9 Steps to Becoming a Better Negotiator


Some people may have been born with the negotiating gene, but most of us have to learn the skills to get what we want without damaging professional relationships in the process.

There are multiple times when we all need to call upon our skills (or lack thereof) to negotiate. Most of us have to negotiate the price of a car or our salary or the resources we need to get our jobs done correctly.

If you’re a manager or a leader, you might feel like you’re constantly in negotiation mode. Whether you’re planning a new project or initiative, looking to increase your budget or managing the cost of your project, or in the scrum with team members, vendors, suppliers and even stakeholders, you find yourself having to negotiate all the time.

In short, we all need to look for ways to improve our negotiation skills. These 9 steps will help you define your negotiating strengths and weaknesses, so you know what to work on before your next negotiation.

9 Negotiation Tipshow to negotiate in project management

Know What You Need 

You can’t negotiate if you don’t know what it is that you need. Define your core needs, wants and nice-to-haves before you begin any discussions. Spend time clarifying for yourself, or with the team, what the real priorities are. You must first know what it is that you want, only then can you go about getting it.

Know Market Rates 

Once you know what it is that you want, then it’s important to know how much it’s going to cost. You don’t want to negotiate with suppliers without a firm handle on what the cost of business is. You don’t have unlimited funds, so talk to recruiters, or other professionals you network with, and find out what the going rate is for the service you’re interested in. That way you have a good foundation from which to start

Have Bargaining Chips 

Before you get to the table, have a strategy, which includes tactics that can help you steer the outcome to your liking. For example, if you’re offering a long-term and continuous contract of work, you’ll be able to negotiate a better price. That’s a bargaining chip. However, if that work is sporadic, then you’ll likely have to pay more for it. There are other key factors like that which influence the rates you’ll be able negotiate. Know them before getting to the negotiating table. 

Fight for Your Interest, Not Position 

There’s a difference between interest and position. The former is what benefits you, while the latter refers to where you stand on a particular issue. Both parties are going to have a position, and it’s likely that those positions are going to be less flexible. However, you can figure out where your interests and the interests of the negotiating partner align. That will bring the two parties together and make a compromise easier to attain. To do this, though, requires a lot of research and a creative approach. Try to look below the surface and see where both of you can help one another achieve each other’s goals.

Always Have a Backup Plan 

It’s never good to put all your eggs in one basket, so don’t marry yourself to only one outcome. Definitely define a priority list of what you want, but if you can’t achieve the best-case scenario, then have some other paths cleared that get you where you want to be with the least amount of discomfort. It’s a good way to gain confidence when negotiating because you don’t have the weight of an all-or-nothing decision on your shoulders.

Sometimes Having Fun Is Better Than Having a System

You know that having fun is a great way to reduce stress, but for some, the idea of not having a well-laid out plan is scarier than just about anything the mind can conjure. Sometimes, however, innovation comes from working without a safety net. Creativity is a valuable tool that helps you come up with alternative solutions that a more rigid process may cause you to overlook. This is a good time to revisit the point on interest not positions. By being creative, you can avoid that pitfall and get to the common ground on which negotiations serves both parties well.

Think Like Who You’re Negotiating With

You’ve probably seen enough police shows to know that a great criminal profiler is able to get into the head of the perpetrator they’re trying to collar. That may not be the best analogy, but it does serve your purpose when negotiating. If you can understand, fully and legitimately, the needs and wants of the party you’re negotiating, with then you can prepare yourself for what they may ask of you during negotiations and be better prepared to answer their questions. The opposite is also true, in that you can have a good idea of what to ask and how to ask it during negotiations to benefit your interest.

Respect Their Culture 

Part of negotiating is communicating. If you can’t articulate, then you can’t get what you want, because no one will know what you want. One of the key elements to communicating is have a clear picture of who you’re communicating with, as noted above. A part of that is getting to know the culture at the organization your negotiating with, understand the people you’re dealing with, and be respectful of the way they do business, even if it isn’t the way you do business. This is especially true if you’re dealing with people from other countries where etiquette may vary, from silent to talkative cultures and even a rigidity or looseness regarding punctuality. Doing the research to know and being prepared to respect your negotiating partner’s culture will go a long way to achieving a successful negotiation.

Be Prepared 

Yes, it’s the Boy Scouts’ motto, but it applies to more than camping and merit badges. You have to make sure your own team is on board if they’re going to be at the table negotiating with you. No matter how prepared you may be, you’re only as strong as your least-prepared team member. That means you must be transparent with your team, so they have all the pertinent information needed that might come up during negotiations. Even if you’re negotiating with your team, it’s crucial that they’re aware of the parameters within which you are working, so they can speak authoritatively throughout the negotiation.

That’s just a start, of course, but if you follow this course of action your negotiations, whether they’re with stakeholders or team members, vendors or suppliers, will be on more solid ground. You’ll be able to find that place where you are able to get what you need for how much you can spend. That’s a nice place to be.

Want to track negotiations with suppliers, clients and vendors as you manage your project? ProjectManager.com supports expense tracking, document sharing and file storage with its complete project and portfolio management solution. Learn more with the 30-day free trial.

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