If you run a business, chances are you are a regular negotiator. While it’s important to keep your own negotiation skills up to par, it also pays to make sure these skills are up to date in your team. Understanding the fundamentals of the process can go a long way to turn your team into an all-star squad of negotiators.
Taking the time to train your team by outlining what is at stake, identifying the negotiation styles at play, learning to listen, and knowing when to turn down a deal are all great ways to help your team expand their skills.
Identify What’s at Stake
A common misconception in negotiations class trainees is to treat negotiations like going to war against an opponent. This attitude too often leads to neither party getting what they want. However, by looking at the situation as one where two teams can combine their forces to solve a problem together, communications can unlock opportunities on different levels.
The first step in negotiation training is to help your team understand the importance of identifying what is at stake. In order to achieve this level of understanding, both teams need to understand not only what is wanted during discussions, but also why it is wanted.
When both teams are aware of each other’s interests, this mutual understanding can help bridge the gap in communication, and discussions on alternative solutions become easier to achieve.
Assess Negotiating Behavior
It’s important for your team to understand that everyone has a preferred style of communication. If you try to negotiate with someone in a communication style that doesn’t fit the situation, it can spell disaster for the discussions.
Incompatible styles can lead to difficult encounters, so it’s a good idea to train your team on how to spot these styles. Training your team to style their own arguments to work better with the other negotiating team ensures your team’s best chance at success. One way of assessing behavior is by looking at the DiSC dimensions of behavior attributes.
There are four dimensions of behavior attributes:
People that display the dominant attribute are good at making decisions. Dominant people tend to be very direct and like to control the environment in which they negotiate, which can come off as intimidating or uncaring to others.
Influencers, like dominants, tend to be good at telling in a negotiation, but do so in a less direct manner. An influencer’s strategy is to motivate and convince you, and influencers tend to look at the positive possibilities of the situation. However, some may see influencers as disorganized or unrealistic and tending to overlook the details in favor of the big picture.
People with the steadiness attribute do not like change, even if that change is positive. These people do not tend to think of themselves as powerful compared to their environment and prefer that the goal would be for everyone to work hard, together, in order to achieve the status quo.
Methodical and reserved, steadiness negotiators tend to like to sit on a decision, which can irritate dominants and influencers, who prefer immediate responses.
The conscientious negotiator is a perfectionist when it comes to the details, and people with this attribute need arguments to be factual. People in the conscientious bracket are indirect, yet are task and control focused. People with the conscientious attribute do not prefer change unless it is supported with facts on why it would be a good change.
Training your team to better understand which style a negotiating partner may fit is a helpful way to make sure your team can negotiate in the best manner. For example, if the negotiating partner is in the ‘conscientious’ bracket, providing facts for your team’s arguments is important, or your point may be lost on the other team.
Communicating your team’s point is only half of the negotiation. The other team has their points, too, so good communication skills are important for your team members, including good active listening skills. To engage the other team, and to help with your own listening, ask questions. Asking questions is a great way for your team to engage their negotiating partner and to keep check of active listening.
Use the three levels of listening to obtain information:
- Selective: We hear what we believe is relevant.
- Responsive: Being responsive cues the speaker that we are listening. Responsiveness can involve nonverbal clues, such as nodding, but can include follow-up questions.
- Playback: Restating or summarizing the point and asking for confirmation.
With finely tuned listening skills, a mutual understanding can be reached. This understanding can in turn increase trust between both teams and can keep tensions low, making for a better outcome.
Know When to Walk Away
Before entering discussions, you and your team should establish the “walk-away point.” Knowing under which circumstances you would exit negotiations establishes the bare minimum you are willing to accept in the deal.
It is important to train your team that they should have these terms in their head prior to the meeting and to not reevaluate this term during the meeting. The point of determining your walk-away point beforehand is to establish the minimum you would accept without being pressured into a deal.
To help decide your walk-away point, you should also consider your Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement (BATNA). Your BATNA provides you with an alternative to the agreement you are trying to negotiate and can help you determine the options for your team. Not having a BATNA causes teams to feel pressured to accept lousy deals.
When training your team on developing their negotiating skills, it’s important to help your team break down the process to its simplest forms. Outlining what’s at stake, identifying communication styles, listening, and determining the walk-away point are simple practices that can greatly improve the negotiating skills of your team members.