetings, starting points, targets, competitor behaviour, the pressure of stakeholders.
So interrogate the facts. Invite the other party to explain their numbers and then listen to the way they speak, the words they choose. Ask questions about vague words and shine a light into unmentioned numbers. Adapt your negotiation strategy in response to their reactions and answers.
The facts cannot and do not speak for themselves – you have to give them a voice.
Myth #2: “The other party’s personal needs aren’t relevant to the negotiation”
In any negotiation, there are always 2 primary drivers: what people want, and what they don’t want (or want to avoid). The substance of these drivers, or needs, may vary between participants, but everyone will have their own in mind.
While personal needs will usually not be expressed explicitly, clues can pop up without warning: conflict between team members, a late cancellation, a sudden break in the train of thought, facial expressions, sweating, physical discomfort.
It’s tempting to be courteous and let these observations pass without comment. But emotions and hidden needs are factors in the negotiation process that you can leverage. If you lean into the difficulty in the right way, you can build relationship and learn even more about what is really going on.
Take time to diagnose the other party’s needs. Watch for the clues, observe their behaviours and ask yourself what lies behind their responses and questions. Then, consider your own needs. Where do they overlap? What is the common ground? From here, you can develop a strategy that builds on the overlap, which will engender trust.
Identifying rather than discounting personal needs will enable you to focus on finding a mutually beneficial solution. And when everyone’s needs are met, both parties to the negotiation win.
Myth #3: “Conflict in a negotiation is bad – avoid it”
Negotiation presupposes conflict. After all, the simple reality that the two parties have different needs and goals means they are in conflicting positions from the outset!
Conflict is not inherently a ‘bad thing’. It’s quite natural for conflict of some sort to arise in interactions between two people or groups. If it doesn’t damage the relationship between them, conflict is not necessarily something to be avoided at all costs.
During a negotiation, the extreme outcome of conflict can be a deadlock, which can strain the relationship and slow down the process or, conversely, help to clarify what seems to matter most. At times it could even be a ruse, a delaying or distraction tactic.
A skillful negotiator can manage the process in a way that sustains the relationship through conflict. Accepting its possibility, anticipating it and planning for it is more effective than hoping vaguely to avoid it. Do your research and gather all the facts. Know the other party’s needs. Think about what directions the negotiation may take.
Encountering conflict is not as dangerous as being unprepared for the negotiation itself. Focus on your preparation and you’ll not only be able to manage any conflict that arises, but also achieve the outcome you seek.
Myth #4: “Don’t give any concessions in a negotiation”
Trading concessions is often viewed as being weak, but it’s not: it’s practical. It’s a strategy. Being too rigid signals that you are unwilling to compromise or change your position, which can prevent you from reaching an agreement, while showing flexibility can keep the flow of the negotiation moving.
The art of trading concessions is to plan for it and prepare in advance. In the negotiation meeting, your opening offer is usually made on the assumption that it won’t be accepted. In that case, bring out the concessions!
Have you ever noticed that when you do another person a favour, you (either consciously or unconsciously) expect to get something in return? Equally, they expect to give something. This is because reciprocity is a social expectation in all cultures, and in a negotiation situation, you can leverage it.
Consider being the first one to give something, and this will put the other party in a position where they are more likely to reciprocate. Try the “if/then” technique: “If we were to do X, then will you do Y?”
Make your concession tentative, so that you’re not locked into a commitment – it’s an offer, not a promise. Keep track of the concessions both you and the other party offer, so you can manage the balance between the two.
Once you understand how best to use them, concessions can be a valuable move in your negotiation strategy.
Are negotiation myths holding your business back?
At ENS, we know that myths don’t lead to effective negotiations. Our unique, innovative methodology has transformed business growth and performance improvement for leaders and organisations around the world.
How ENS can help
ENS consultants work with clients all over the world to help them learn how to negotiate effectively. Find out how ENS’ training and consultancy services can develop you into a skillful negotiator.
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