Is negotiation an art or science? Can you teach someone to be a great negotiator or is it an innate skill? How do you truly achieve quality in negotiation?
During my time at CEDR, I have come across a range of negotiation styles and approaches. I recently spoke to a very experienced senior negotiator who told me “it’s all about the money. Ignore all other factors”. However, there are negotiators who look beyond just money. At a recent CEDR Advanced Negotiation Skills course, a lawyer talked about how she has been reluctant to accept financially sensible deals due to the personality of the other side.
So what makes a quality negotiation?
I would argue there are a few factors that take a negotiation from just achieving an agreement to a process that is mutually beneficial for all sides.
Making the other person happy to accept the deal
I am always wary of negotiators who see the other side as being someone to battle with or to overpower. Life is full of negotiations and other people have legitimate reasons for wanting different things. Negotiators who are reaching a high level of quality tend to actually be curious about what is driving the other party; who they are and what they need to achieve. These negotiators will pitch their offers to persuade the other side; not to make them reluctantly accept. This can be achieved, but it may take longer and require a different mindset and approach.
Having a pleasant environment and process
Following on from the above, the best negotiators actually make the process of negotiating a pleasure. Again, I never understand why anyone wants to make negotiating unpleasant, picking windowless hot rooms, endless meetings without refreshments or displaying aggressive body language or hostility. They see this as “tough negotiating” that “drives a harder bargain.” In reality, it makes things unpleasant and polarises the other party. I see a great negotiation as being like having a cup of tea with a friend, you want to find out about them, be hospitable and potentially agree on plans. If you would never treat a visitor to your home in the way that you are treating the other side in your negotiation, you are almost definitely negotiating poorly. Rethink.
Thinking through proposals and collaborating for the best solutions; use your collective intelligence, knowledge and creativity to get the best deals
When you respect and value the person on the other side, you recognise they are the person best able to solve the collective problem. The negotiators who bring real quality to a negotiation know how to work with the other party to encourage them to share their intelligence and thinking to collectively work on the best deal. They don’t just go for the first deal or what one side walked in with. As a simple tool, when you next negotiate with someone, step back together and explore how you can improve the process or deal. There is no risk in doing this and the chances of actually adding something better in (or realising a mistake) are high. Too many negotiators are reluctant to use the pooled intelligence in the room better to the deal.
Quality negotiators find a way to take the raw building blocks of a negotiation (the need for a financial deal; their own knowledge of the situation) and use the ability to work with the other side positively and creatively to get the best deal out of the situation. They enhance the negotiation rather than bulldoze through.
How do I become a quality negotiator?
On the 17th of July CEDR’s leading negotiation trainer, Philip Williams is holding a Negotiation Masterclass, Lessons from a Hostage Negotiator, in Leeds. In this session, Philip will share some of his experiences as a leading hostage negotiator and introduce you to fundamental skills, best practice and processes to make any negotiation one of quality.
To book your place or find out more information about CEDR’s Advanced Negotiation Skills training this autumn, please email Liadh at email@example.com.