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How to Improve Your Negotiation Skills

Learn these five communication skills to achieve better results in negotiations.

  1. The BATNA principle (Best Alternative to Negotiated Agreement). This means that in business negotiations, your best "source of strength" will be the understanding that you can always refuse the deal and switch to another project. Experienced negotiators devote a significant amount of their time to reviewing and developing Plan B before entering the negotiations.
  2. Agree on the negotiation process. Do not think that you and the other party are "in the same boat" and that "everything will work out by itself" during the negotiations. Prepare carefully, think over the agenda and the course of negotiations in advance. An elaborated and agreed plan of negotiations and questions that will be discussed will make your communication more efficient and effective.
  3. Try to build up mutual understanding. Yes, this is not always an easy task to manage at the first meeting (especially if you are pressured by deadlines or time limits), but it can bring immense benefits. Research shows that negotiators can achieve more meaningful results if they spend a little time beforehand getting to know each other better. Even when communicating via email, a short phone call before the meeting can improve communication. This is one of the most useful negotiation skills.
  4. Active listening. Once you start communicating and discussing issues, try to overcome your natural desire to plan what you are going to say in response (while your opponent is still talking). Instead, listen carefully to their words and arguments, and then rephrase them and, by asking questions, make sure that you understand everything correctly. In this way, you will show that you are attentive towards your business partner’s needs and ideas, and it will allow you to form a communication field by using the same words.
  5. Use open-ended questions. You can get a lot more out of the negotiations by asking good questions and accordingly getting answers to them. Avoid "yes or no" questions and manipulative "don't you think this is a great idea?" questions.  By using open-ended questions, you encourage detailed answers. For example, "can you tell me about the challenges you faced this quarter?"
  6. Find smart compromises. Very often there are "stumbling blocks" in negotiations, for example, the issue of price. This is when the main exchange of concessions, compromises and demands is made. Here, it may be useful for the negotiators to "tie" several issues into the discussion so that each of the parties, as a result, gets a little more than they hoped for. Try to identify what things are more important to your partner than they are to you. Then offer to make a concession on this issue or issues, but in exchange for a concession on an issue that is more important to you.

Be sure to come up with several alternative proposals that will help you break the deadlock in negotiations.

More questions related to effective communication? The Cosmitto team has many tips on different issues - check out our blog.

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