Seven Winning Negotiation Strategies For Any Situation
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No matter who you are or what kind of work you do, you need to be able to negotiate. Even if you're in a job that doesn't obviously involve negotiation, you'll probably still need to negotiate with your boss for a raise, or with co-workers to get work completed. That means that if you don't know how to negotiate well, you'll be at a disadvantage. To help you take control of these types of situations, I'm going to share my winning negotiation strategies with you.
Outside of the professional arena, negotiation is a valuable social skill. You'll use these skills when you're making a decision with your spouse, or when you're trying to deal with your children. It's also useful for conflict management, when you have people in your life who just can't seem to get alone. In all of these situations, you can create a win/win situation for everyone, if you have the right negotiation tactics and strategies.
Negotiations are part of all human interactions. You can't avoid them, so you might as well learn to be good at them. Which of these strategies would work well in your professional or personal life?
1. Know your terms and priorities
In The Art of War, Sun-Tzu says that knowing yourself is half the battle. If you don't even know where you stand, how can you possibly win? This maxim applies in negotiations as well. Before you enter into any negotiation, you must know what your goals, priorities, and boundaries are.
To fully understand what you want out of a given situation, ask yourself the following questions before each negotiation:
- What is the desired outcome of this negotiation?
- Which outcomes are absolutely necessary to me?
- What are the outcomes that I am okay with not obtaining? / What am I willing to give up?
Once you have the answers, you'll be able to go into the negotiation with clear boundaries and goals. This will prevent time wasting and dictate your negotiation strategies.
2. Make the first move
The “first mover advantage” is a very important advantage in business, and in negotiations. When you move first and make the first offer, you set the tone for the rest of the negotiation. Essentially, you are making sure that you dictate the momentum of the negotiation. However, many people are reluctant to make the first offer. They argue that they don't want to tip their hand, and reveal too much too soon. On the other hand, they may worry that their first offer will be rejected, and may even insult the other party.
But this usually isn't the case because of the psychological effects of anchoring. Anchoring is a subconscious bias where people rely too much on an initial piece of information to determine future negotiations or offers. In this case, it means that if you make a first offer, the other party will use that offer to inform all future offers. Therefore, if you can set the anchor for your negotiations, you will be able to bias the whole negotiation in your favor.
3. Don’t pay too much attention to “anchors”
Once you're aware of the anchoring effect, you can make the conscious decision to ignore it. If you aren’t able to make the first offer, just be aware that their first offer is going to be the anchor in your decision-making process. And then choose to ignore it. For example, let’s say you are negotiating the purchase of a piece of real estate. The seller comes out with a sale price of a million dollars. You will feel the pull to make your counter offer, based on the psychological anchor of one million dollars. Resist that temptation, and instead make your counter offer based on your own assessment of the property’s value.
4. Always counter, but don’t counter too low
A first offer will always be bad. It's usually more like a test of your negotiation strategies and confidence, rather than a real offer. And a common mistake people make when making a counteroffer is going too far in the other direction. Instead, make your counter offer as if it was the first offer, not as a reaction to their offer. This means that you are not hampered by their offer, nor making an offer out of anger or pique. The decision-making process in this kind of offer is honest, and more open to a mutually beneficial deal. And this is the kind of mindset that makes for good counter offers and good negotiations.
Do you know that you should still make a counter offer, even if your opponent offers you the perfect price in the very beginning? This might seem greedy, but it really isn't. If you just accept the first offer because it achieves all your outcomes, your opponent will end up regretting it. They'll realize that they negotiated badly, and could have worked towards a better outcome for themselves. So even if the first offer is to your liking, demand concessions! Not only will you achieve an even better outcome, your opponent will be more satisfied as well. It will end up a truly win-win situation.
5. Separate gains, but combine losses
This is one of the negotiation strategies that professionals use all the time. It can make your offer seem more enticing than it really is. Separating gains means stating out each benefit separately. The idea behind this is that people subconsciously prefer to receive benefits in increments, rather than all at once. To understand this idea, think about a scenario in which you find a US$100 bill on the ground, and another in which you find two $50 bills spaced half an hour apart. Which scenario do you think would make you happier? If you really think about it, no doubt you’ll conclude that the second option would make you happier. And you can apply this same principle to negotiations as well.
For an example of how to do this, consider the following phrase: “The project will be finished both ahead of schedule, and under budget.” You can separate the gains in this statement like this:
- This project will be finished according to all stated requirements.
- It will be completed 10% under budget.
- The project will be completed two weeks ahead of schedule.
By listing them that way, your benefits look much more enticing. And on the flip side, you want to bunch the “losses” together. In a negotiation, “losses” are what your opponent gives up. It’s best to present them all grouped together, as a lump sum, instead of stating them separately.
6. Share information
This is one of the more surprising negotiation strategies. In negotiations, information is power, and if you know more than your opponent, the odds are in your favor. This means that in most hostile negotiations, you probably want to hoard every advantage you can get. But this idea doesn't apply to most of your day to day negotiations. Taking such an inflexible approach in friendlier negotiations will inhibit trust, and may result in worse outcomes for everyone. It may also damage relationships, perhaps beyond repair. So instead of hoarding information, share it instead.
The information doesn’t even have to be directly related to the negotiation! Offer your opponent some relevant information about your personal life, giving them a glimpse into your world. This will give them the opportunity to share as well, and give both parties a chance to connect and understand each other. This will increase rapport and trust on both sides, and set a positive tone for the negotiation.
7. Never gloat
This point comes last, but don’t think that this is the least important. A good victor never rubs their victory in the face of the defeated opponent, and this is a good strategy to live by. Gloating will only ensure that your opponent leaves with a bitter taste in their mouth. And if you ever have to deal with them again, they'll definitely be out to get revenge. So, don’t sacrifice your future just to satisfy your ego. Be humble and modest in victory.
The number one thing you can take away from this: negotiating is an essential skill for business and in life. Without the skills to negotiate, you'll be at a disadvantage in situations ranging from fights with friends, to buying your new home. That's why it's so important that you learn and practice some key negotiation strategies. Choose one of these tactics, and try it the next time you're in a situation where you need to negotiate. You'll be surprised at how much difference it can make to the outcome.