Three tips for better negotiation

Clive Rich, author of 'The Yes Book', gives us his top three tips on negotiation success


Three tips for better negotiation

Do you quake in your boots when faced with negotiation? Whether it's a salary review or getting the kids to go to bed on time, we negotiate in all areas of life. Clive Rich, author of 'The Yes Book', gives us his top three tips on negotiation success.

Get your deal hat on

Many people do not enjoy negotiating at all. They become very anxious about it and feel they are going to fail. Often this manifests as a losing attitude. This kind of attitude may well be rooted in previous experiences which have created a filter, an automatic cue which feeds them this negative state of mind whenever the prospect of negotiating arises. Unfortunately these kinds of attitude tend to be self-fulfilling. If you think you are going to lose-out in a negotiation, then you will bid unambitiously, you will look hesitant or nervous and the other side will pick up these cues and push you harder.

Other people bring a 'using' attitude to the negotiation. They like to take advantage of the other party and are not interested in any agenda except their own. This kind of attitude is very commonplace – it’s almost a default response when we negotiate. Even those who say that they are interested in the other party routinely behave like users in practice. Users tend to stoke up resentment on the other side – they may get what they want in the short term if they have sufficient power, but the other party will wait to pay them back later, or sabotage the deal they have been forced into.

Some people bring a 'confusing' attitude to the negotiation. They make all sorts of mistaken assumptions about what is going on. They may assume that other people have motives that they don’t have in reality – it’s always easiest to assume the worst of other people and then make the facts fit our presumptions. Or they may assume there is only a fixed pie of issues when in fact there are many different possibilities for closing the deal. Or they may project their own behaviours on to the other side or be in denial about their own true feelings in approaching the deal. 'Confusers' make deal-making much harder for themselves – and the other person.

The most successful mindset to bring to the table is that of a 'fuser'. Fusers believe that the agendas of both parties are important. They are assertive and confident about taking care of their own needs, but they know that the best deals happen when everybody goes away feeling that they got enough of what they need. There is nothing weak about this mindset. Research consistently indicates that ultra competitive negotiators get less of what they want. The more you are prepared to focus on the other side’s needs the more you can get back in return – the more you give the more you get. So, get your deal hat on to get deals done. The well-documented spat between Alan Sugar and former apprentice Stella English may have all sorts of other causes – but did they both have the right attitude when they constructed and then implemented their deal?

Know who you are dealing with

One thing we all know intuitively but is forgotten when we negotiate, is that everybody is different. There are seven billion people in the world and we are not all the same. Yet when people negotiate, they tend to behave the same way every time, using their favourite behaviours to try to make the difference rather than responding differently to the person who is actually in front of them.

There are many different types and typologies and you don’t need to be a psychologist to spot some of them. Some people love making decisions, others like to avoid them. Some people love the big picture, others are very focused on the detail. Some people are very in-the-moment when they negotiate, and others are very distant. Some people love having lots of options, other people prefer a very linear approach where there is a clear path.

Who are you dealing with? The knack is to work that out and then deploy behaviours which suit that person. If you do that they will feel you are speaking their sort of language or are their type of person and you are more likely to persuade them to agree with your point of view. For example, if someone likes the big picture then a behaviour like visualisation will work well with them (painting a positive picture to inspire them). If they prefer detail then visualisation will go over their heads – you need a behaviour like proposing with reasons for this person, so that there is lots of data for them to focus on. If someone is associated, then a sociable behaviour like sharing problems or sharing solutions will work well. If they are very disassociated then give them space – lots of breaks and the use of silence so that they have the opportunity to think.

Public figures like David Cameron often pride themselves on projecting a consistent persona. The Prime Minister always seems warm, open and polite. Valuable characteristics no doubt, but there are definitely some negotiations where he could usefully try something else.

There are at least 16 different negotiating behaviours I work with – adapt your behaviour to the person in front of you and you will get a lot more of what you want. It’s impossible to know someone inside out but if do your homework, or think about how they have behaved in the past, you will definitely have a more successful outcome.

Beat tough guys at their own game

We may all agree that 'fusing’ is the right approach to negotiation – especially in our modern inter-connected, inter-dependent world. However, this doesn’t stop many people displaying the kind of tough-guy tactics.

However kind and considerate you may be as a negotiator you have to be able to handle yourself with these people or they will roll you over. There are many kinds of tough-guy tactics. Some people will make threats or shout, some will set false deadlines to put pressure on you to concede. Some will give you 'take it or leave it' ultimatums to try to panic you in to agreeing. Some will play good cop/bad cop, or disingenuously try to claim the moral high ground by suggesting that they are being fair or reasonable (the implication being that you are not and so you ought to give in).

It’s very tempting when this kind of thing happens to keep your head down and pretend it isn’t happening. Don’t stoop to their level. That’s the professional thing to do right? Wrong. Most tactics of this kind are adopted to put pressure on you. If you make it clear that you know what is going on then normally they will drop the tactic. There are lots of different ways of doing this. If someone is trying to intimidate you by shouting you can say 'Would it help if both of us shouted?'. Or we believe in negotiating without shouting – shall we start again?' Or It’s not a question of who can shout the loudest, it’s a question of meeting both our needs. What we need is “x”….' Any of these approaches will normally stop them in their tracks. Make their behaviour the issue, and the issue of their behaviour will go away.

The Yes Book by Clive Rich (Virgin Books) is on sale now, priced £12.99