By Jeroen Ketting
- What if my supplier starts bringing topics and arguments to the negotiating table that I am not prepared for?
- What to do when my negotiation turns into a conflict?
- What to do in case we agreed but the execution of the agreement gets delayed and delayed?
These are examples of concrete questions I am often asked during my negotiation seminars. We all recognize these kinds of situations and we all have been under the impression that negotiating is some sort of difficult art that is hard to grasp. Yes, to some extent negotiating is intuitive and comes close to an art. But no, we do not need to be reactive victims to this difficult art. We can and must take get into driver’s seat of our negotiation. We cannot control our negotiation partner but there are two things we can control:
We can control ourselves and we can control the negotiating process.
To gain control of ourselves there are various steps to take. First, we should become aware of what negotiations and their challenges are. The next step involves embracing conflict as something beneficial. Embracing conflict helps us to reduce our emotional involvement and helps us to reap the benefits that conflict can bring us. Creating a negotiating strategy with prioritized goals and an agreed approach will allow us to maintain a strong focus throughout the negotiation process. Among the many benefits of focus is the effect that a strong focus reduces stress, and reduced stress increases our self-control. Before we come to the negotiating table, we should recognize the value we bring to it. Understanding why we are there and what value we bring to our negotiation partner increases confidence. Last but not least, we should make sure we develop and apply a wide range of communication skills. We all think we are great communicators but in the areas of “questioning techniques”, “active listening” and “dealing with objections” most of us still have enough to learn.
We gain control of the negotiating process by following a clearly defined method. We prepare (create the negotiation strategy), we open the negotiation (we open, not simply for the sake of opening, but with the aim of closing the deal), we discover the needs and motivations of our negotiating partner, we deal by bringing in our prepared demands, we close (and deal with deadlock if it arises), and we execute the agreement (and monitor the risk for renegotiation).
When we control ourselves and the negotiating process then we put ourselves in the driver’s seat of the negotiation. Sometimes we win and sometimes we lose. That’s life and that’s negotiating. But a controlled win or loss provides a much more sustainable basis for future “negotiation wins” than an uncontrolled win or loss. Taking the driver’s seat pays off in any situation.