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The 6 Principles of Successful Negotiation

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When a person enters into a negotiation, they can either wing it – ultimately leaving its outcome to fate – or they can arrive with a clearly defined game plan informed by knowledge, experience, and determination. We’re firm believers in the latter. That’s why, drawing on years of experience transforming people, teams, and organizations into world-class negotiators, we’ve developed six core principles that are fundamental to any successful negotiation.

In this blog post, we’ll outline each principle and offer some advice on how you and your team can use it to turn the tide on your future negotiations.

 

1. Position your case advantageously

It’s no secret that first impressions make a tremendous impact. After all, studies have confirmed that people often make up their mind about the trustworthiness, likability, and competence of a person within 100 milliseconds. In the context of a negotiation, how you position your case going into the situation will define how your counterparty frames that case and – more importantly – how they respond to it. Furthermore, by weaving together a consistent theme across every point of communication, you’ll have a strong foundation for your point of view.

Key takeaway: Describe your case in a succinct, compelling way that clearly conveys value, rather than including too many data points, features, benefits, etc…

 

2. Set high aspirations

As hockey legend Wayne Gretzky noted, “you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” In the negotiation arena, you’ll have literally zero chance of walking away with your best-case-scenario outcome if you don’t aspire towards it in the first place. You’ll also hamstring your efforts if the initial proposal is so low that it portrays a lack of confidence, firmly giving your opponent the upper hand.

Key takeaway: Maintain high aspirations and work to justify them, rather than lower your targets in the face of pressure from the other side.

 

3. Manage information skillfully

High quality information is a valuable resource – especially in the context of a negotiation. You need be extremely careful about exactly what information you communicate – and when you communicate it.  Be sure to protect sensitive information, while also sharing beneficial information at the appropriate moment.  However, don’t overlook the task of uncovering information from the other party.  Generally, it is more important to focus on getting information than on sharing information.

Key Takeaway: Have a game plan on how you will protect and uncover valuable information, rather than doing it spontaneously.

 

4. Know the full range and strength of your power

One of the main reasons people set low aspirations is because they underestimate not only the strength of their position, but also their negotiation skills. If you enter a negotiation with the feeling that the person you’re going up against is more skilled and has a more enviable position, 99 times out of 100 it’ll prove true – it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Key takeaway: Identify and apply negotiating power of your own, rather than assume the other person has more power and cave in quickly.

 

5. Satisfy needs over wants

The fifth principle calls for a more critical eye when assessing the needs and wants of person you’re negotiating with. Given the nature and dynamic of your relationship, you should always think twice before taking them at their word. For example, your supplier contact might say they want a higher price or more liberal terms and conditions, but their core need might be far simpler and more personal: looking good in front of their boss, feeling assertive, and safeguarding their job.

Key takeaway: Probe to uncover the other party’s real needs, rather than respond to their demands (wants).

 

6. Concede according to plan

Entering into a negotiation with the goal of standing your ground and not conceding anything is not only unrealistic – it strips you of arguably the most effective weapon in your arsenal. By planning your concessions in advance, you can identify negotiables that are low cost to you but high value for the other party, which you can then leverage and part with for a more favorable outcome.

Key takeaway: Concede reluctantly and with a plan, rather than give away too much too quickly.

 

These six principle are the foundation of strategic negotiation. By consistently putting them into practice, professionals can improve negotiation outcomes while strengthening relationships with customers, suppliers, and each other. Keep an eye out for future blog posts, where we’ll deep dive into each principle for a more detailed look at how you can incorporate them into your negotiation strategies.

At RED BEAR, we’re experts at creating targeted negotiation strategies that can help organizations across industries gain a consistent, tangible advantage. To learn more about our approach to helping you and your team develop sharp and effective situational negotiation skills, click here.

 

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