Walking around local markets in far off destinations, I love being a spectator to all the haggling that’s going on. Men throw their hands in the air in disdain, women click their tongue when taking offence at the low price offered. Walking away and being called back again. “Well alright then, 50 for you my friend!” It’s all a show. A play they’ve all agreed to put on every day. A play I am more than happy to participate in. Although it is no inherent part of my own culture, I do enjoy dabbling in the theatrics of market negotiation.

While over the top gestures and playing on emotion are important strategies when haggling on local markets, these are not your best bet when entering a professional negotiation in the office. Representing your company or your own professional interests in a negotiation requires a certain set of skills you might not use in your daily work. And contrary to when you’re hunting for souvenirs, the stakes in a professional negotiation can be sky high.

The right attitude, preparation and interpersonal skills will get both parties to the desired result (or at least as close as possible). This is everything you need to do before, during and after the meeting.

The right mindset

When diving into a negotiation, it is of the utmost importance to maintain a mindset that stimulates a productive and constructive meeting. Avoid these pitfalls:

Rushing through

Especially if you’re not the biggest fan of negotiating, you might want to get it all over with as quickly as possible. This, however, will ultimately lead you to make rash decisions. Take your time. Let the other party feel the pressure. The more time spent in negotiation, the more invested they get; they are less likely to walk away without having come to an agreement. This will help you bring it all to a satisfactory close.

All taking, no giving

Negotiating is give and take. The goal should be to come to a win-win agreement. You want to meet the interests of both parties. Mind you, interests are not the same as demands. You will both have to give up some of those demands. It is the underlying interests that are the most important factors. Negotiation can only be deemed successful when all interests are addressed and met.

Being either aggressive or a pushover

Entering a negotiation can be a scary step. The stakes might be very high, people might be depending on you and this meeting could set the tone for any further collaborations. Don’t get intimidated by the other party or the task at hand. Nor should you lose sight of the other person and their interest and only push your own demands. Assertiveness is the key. It means respecting both your own and the other party’s interests.

Preparation

One does not simply walk into a negotiation meeting and bring it to a good end. Rigorous preparation is required before taking a seat at such a table. The more information you have stepping into the meeting, the stronger your position. The last thing you want is being faced with unpleasant surprises. Or worse, not being able to answer the questions of the person across the table.

Know what you want

The number one question you need to ask yourself and possibly your team is: what do I want to get out of this meeting. When exploring the answers to this question, it is important to make the distinction between interests and demands. You can have a whole list of demands but these should all be in service of your interest. If you know your interests, you can be flexible with your demands.

Let’s say you are entering a salary negotiation for a promotion at work. Your goal is to get a net income of $4,000. The offer on the table is $3,700. However, during the negotiation, your boss offers you a company travel card, saving you $300 on train tickets every month, getting you the same result in a different way.

Know what they want

Knowledge is power. The more you know about the other party, the better. This will help you anticipate their demands and their strategy. If you have a clear idea of their interests, you can show them how your proposed solution will ensure these interests are met.
I would also highly advise you to find out what their pressure is. They might have much more riding on this deal than you do, putting you in an very advantageous position. Without good research, you will never know.

Have back-up options

Of course, we’re all aiming for a great win-win solution. Unfortunately, sometimes there is simply not enough wiggle room on one or both sides to make this happen. When prepping for the meeting, try to find some back-up options. This will relieve the pressure and allows you to simply get up and leave if you don’t see a way forward. It might not be the most constructive solution but sometimes it is the only one. Knowing that there is always that possibility will make you much more relaxed during the negotiation itself.

During the meeting

The right attitude and proper preparation go a long way but good interpersonal skills are what will hit the sweet spot during the meeting. Keep in mind that you are two people working towards the same goal: coming to an agreement. These soft skills will help you get there.

Listen!

Again, knowledge is power. You have done your research beforehand but there is always more underneath the surface. The more they talk, the more you know and the more you have as leverage. Ask open questions and try to find the deeper “why”. Why do they want that? Why is that important?
In turn, keep control of what you want to give away and what you want to keep for yourself.

State your case clearly and concisely

Avoid any possible misunderstanding by stating your case clearly and concisely. Let the other party rephrase your statement to make sure it is well understood. Misunderstandings can waste a lot of precious time and energy and can even lead to an unnecessary negative outcome. Clear “I” statements will help dodge that bullet.

Keep it professional

Theatrics and emotional statements might get you a 75 cent discount on a hand-carved dragon figurine on a market but these strategies have no place in a meeting room.
Try not to take it personally if the other party resorts to emotional attacks or insults. Ask questions to find out where the behaviour stems from.
If all else fails, end the meeting and reschedule on a different day with the expressed intention to have a professional meeting.

Of course, it is better to conclude the meeting before emotions run high even if no resolution has been reached. Postponing is better than possibly ruining a future professional relationship.

After the meeting

Congratulations, an agreement has been reached! Wonderful. The hard part is over. Now, all there is left to do is set up a contract and sign. That’s one more thing I can help you with. Documents are signed within minutes with the SignRequest tool. Simply upload, send and sign. Free, easy and legally binding. Send your first SignRequest here.