Five tips that can make you a better negotiator

By: Jo Greig

Date: 5 December 2012

Five tips that can make you a better negotiator/business man and business woman fighting{{}}While many people like to think of themselves as good negotiators, many do not understand some of the simple rules, which can quickly label you as inexperienced, which of course is not a position you wish to be in, especially when pitting yourself against a skilled and seasoned negotiator. By steering clear of the following five pitfalls, you should be able to navigate your way through any negotiation with ease.

1. Don’t negotiate blindly

Before beginning any negotiation, you must determine two things: your desired outcome and your bottom-line tolerance level. If not, you will have no direction and will likely be dissatisfied with the outcome of the negotiation.

2. Don’t start the negotiations

If at all possible, have the other person put the first number on the table. The reason for this is simple, as illustrated through a hypothetical example. X is willing to sell his widget for £100. X asks Y what he is willing to pay for the widget and he says £150. By Y bidding first, X earned an extra £50 even before the negotiations were underway.

3. Don’t avoid the process

Negotiating is a back and forth process that takes time. Many people who are uncomfortable negotiating try to avoid the process by being upfront with their real bottom-line number. This causes negotiations to break down, because the other side simply will not believe you. The expectation is that your opening number will be high/low and move from there. In fact, if you are responding to an opening bid, it is assumed that your target number is the number exactly between the two currently on the table. If you step up to the negotiation table, be prepared to play the game.

4. Don’t bid against yourself

A skilled negotiator will try to get you to bid against yourself and a rookie negotiator will fall for it. This happens when the skilled negotiator gets the rookie negotiator to increase his bid without moving himself. To gain respect, say: “I’m not going to bid against myself. I’ve put a number on the table. It’s your move.”

5. Don’t be afraid to walk away

When people are negotiating, they can easily become caught up in the moment. When this happens, there is a very real possibility of committing to a position one later regrets. The way to avoid this trap is to be prepared to walk away when you reach your predetermined tolerance. It is important to do this for another reason. The other side may be bluffing. By walking away, you clearly indicate your position to the opposing party. Understand that many negotiations are completed after several sessions. This will allow you to walk away with the confidence of knowing that if the deal happens, it will be on your terms. 

  •  This article is written by Jo Greig on behalf of The Gap Partnership, experts in negotiation, consultancy and training solutions.

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