Are you a successful negotiator?


Sometimes? Then you will benefit from listening to Margaret Neale, professor of management at Stanford, explaining the pros and cons of negotiations:

Looking upon negotiating as a fight to get what our counterparts don’t want to give us is unfortunately common. If we at the same time don’t want to give away anything to them we are in a fight even though the majority of negotiations are not battles. However that kind of mindset is not ideal when negotiating. It puts the people we negotiate with in a defensive mood and makes it less likely that we succeed.

Fluency is the name of the game

A much more beneficial approach is fluency i.e. ask yourself what you want to achieve. And what strategies and tactics will be beneficial to reach that outcome. By doing so you allow collaborative problem solving that benefits both parties i.e. make you both better off than your current status quo.

Don’t forget that there is no command and control in negotiations because your counterpart has to willingly agree. If not, you will not reach an agreement.

This is not the way to negotiate
This is not the way to negotiate

The importance of listening

Many times people are so caught up in what they want to achieve for themselves that they forget to listen to what the other party is saying. You can’t just tell them what to do but understand what motivates them and what their interest are. So we need to estimate the answers to those questions. Needless to say it’s best if we try to figure that out before we start negotiating.

Preparations often the key

The difference between successful and unsuccessful negotiators often comes down to how prepared you are, which is a factor that you can actually control. However, according to Margaret, most negotiators are not prepared because they are confident they can just flow with it and handle whatever comes up. Why? Again it comes down to the fatal approach of battling to not let their counterpart have whatever it is that they want and to get whatever it is they don’t want you to have. That’s a not the way of succeeding in negotiations. Instead start contemplating creative proposals to open up new solutions that neither one of you could have implemented.

Do you regard negotiations as a battle to get everything and give away nothing? Or are you of the opinion that an outcome that is of mutual benefit is the best approach? Are you prepared before you start negotiating? Do you actively try to put yourself in your counterparts shoes to understand what they aim for and what motivates them? Do you listen to what they have to say to facilitate a mutually beneficial agreement? Or maybe you are of the opinion that you can handle whatever comes up in a negotiation and just go with the flow? Are you good at coming up with creative proposals that open up new solutions that enable success?

Video: Stanford Graduate School of Business – Photo:  US Department of Agriculture + Mark Nockleby

46 thoughts on “Are you a successful negotiator?

  1. I cannot comment if I would be successful negotiator because I receive success with it but not every time.
    Loved your post like always Catarina, thank you for sharing dear.

  2. Successful negotiation should approached as coming to an agreeable compromise. If you head into talks with the mindset that there will be a winner and a loser, and you are coming out as the winner, then you are going to be in for a long drawn out negotation. And if you are lucky enough to finally reach a deal, it's probably where u would have ended up anyway if you had started with a better attitude. I just took longer.

  3. I am not a negotiator. I do know that both parties need to feel like they have come away with a win. If you come to the table with a plan to make that happen, then you will likely succeed.

  4. I've never been good at negotiating, I tend to give in too early to the other party because I'm such a people pleaser. Thanks for posting this article, it's certainly very helpful to know how to achieve a successful negotiation.

  5. Negotiating requires careful planning. You need to be prepared to answer complex questions. Both parties will want to walk away feeling they have gained somehow. It is a negotiators job to convince the other person their proposal will bring positive changes to their business/organisation.

  6. Catarina: As a former purchaser, I have done several successful negotiations with suppliers during the years. Thanks for sharing Margaret Neale’s thoughts on this topic.

    This could be a topic for a session at WebCoast potluck (un)conference in Gothenburg, March 13-15.

  7. Both parties need to walk away from a negotiation feeling like they won something. Then it is successful. If you don’t plan ahead and just try ‘going with it’, you will likely fail.

  8. Great post about negotiation! It’s true that so many just try to get all they can and give nothing. Of course it only makes sense that both should profit from the negotiation. Preparation and planning are essential are key as is listening. These things do allow both parties to benefit. Being calm and having an open mind are helpful too.

  9. Thank you so much for saying that about listening! I studied policy and administration at school, and if there’s one thing I learned about collaboration (and isn’t negotiation a collaboration?), it’s that you need to LISTEN!

  10. Some great tips on negotiating! I'm pretty good at listening, but I'll forget to when I get frustrated or have something I'm just dying to say. It is important to remember there are two sides and both need to get what they want. I also remind myself that it is OK to ask for what I want.

  11. Catrina, this such a timely post. One of the most beneficial books I’ve read on negotiations is, “Getting To Yes” written by Rodger Fisher and William Ury. All the information in the book is valuable but the one I’ve found particularly helpful is “separate the person from the issue”. People tend to become personally involved with the issues and their own positions, and they hear responses as personal attacks. Separating people from issues allow the parties to address the issues without damaging their relationship and get a clearer view of the problem.

    1. Yes it's lamentable how many people regard negotiations as battles, isn't it, Pamela. We always must separate people from issues. Having said that to do so could presumably become really difficult in a personal relationship:-)

  12. Negotiating should never end with one side coming out on top as the winner and thrilled with the outcome and the other side feeling like the loser. It should be more of a give and take on both parts so everyone comes out maybe not necessarily “happy” with the result of the negotiation, but satisfied that the best result for all involved was reached. If you go in thinking I’m going for the jugular, the other side gets defensive immediately, it gets ugly, drawn out, and nobody is happy.

  13. Another great blog. Negotiating is a rare skill, and if you can master it you can accomplish many things. I think the most important part is the Listening aspect of it. As you stated many people go into negotiations with their goals and their opinions set in stone, and refuse to budge. I think listening to someone else’s point of view opens up more doors and enhances your chances of aceiving your goals in a negotiation.

    1. True, William. But isn't the most important thing not to see it as a battle? Far too many people feel they have to fight. Win-win then becomes extremely difficult, to put it mildly.

  14. Negotiations are tough, especially when there's a lot at stake for both parties. I think you make a good point by being clear about exactly what you want to achieve. Much less chance of butting heads, and genuinely trying to find a solution. Happy New Year!

  15. I took a course in negotiating at the Johnson Business School at Cornell. The message was similar although they didn't use the term fluency. The professor divided the class into negotiating teams and gave us a scenario. Most, including mine, started in an adversarial manner. But the most successful team was the one that took what the other side needed to accomplish into consideration and negotiated a mutually beneficial agreement. Even though it was 20 years ago I remembered that lesson throughout my career. I was usually pretty successful as a negotiator and I attribute that to what I learned at Cornell.

  16. I think you're right in that, that's the traditional way negotiation has been done. I see much more of a flow and give and take now between employers and employees. I also think most personal relationships have to have a flow or give and take or they can't last.

  17. Successful negotiation is about finding a win-win solution, rather than a "winner takes all" approach as the excellent article suggests. Those that adopt an adversarial approach might win the first battle, so to speak, but will ultimately find it unsatisfactory.

  18. Hello Catarina

    Very Nice post.

    While negotiating we make many mistakes. I think all the tips you have mentioned can be very beneficial. I do not think that negotiation is a battle to get everything. We must work and discuss on mutual benefits. While negotiating , I always try to know what the company wants from me and what I can give them in return. It’s not the case that I can handle everything but what I can, I assure them to give them my best , in return all I need, a satisfaction. If I have done work and I get equal benefits in return. For me, not less not more. At times according to situation I try to compromise on certain things as well, depending upon the situation and need of company and my interests.

  19. Catarina — I enjoyed the video and I agree that every successful negotiation has to provide a benefit for both parties. You see it happening all the time in union negotiations. They break down when either management or the union becomes totally entrenched in their demands. Sometimes you will try to negotiate a solution with a client and the client won't budge, so you go with their solution. But you come away with a win — though it may be small — because you were able to promote your POV and over time that may the solution that prevails if you try presenting it in a different way the next time.
    My recent post How You Can Build Your Business and Brand on LinkedIn

  20. I am no longer in the business world and don’t find myself in many situations needing negotiation skills anymore – except for negotiating with my husband about our plans. We both listen and look for the “win-win”. In the business world, I would listen for what the other person wanted and try to work towards something that worked for both of us, but it became difficult if the other party was a “don’t give an inch” kind of person. Good luck with all your negotiations.

  21. Early on in my sales career, my boss and mentor taught me that the most successful outcome of any negotiation is where both parties walk away pleased. That has served me well over the years:) Looking and aiming for the jugular is playing small ball, in my opinion. You might win a few, but long term I think you lose more than you win.

  22. I think the preparation before going in to negotiate is the most important factor. I used to set up training programs for industry and the cost of the program was never an issue – the time factor was, taking employees away from their work. Knowing this going in I was able to respond to their concerns and develop programs that least disrupted the workplace. If I hadn’t known what I was dealing with I would never have been successful in negotiating a completely new way of doing things. .

  23. Actually I do not see negotiating as a battle. I see it more as some degree of collaboration on BOTH sides. I do like Margaret Neale's strategy name of fluency. I really like this description Catarina. Thanks.

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