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What Are Negotiation Skills?

The Scotwork Team
What Is Negotiation

Negotiation skills are among the most important in business. Even if you are not involved in sales or speaking directly with clients, negotiation skills could be a vital part of your professional repertoire.

Research has shown that only 29% of candidates negotiated their salary at their most recent job, but 84% of those who do negotiate get the higher salary. This is a vital set of skills that more should actively practice.

Negotiation is built into our everyday lives, even if we don't realise it. Though we don't often end up haggling like our lives depend on it, we do have conversations with colleagues and loved ones that carry many notes of negotiation. If you have ever bargained with your partner over what you should have for dinner, you have used your negotiation skills even if you didn't realise it at the time!

It is easy to just consider negotiation skills as one entity, but we use many soft skills altogether when negotiating with others. In the world of work, negotiation plays an important role in collaboration. Whether someone is trying to close a major deal and bring a lucrative client on board, or they are simply thinking about approaching their manager to discuss a pay rise, negotiation skills will form a key part of their arsenal.

What is negotiation?

Negotiation is the process in which two or more parties are brought together in discussion to approach a shared goal. Though it is easy to see the parties involved facing each other across the bargaining table like armies on a battlefield, negotiation should actually be a productive back-and-forth.

Effective negotiation is about collaboration, not opposition. A skilled negotiator will be at the forefront of discussions and should play a key role in the final agreement. This is a nuanced process that might require some to-and-froing and repeated discussion before reaching a decision that suits both parties.

Why is negotiation considered to be a skill?

Some people think that negotiation is a talent rather than a skill, but the truth is that anyone can learn key negotiation tactics and improve their skills in this area. By actively choosing to work on some of the skills that aid the negotiation process, anyone will begin to develop their overall negotiation skills.

This is also an area that benefits from practice. Again, an individual might not spend a lot of time at the negotiation table, but that doesn't mean that they are never going to use these skills. Being vigilant for opportunities to negotiate and actively develop the skills attached to them will always help towards improvement.

What are the benefits of effective negotiation skills?

Since negotiation can be found throughout our lives, knowing how to use negotiation skills effectively can bring us many benefits. Choosing to actively work on some of the key skills that feed into the negotiation process may bring about some of the following benefits.

Create lasting relationships

Firstly, a big part of negotiation skills is the ability to build rapport with the other party. Though someone might come into the negotiation process with very different viewpoints, their aim should be to get to a common goal.

A skilled negotiator will be able to find that crucial common ground between parties that both can use to reach an ideal agreement. In doing so, they will also create a lasting relationship that they can both draw from now and in the future. If there is reason for them to return to the negotiation table, a rapport between parties has already been established, making the discussions more amicable overall.

Offer long-term actionable solutions

Those who take the time to develop their negotiating skills will often find that they are more able to deliver long-term actionable solutions. When reaching a negotiated agreement, participants need to ensure that they think as far down the line as possible so that all parties reach the aims they want to see. Only focusing on the immediate and short-term could lead to one party feeling like their needs are not being met.

Avoid future issues

Since negotiation is about collaboration at its heart, good discussions should ensure that a conflict of interest does not arise and cause issues in the future. Even if there are differing points of view and ideas floating around the bargaining table at first, a good negotiator should be able to bring together the various parties and eliminate some of the worries that might lead to issues down the line if left unaddressed.

Improve reputation

Skilled negotiators know how to keep discussions moving forward and on target. They will gain a reputation for insightful and honest conversation, and colleagues will view them with trust and respect. Other parties might also know of the negotiator before sitting down with them, and their reputation for skilful discussions may lead to more successful negotiations that satisfy both parties.

Deliver value

Finally, it cannot be denied that one of the biggest negotiation skills benefits is value creation and delivery. Being able to close a deal will provide value – whether it is for an entire company or just for an individual. The best negotiators can deliver a win-win outcome that meets both their needs and those of the other party.

What are Effective Negotiation Skills?

Effective negotiation skills are closely tied to those associated with communication. After all, a good negotiation process will always involve open and honest discussions and collaboration. Here are 10 essential negotiation skills we think all negotiators should have.

1. Active listening

Anyone with good negotiation skills also needs to be a good, active listener. Active listening requires the listener to attentively take in what the other party is saying, to process it, and demonstrate that they have not just listened to what has been said but that they can then contribute their own opinions and understandings. It is considered an essential skill for not just negotiation but professional life as a whole.

2. Emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence (sometimes referred to as EQ) is the ability to recognise, understand, and manage emotions. In turn, this will help to build relationships and collaborate effectively with others. Those with high emotional intelligence can judge the emotional needs of others more accurately – something that could prove to be invaluable when trying to decipher someone's mood at the negotiation table.

3. Specific questions

A negotiator can learn more about the proposal from the other party and the motivations behind it if they know how to ask specific and targeted questions. In turn, the negotiator can also demonstrate to the other party that they are taking the negotiations seriously, that they are indeed listening to what they have to offer, and that they have a clear position that they are not prepared to compromise on.

4. Planning

It is not advisable to go into any negotiation without thorough preparation beforehand. There should be a clear goal to work towards and an idea of goals to be achieved, both in terms of the best-case scenario and the BATNA. Preparing thoroughly beforehand can also allow negotiators to learn more about the other party and what they could bring to the table.

When it comes to negotiation, you can never be too prepared.

5. Adaptability

Even if a negotiation team commit themselves to the most thorough preparation possible, there is always a chance that a different angle might crop up in the course of negotiations. Good negotiators may need to pivot and adapt to a new line of discussion at any moment. A successful negotiation is sometimes built on many such turns, and a good negotiator will be able to stay on track no matter how discussions might change.

6. Integrity

Negotiators need to ensure that they always operate with a high level of integrity. Acting in a trustworthy manner and choosing to display a strong level of ethics and morality will always go far. Whether an individual is negotiating on behalf of their workplace or themselves, including an ethical and moral code in their negotiation tactics can help them to feel secure in what they are prepared to fall back on.

7. Communication

Negotiation skills go hand in hand with communication. Remember, a true negotiation is not two or more parties working in opposition, but rather together towards a common goal – and they cannot do so without communication skills. This is a lot more than simply voicing opinions and structuring arguments for clarity; it can also include body language and other non-verbal cues that might give insight into how the other party feels.

8. Patience

Ideally, a negotiated agreement will come about quickly. However, some things can sometimes take time to work through or explain. Patience is one of those underrated negotiation skills that negotiators do not always realise is so important until they really have to rely on it. Don't suggest a quick solution just for the sake of it - be patient and take the time to ensure that any proposals made fit the needs of the parties.

9. Problem-solving

Problem-solving needs to be included as one of the many negotiation skills, as many parties end up at the bargaining table because of an issue. Being able to see past the noise, get to the heart of a problem, and deliver a solution is an essential skill that will always aid successful negotiators.

10. Decision-making

Finally, one of the top negotiation skills professionals should work on will always be decision-making. Being able to judge precisely when to call things to a halt and either part ways or progress with a negotiated agreement is not as easy as it might seem at first. Even if discussions lead to a compromise with the other party rather than a clear-cut deal, negotiators must be confident and decisive. Choosing to dither between one option and another might only cause confusion and stress.

Refine your negotiation skills today

Negotiation skills can benefit everyone. We all need to negotiate, even if we don't actively see our negotiating skills come to the forefront during discussions. Learning how to harness these key skills brings a range of benefits to our lives. A team that can successfully negotiate will have:

  • The confidence to advance their careers

  • The knowledge to actively mitigate conflict

  • The power to create real value

Even if an employee's role at a company does not require them to regularly take a seat at the bargaining table to close deals, knowing how to harness negotiation skills will always be of value, to both them as an individual and to the company as a whole.

Our team has over 45 years of experience and provides specialist negotiation training and consultancy to individuals and businesses in the UK and worldwide. Get in touch with Scotwork today to find out more about the training and guidance we can offer your organisation.

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