Every one of us negotiates—every single day. We negotiate to reach agreements on project deadlines, meeting agendas, product pricing … we even negotiate where and when to go for lunch!
That said, negotiating should never be a zero-sum game; that is, a situation where the winner takes all and the loser walks away empty handed. This “lose-lose” outcome is bound to result in anger, resentment, frustration—and lost business. Smart negotiators always work toward win-win solutions in which, although neither side gets everything they want, both parties walk away satisfied.
Here are powerful negotiation skills that can help you secure win-wins—every time out.
Prepare beforehand. Never walk into a negotiation cold. Ask yourself: What is your ideal outcome in resources or dollars? What, if anything, is non-negotiable? What might you happily concede in return for an equal concession from the other side? What’s your take on the other side’s bottom line and priorities?
Collaborate. Win-wins happen when all parties work together rather than competing. Never assume you understand what the other side wants. Your interests may be more aligned than you imagine. Feel them out; they may offer some valuable information.
Build trust. To get to win-win, talk to the parties you’re negotiating with. Having a casual conversation with the opposite side before sitting down with them can ease tension and foster goodwill. You might even learn something surprising about the other side’s objectives.
Listen carefully. This is hugely important for win-win negotiations. Listen respectfully. Your goal is to find areas of agreement. The better you listen, the more likely you are to understand the other side’s needs and motivation—and the better armed you’ll be to get to win-win.
Watch for nonverbal cues. As you negotiate toward win-win, your counterpart’s body language (and your own) may indicate excitement, displeasure, defensiveness, and so forth—despite their words. Seeing this, adjust your approach as needed.
Remain calm and collected. Should anyone become angry, take a break. If you’re too emotionally invested in the outcome, you may blow the negotiation by issuing an ultimatum or stalking off in anger.
Don’t misrepresent yourself. When we try to put one over on the other side, our win-win negotiation (and our business relationship) is likely to go south.
Strive for negotiations where each party feels satisfied with the results, even if they didn’t get everything they wanted. That’s the definition of a true win-win!
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