Four Tips To Help Improve Your Negotiation Skills

Written by Tony Hughes

Our Chief Executive Officer Tony Hughes talks to Barney Jordaan, Professor of Negotiation and Dispute Resolution at Vlerick Business School. Discover four tips to improve your perfomance and get an advantage in your next negotiation.

Barney Jordaan - If somebody were to ask you for some tips on how to improve their negotiation skills, what would those be?

Tony Hughes - Plan what information you want to give, what messages you want to send, what information you don't want to give and very importantly what do you need to find out from the other side that will help you confirm that your assumptions about this negotiation were correct? Once you have that information, you'll feel much more comfortable.

Another piece of advice would be Don't panic. If something doesn't feel right, it probably isn't right.

I learned that very early on in my career after being called up to Sweden to negotiate with a company that was already a client. I walked into a room and there were four people, who I knew, sat around the table. They said they were waiting for their boss to come. When the boss walked in and sat down he said; “we've got somebody else who can give us what you give us for half the price”. So, I did some testing. “What do you mean?”, “Do you get the same materials?”, “Do you get the same outcomes more importantly?” He replied “Yes, we do.”

I just closed my books and said “well, why am I here?” It was clearly a tactic to try to get us to really drop our prices, which we couldn't do. We’d already had a long-standing relationship with the client. You could see the other people in the room that we knew sweating, because they were thinking, “Why is this guy doing this?” After I’d closed the books, he got up and walked out and left it to the other people and said “I'll leave it to Sphen then”. We just went back to having a normal conversation.

It was it was a bad tactic, which was trying to force me to panic but I'm sure my preparation and planning for that negotiation was right so there was no need to panic.

Another tip would be don't abuse your power. If you've got power as this guy thought he had, don't abuse it. If you abuse your power and try and push people into things, unless it's a very short-term relationship and you don't need each other as a symbiotic relationship going forward, then it's a very bad tactic. If you abuse it, you won't keep a long-term relationship.

I guess one of the other things is enjoy it because if you've done everything right up to that point negotiating can be quite good fun. The best people to negotiate with are skilled negotiators. It’s awful to try to negotiate with somebody who doesn't know what's happening.

Barney Jordaan - Or who doesn't have a strong mandate?

Tony Hughes - Or who doesn't have a strong mandate from however many people they need a mandate from.

Barney Jordaan - Thanks very much.

Tony Hughes - Thank you.

Missed the previous video? Discover if you should make the first offer in a negotiation here.

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