Being able to negotiate successfully and close deals is one of the most sought after talent in any industry that comes to mind. A common misconception is that this expertise is only required in sales persons, marketing specialists or public relations officers. The truth is, whether you are a journalist, an advocate, a web developer, a hiring manager, a business development executive or even a business owner yourself, you will encounter frequent incidents in your job where your negotiating skills will be precedent in determining your success or failure.
Often people who are not good at negotiating believe that they can never be so. The popular myths and false claims about the art of negotiation drag them down the psychological road, and convince them that it is next to impossible for them to master this skill.
Let’s bust some of these myths today.
Myth #1: Never make the first move
Many people believe if they make the first move, they would appear weak and vulnerable, which could make the other party adamant on offering a poor deal. Research and case studies reveal otherwise. In fact, making the first move helps you to become the anchor of negotiation, as all arguments that follow are based around the initial proposition.
According to Margaret Neale, Professor in Stanford Graduate School of Business, “You should make the first offer because of the power of anchoring.”
Skilled negotiators know that when they make the first offer, they indirectly persuade the other party to come up with something that’s at least close to the offer’s requirements, even if the offer is not accepted as it is.
Myth #2: Making concessions makes you weak
The truth is, concessions are neither positive nor negative by default. It depends on how they are used. A planned concession given at an early phase of negotiation could give out a positive vibe from your side in a sales pitch.
Care needs to be taken, however, not to go overboard. Concessions must be pre-calculated based on the cost of the offer to the business and its potential value as proposed to the other party. Giving a discount itself is not the problem, but once it is given, taking it back would make you appear weak.
Skilled negotiators know how to trade for something more valuable for them instead of pulling back from a concession that’s already given out.
Myth #3: Pre-determine the sequence of issues to be discussed
When you’re working on a project, of course you need to plan it out. There should be a project timeline with a logical sequence of tasks to be completed within specified timeframes. But sales negotiations are different from project management.
Until you start a sales meeting, you usually wouldn’t know what’s on the other party’s mind, and what perspective or sequence they are looking to adopt. If you prepare a pre-written script to discuss the matters from your perspective alone, and stick to it no matter what, it will give the impression to the other party that you are not interested to hear them out at all. This is the exact opposite of the kind of impression you want to build in their minds, in order to get what you want and close the deal in your favour.
Skilled negotiators usually prepare for each issue in isolation from others, so that they can handle the discussion smoothly as it proceeds, without getting caught off-guard if the other party unexpectedly proposes something different.
Myth #4: Support your position with a lot of arguments and reasoning
It’s human nature to always want to justify your position or opinion with reasoning and arguments. But surprisingly enough, this is not always a good tactic for winning in negotiations.
The more arguments you provide, the more susceptible your offer will become to attacks or counter-arguments. You should rather give one good reason and stick to it to see if you can get the other party to agree to it. A better tactic used by skilled negotiators is to invite reasons from the other party instead. This will help you determine how injudicious they are, before you reveal everything you have to say.
Myth #5: Base your case on sound logic
Studies have shown that using sound logic in negotiations is not a very persuasive approach. Imagine an adult trying to explain something to a child. No matter how many logical arguments you make, the child will keep on asking for what he/she wants. It is more likely that you just agree to give it to the child in order to end up the argument.
Clients are the same. The fact is what seems logical to you may not be sound logic to the other party. Their perspective could be drawn from a completely different set of beliefs and experiences.
Skilled negotiators always keep the other party’s perspective in mind, instead of pushing too hard on their own viewpoint. An effective way to go about this is to label the other party’s emotions to reduce tension in the room.
Michal Bernolak, a professional blogger on psychology-related topics, says, “Labeling someone’s emotions will get them talking and help them to relax.”
Myth #6: It’s not your fault if they don’t understand what exactly you’re selling
In the quest of negotiating a deal, you might get tempted to miss out on discussing some crucial issues. Some negotiators choose to move on even when they suspect that the other party has not fully understood some aspect of the service or feature of the product they’re selling. This can lead to failure of implementation of the deal, or a need to re-negotiate at a later stage.
Skilled negotiators adopt a different approach. They want to ensure maximum clarity on the deal being signed. They summarise the discussions evidently to make sure there are no misunderstandings. This concept is referred to as ‘mirroring’ and helps to clarify that you as well as the other party have understood the agreement correctly.
When Brent Tworetzky, SVP Product at InVision, wrote about his negotiation techniques, he stated, “I repeat back what others say to show my understanding and empathy and confirm that I’ve got the right picture.”
Bridging the gap between these myths and reality could help you become a skilled and professional negotiator.