Negotiation techniques and skills bring success in business | Sunday Observer

Negotiation techniques and skills bring success in business

10 May, 2021

“In business as in life, you don’t get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate” is the title of a book authored by the subject wizard Dr. Lester L. Karrass. I came across this phrase nearly 30 years ago when I was attending a sales training session as a junior salesman. I neither recall the name of the young and vivacious trainer nor the exact contents of the delivery, but the phrase never left my memory until now because I have never ceased to believe the truth in the statement.

As defined by Wikipedia, Negotiation is a dialogue between two or more people or parties intended to reach a beneficial outcome over one or more issues where a conflict exists concerning at least one of these issues. Negotiation is an interaction and process between entities who aspire to agree on matters of mutual interest while optimizing their utilities.

In a literary sense, what you negotiate in business gets what you deserve. The entrepreneurs, senior managers, and sales professionals, throughout their respective careers, constantly engage in negotiating with others as one of their most productive professional tasks. The techniques first and the skill subsequently determines the success of a business transaction, big or small. Having said that, I have to state that everyone born into the world, at one time or another, involves themselves in negotiations at different levels right through their business or personal lives.   

There are three types of negotiators we come across in business. Firstly, soft bargainers who use gentle negotiation tactics in a transaction. Usually, they attempt to avoid confrontations and maintain a friendly and cordial attitude with other negotiators and persist in agreement rather than resistance.

The hard negotiators mostly attempt to push their way through at the discussion table using even high-handed tactics. Hard bargainers apply pressure throughout the negotiation and rely only on victory rather than mutual agreements or benefits. Hard bargainers usually treat others as adversaries and untrustworthy.

The third is the principled negotiator who seeks integrative and mutually beneficial solutions. They concentrate on the issue rather than the interests and reach agreements on independent personal views. They base their efforts on objectives more than power or self-interest and act on moral standards, traditions and professionalism. 

Important techniques

‘Integrative negotiation’ and ‘adversarial bargaining’ are two important techniques in negotiation. Integrative bargaining is known to be a civilised and assertive method of negotiating with solutions found in win-win situations. The strategy is to find mutually agreeable decisions that satisfy the needs of each of the bargaining parties. This process often involves brainstorming with all concerned parties and pooling knowledge to find the best solution.

‘Adversarial bargaining’ is quite contrary. Also known as distributive bargaining, the method involves tough demands, threats, or bluffs. While in certain negotiations, particularly political and legal, the negotiators play hardball and treat the other negotiating parties as competitors.  This method is rarely successful in commercial negotiations. 

The process, behaviour, and agenda are the three elements of negotiation. The process is the way an individual negotiates with others using various techniques and strategies to reach a solution. The behaviour is how the two or more parties interact with each other and communicate their respective points clearly to the others in the discussion. The third element, the substance is the topic and the agenda on which the individuals of the negotiating parties continue the dialogue.   

Various types of negotiations take place in business. The most frequent out of these are the negotiations that occur in the workplace. Dialogues between the superiors and employees, discussions among fellow employees on official matters, and conversations and discussions with other stakeholders constantly go on as day-to-day negotiations in business entities.

Winning negotiation

Commercial negotiations are discussions generally done across a table engaging two or more groups to find solutions to a mutually important business subject. Usually, commercial negotiations end up in mutual agreement with conditions acceptable to all negotiating parties. The pros and cons are evaluated and deciding on an agreeable alternative best suited are found in a winning negotiation.  

Negotiation techniques are referred to the style and methods deployed by negotiators during a discussion whether they are commercial or private. There are certain unwritten rules, regulations, and ethics involved in good negotiations. The conversations must be pleasant and conclusions must be amicable to be fruitful to negotiating parties.  

Preparing for the negotiation, particularly in business discussions, with everything related to the subject is perhaps the foremost technique on the negotiating table. Negotiators must be able to counter any objection, argument, or comment successfully. Therefore, researching the minutest details of the subject with adequate information is imperative.

Before arriving at the bargaining table, it is imperative to analyse and decide the best alternatives to determine the loss in case the negotiation fails. Your best weapon in a hard negotiation is your ability and willingness to walk away. Therefore, good negotiators identify the best alternatives to the final agreement. This technique is common to both integrative negotiations and adversarial bargaining. 

In any negotiation, business or personal, posture and body movements play a big role. You must look confident and act confident to earn the respect of the opposing person or group. Self-assured speech patterns and positive verbatim can provide the desired edge at a serious negotiation. Showing signs of insecurity or nervousness can bring unfavourable results in a negotiation.

Being focused on the specific subject matter will convince the counterparts that you are serious and you mean business. By displaying the focus and the meticulousness, you tend to earn continuous respect of the counterparts.  

Valuable information

Being a patient listener is important in bargaining.  When you actively listen to the other party carefully, you will know exactly what they expect as the outcome. It makes things easier for you to express disagreement or displeasure at once. Your exemplary listening skills not only will get hold of valuable information but also your counterparts will see you as a reasonable negotiator

The ultimate goal of a negotiation is to reach an amicable solution with the counterparts. Therefore, building rapport with the others before the negotiation starts can bring superior results. All other negotiating groups could be more collaborative if you spend a few minutes in the beginning to break the ice. After all, any transaction must reach an agreement to be successful.

In a commercial negotiation, it’s always good to ask questions from time to time. The likely questions must be pre-arranged for them to be more productive. The discussions become more integrative with the right questions at the right time. A smart negotiator prepares his questions leading the answers by the counterparts. On the other hand, questions make the gray areas of the subject matter clearer. 

Presenting multiple equivalent offers at the initial stage is a good negotiating strategy. Instead of making proposals one by one, you can table several offers together as a bundle. By doing that you are influencing and leading the other parties to accept part of your deal. When they accept part of the offers, it is easy for you to improve other parts of the proposals and can be done on mutual understanding. Also, even if your counterpart accepts a few out of many, you are still in a winning position.

The disposition and the personality with the understanding of negotiating techniques create a stable component of a negotiator. A good negotiator is flexible in the bargaining table by being either cooperative or hard as a professional depending on the person across the table. The ability to negotiate well is one of the most important attributes one can possess in business which can bring what you desire.