So many of us start to feel anxious just thinking of negotiations. They can be awkward, confrontational, and we don’t even know how to approach them. But you’re going to negotiate thousands of times throughout your life; from smaller exchanges like getting a personalised discount on a product to life-changing negotiations like house purchases or salary reviews. So, it pays to know how to handle them.
You don’t need to become a master of FBI negotiation tactics to see results fast. Understanding simple concepts and devoting some time to preparation will change the way you approach negotiations and, dare I say it, even make you enjoy them!
Read on for easy principles you can implement to have an advantage in any negotiation – then test yourself at the end of this post.
Before Negotiations Start
Know your range and potential outcomes
Make sure you know your minimum acceptable outcome, your ideal outcome, and your anticipated outcome. The most successful negotiators are optimists – aim high and expect a positive outcome, and you’ll be surprised how this can alter the way you approach the negotiation without even realising it.
Set a firm walkaway price
Whether it’s a salary negotiation, a house purchase, or just getting a discount on a product in a shop (or online), keep two figures in mind:
- Your target price is your ideal result, and what you want to steer the negotiation towards.
- Your walkaway price is the absolute minimum/maximum you are prepared to accept.
Your walkaway price needs to be a firm, realistic figure. Don’t get caught up in the heat of the negotiation and start offering over this predetermined number. This figure is there to stop you from losing control of the negotiation and reminds you when to call it a day, before you end up paying thousands more for that house that just isn’t worth it.
Look at the perspective of the other party
Do your homework on who you’re negotiating with. What are their needs, and how can you meet them? What pressures are they under? What aspects of the negotiation will they be more flexible on, and what points will be more contentious? If you anticipate what the other party wants out of the negotiation, you can use this to map out where the conversation will go before it even starts.
Pursue a win-win outcome
Negotiations are not the time to be selfish. Don’t just think about what you want. Think about what you can offer in exchange for what you want, and creative solutions that lead to a win-win for everyone. If you’re asking for a raise, will you take on more responsibility in exchange? If you’re haggling on price, would you consider buying multiples or referring friends if you got a good deal?
Basically: play fair. You may want to negotiate with this person again in the future. Show willing and be collaborative to foster a long-term relationship. Even if you’re expecting this to be a one-off negotiation, something could come up in the future that puts you back into contact with this person. Don’t burn those bridges!
During The Negotiation
Make the first offer to anchor the conversation
Research shows that the first number mentioned in negotiations, however arbitrary, has a huge impact on the resulting negotiation. Don’t be afraid to aim higher/lower than you think depending on what you are negotiating on.
A successful negotiation will slowly meet in the middle – if you say a number you’re just OK with first, you won’t reach that. You’re trying to get a discount on a watch listed for £300 and would like to pay £250? Start at £200 and give yourself £50-worth of room to concede with!
Don’t accept the first offer
This goes hand-in-hand with making the first offer – if the other party is used to negotiations too, they won’t be accepting your first offer; and nor should you accept theirs.
Negotiation is a game of tennis, and you need to treat every one like it’s your very own Wimbledon Final. Get a steady rally going and everyone should achieve the best results.
Don’t get hung-up on one detail
Sometimes negotiations can hit a snag on a particularly contentious point. If you’re reaching a stalemate:
- Consider setting that point aside and coming back to it later. You may find it’s significantly easier to talk about once you’ve settled other details.
- Know when it’s time to compromise. Someone has to give eventually. If you show willing by conceding on this point, you have more leverage for other aspects of this (or future) negotiations.
Get comfortable with silence
Silence is awkward and most of us hate it, particularly in one-on-one situations with eye-contact involved. If you can get comfortable with that, you’ll be surprised at how much the other party starts talking more just to keep the conversation flowing.
But, be wary: don’t rely on silence too much. It’s OK to do this if you’re really unimpressed with an offer, or you know they’re making a poor attempt at a counter-offer, but you still need to be collaborative. You’re someone who leads negotiations with success; this is not achieved by staying quiet the whole time.
Ask open-ended questions and LISTEN
If you’re doing all the talking, you’ll end up negotiating with yourself and doing all the work for both parties. Negotiation is not a constant tit-for-tat; rather than always counter-offering, ask questions:
- “Is there anything else you could include on this deal to make it more attractive for me?”
- “What can I do to improve this deal for you?”
- “If I can’t make the current deal work for me, where do we go next?”
Use concrete numbers
Giving a range when making offers in a negotiation is pointless. If you tell someone you’d be willing to pay between £15-20 for something, why would they accept £15 when you’ve told them a higher figure is within your acceptable range? Use solid numbers and have courage in your conviction.
Remember your own value
You’re at this negotiation for a reason. Remember what you’re bringing to the table, and don’t underestimate yourself. If you lose sight of your own value, you risk becoming a push-over and agreeing to everything the other party says without asking anything in return. When negotiating, you’ll often realise two things:
- You’re worth more than you thought
- The other party is more willing to negotiate than you expected
If you’re up against an aggressive negotiator, remind yourself of your unique benefits regularly. For example, if you’re a first-time buyer negotiating on a house, remember that first-time buyer status is valuable when you have no chain behind you, and use it to your advantage.
Remember your alternatives
Whether you’re negotiating for a new job, buying a house, haggling on a product, or anything else – there are alternatives out there. If you can negotiate simultaneously with multiple parties, or remember that this negotiation is not your be-all and end-all, you’ll find yourself in a stronger position. As soon as the other party believes you’re pinning everything on this negotiation, you’ve lost most of your bargaining power.
You’re ready to negotiate, now it’s time to practice
Practice makes perfect, so now’s the time to test your haggling skills with Nibble on our demo page! Don’t underestimate the usefulness of a good role-play with friends or colleagues, either. This can help you prepare and bring in counter-points you wouldn’t think of on your own. Remember to have confidence, and never forget a negotiation takes two people compromising fairly if it’s going to succeed.
We had a lot of help writing this article from our resident cheeky AI chatbot. Nibble makes your ecommerce site stand out, improving conversion and engagement by haggling with customers and delivering personalised prices for products after a fun, fast negotiation.
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