27 Negotiation Skills Every Professional Should Have

Are you looking for a set of powerful negotiation skills that will help you make better deals? Great! In this article, we’ll discuss some of the most powerful and underrated negotiation skills which have a direct impact on your deal results.

Feel free to read the entire article, or jump right to one of the categories:

Editor's note:

The Negotiation Game Changer Certificate Program teaches you:

  • the skills needed to drive better, fact-based decisions that ultimately benefit both organizations and its employees.
  • a comprehensive analytics skill set that will enable you to achieve deals with results you have been dreaming of.

Negotiation Preparation skills

Doing the research

The most important thing in preparing for a negotiation is to gather as much information as possible for yourself in order to be able to estimate the interdependence as well as possible (1) to make a good overview of the deal variables (2) and their importance for both parties (3), and then to think about what (4) and especially how you want to achieve your goal (5).

Every negotiation process starts with preparation, followed by conducting a sharp strategy, and last but least: the negotiation itself. In this article we’ll dive deeper in the research phase of a negotiation.

Analyzing your BATNA

It’s your backup plan if your negotiation doesn’t lead to a deal. By determining a BATNA you’ll have more confidence because you have a backup plan if the negotiation doesn’t work out. Because of this, you won’t feel forced to make a bad deal. 

Going into any negotiation, it’s important to have a clear understanding of your BATNA. If you’re negotiating with a supplier, be sure about the pricing of alternative suppliers. If you’re negotiating over salary, your alternatives might be a different job offer. 

The BATNA is your point of departure. Anything you can ‘win’ in your negotiation makes your BATNA less attractive.

In this article we’ll dive deeper in the BATNA strategy.

Content related negotiation skills

Technical skills

Having technical expertise in a negotiation is crucial to good deal-making. If you don’t know the technical details of your negotiation, consult someone who does. Knowing more about the technical aspects than your negotiation opponent will give you the upper hand.

Financial skills

Having financial expertise in your negotiation will help you to create a deal that fits your strategic goals. For example, knowing the unit economics of your business case could help you understand whether you should focus on a low unit price or fast delivery time. Having financial skills will also enable you to determine your BATNA better.

Legal skills

When the negotiations are reaching the final phase it’s time to include a legal analyst to cover all legal aspects of the deal. That being said, in many negotiations the legal terms have a significant impact on the deal. In that situation, it’s best to be aware of the legal terms right from the start. If you’ve got legal expertise yourself, that’s even better!

Observational negotiation skills

Active Listening

Active listening isn’t just listening to what the other says. It’s actively involving and paying full attention to what someone has to say. Active listening is a great skill to have, as it will give the speaker the feeling his words matter. This will make the other person more honest, open, and willing to cooperate. 

You can train active listening by maintaining eye contact, nodding your head, saying ‘yes’, or nodding when the other one is talking.

Body language

Listening to what your negotiation opponent has to say isn’t the only way to absorb information. Having the skill to detect body language has been proven to be just as powerful. For example, your negotiation opponent might say he’s got offers lined up from your competitors. However, when paying close attention, you notice that he’s scratching his neck and his nose when talking about the other offers. This could indicate he’s uncertain about the other offers, or perhaps even lying.

Interpersonal negotiation skills

Building rapport

Building rapport is the process of connecting or creating a relationship with someone. It’s typically referred to as harmonious or ‘getting along’. Sometimes this will happen naturally. You’ve probably had multiple situations where it just happened without any effort. This is usually how a friendship starts. However, building rapport is also something you can develop. It’s a great skill for any negotiation, as your opponent will be more likely to meet your needs.

Effective verbal communication

Being able to communicate verbally will go a long way when it comes to effective negotiating. By communicating effectively you’ll notice the negotiation process will be smoother and involve less friction.

Problem-solving

Problem-solving starts with identifying and deconstructing the problem. For example, your negotiation opponent might react furiously to your proposal. For many, the negotiation process would end right here. A great problem-solver, however, will try to figure out what part of the proposal upsets the other party. By tackling this in a pragmatic way, you’ll be able to deconstruct the problem and work to a better proposal.

Decision-making

As a procurement manager or a negotiator in general, you’ll find yourself making decisions on a regular basis. Being able to make good decisions will go a long way when it comes to making great deals. Here’s how the average decision-making process looks like:

  1. Define the problem or the opportunity.
  2. Come up with a list of possible solutions
  3. Evaluate each option by listing the numbers, pros, and cons
  4. Make a decision
  5. Implement your decision
  6. Evaluate your decision and adjust if required

Assertiveness

Being assertive is usually referred to as being able to stand up for your rights, in a calm and gentle way. Negotiators who are assertive are able to communicate their wishes without making others upset, or becoming upset themselves.

The skill of being assertive will help a lot during negotiations. It’s an essential skill during the heat of a negotiation.

Dealing with high-pressure situations

As a procurement manager, you’ll find yourself negotiating big deals frequently. A price difference of 2% on a total deal could easily implicate millions of dollars. If you’re a procurement manager who purchasing goods on behalf of, let’s say a supermarket, you’ll experience pressure from your negotiation opponent, your boss, your colleagues, and your competitors. That’s a lot of heat, from a lot of angles. Being able to stay calm and keep making the right decisions is critical for a successful career in dealmaking.

Negotiation questioning skills

Asking the right questions in a negotiation is a skill that will give you a lot of value when it comes to steering the conversation in your preferred direction. It’s a great way of ‘manipulating’ your negotiation opponent. Here are some of the most powerful questions you can ask in a negotiation:

Open-ended questions

These are the kind of questions that require your opponent to go into detail. It’s a great way of getting more information that you can use to formulate a strategy. 

For example: “How did you arrive at that price point?”

Closed-ended questions

The power of close questions comes into play when it’s important to be on the same page. Use them to test your understanding of the situation: “So, If I give you X, you will give me Y, correct?”

Be aware of misplaced closed questions, it could kill the conversation and lead to awkward silences.

Probing questions

Asking probing questions is a strategy to find out more details. Sometimes it’s as simple as asking for an example. Or to investigate whether there is proof for what has been said, “how do you know that you can deliver in time?”

Use questions that include the word “exactly” to probe further: “What exactly do you mean by fast shipping?” or “Who, exactly, can make this decision?”

Echo questions

The echo question technique is an effective way to collect more information from your opponent. You do this by repeating the last few words spoken. For example:

“We can deliver you the canned goods fast”

– “You can deliver them fast?”

Leading questions

Leading questions can lead your opponent’s way of thinking. You can leverage this in several ways.

With an assumption – “How much cheaper do you think that you can deliver compared to the competition?” This assumes that your opponent is able to deliver cheaper.

By adding a personal appeal to agree at the end – “It would be great if we can create a long-term deal, don’t you think?”

Hypothetical questions

A technique that helps every conversation and thus negotiations: talk about ‘what if’.  It helps to test your own hypothesis, to determine how serious the other person is and this technique helps negotiations forward when there seems no more room left to move. 

“If I were to give you A how would you feel about doing B”?

By asking this question, you’re not making a step offer-wise; you’re using words to find out the level of flexibility at the other side of the table & what it might be possible to agree upon. This can be useful for checking a new idea or to help break deadlock and matters can be discussed without the fear of commitment. If used during the exploratory/testing stage it can open up useful alternatives and help shape a deal. 

Negotiation deal-making skills

Bargaining

One bargaining tactic which you should try is the “hanging gramophone record”. It’s repairing the same point over and over again. Frequently the other party gets ‘fed up’ with its constant repetition, and feels that further progress appears unlikely until this obstacle is removed. To use this tactic, you need to be very patient &  persistent, but if you have both: try and enjoy the guaranteed results! 

Haggling

Some think of haggling as arguing a price in a negative way. about Haggling doesn’t have to be an exercise in discomfort and failure. Approach it the right way and it will not only be enjoyable but an amazing opportunity to explore boundaries in your negotiation.

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"Very useful course, many actionable strategies"

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