How to negotiate: Five tips to help you work out a deal

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Image: Yakobchuk Olena, Getty Images/iStockphoto

Talented negotiators who can influence how decisions are made are more likely to be successful, says Harvard Business Review. For professionals looking to climb the corporate ladder, strong negotiation skills will help ensure team members and organizations achieve the right results. Five experts suggest some great ways you can improve your negotiation skills.

1. Realize that negotiation is not a competition

Stephen Booth, CIO of Coventry University, knows that successful discussions are about keeping your ears open and – sometimes – your mouth shut: “It’s fundamental that you listen,” he says.

Many professionals approach a negotiation with a predefined goal. Booth says this stance means a cohesive approach that is unlikely to pay off. Instead, make sure you understand how everyone can contribute something useful to a discussion. These opinions could challenge your worldview—and if that happens, that’s a good thing.

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“When you’re in a real negotiation and not just talking past each other, you should be willing to change your mind. Don’t see a negotiation as something you have to win and someone else has to lose,” he says.

“You try to come to a constructive conclusion – and that starts with listening, empathy and a willingness to be open. I think when you do that, you also find that the other person is willing to be open. So keep your ears open and keep your mind open.”

2. Understand everything from a collaborative perspective

Danny Gonzalez, chief digital and innovation officer at London North Eastern Railway, says successful professionals show empathy at all times.

“Always try to understand the shoes that everyone you deal with is wearing,” he says. “Try to approach everything from a collaborative angle. Whether you are negotiating with someone above or below you, you do not impose your view as the absolute way something should be done.”

Gonzalez says a strong sense of empathy will help you bond with all of the different people and partners you work with. Clever professionals then ensure that everyone involved in a process has space to think and have their say.

“When you’re dealing with people that you need to work on projects that you need to deliver, then they need to feel like they have ownership of everything they do. And the flip side of that is the high-level stakeholders – they need to be given the opportunity to understand what you’re doing and also to be able to contribute to the process. Even if you deal with partners outside the organization, I think those two things are also very important.”

3. Give the partners a seat at the table

Daniel Smith, head of analytics at apparel band PANGAIA, says there’s a pretty strong consensus within his organization’s leadership team. Negotiation skills are more important when it comes to seeing beyond the corporate firewall – and it ensures partners are included and informed in discussions as much as possible.

“I’ve always found that they have to sit at the table,” he says. “They must feel that they are involved in our work. I don’t believe in transactional relationships because there is no mutual benefit.”

Smith says that professionals looking for an outside party to help solve a business challenge won’t find the right solution if they don’t understand what your current company values ​​are, what your company is trying to achieve, and why you want to that they come and come to help you.

“During negotiations, much of this decision-making process will focus on ticking boxes and looking at things from a values ​​perspective. But it’s also important that you look at your partners and think, ‘Can we work with this company? and believe that relationship will build and grow?’ And when we’re negotiating with people around a table, all of those elements are part of the decision-making process.”

4. Step back and understand each side’s interests

David Schwartz, VP of PepsiCo Labs, says the key to successful negotiations is simple: “It’s about people, people, people.”

He says that a really helpful starting point for negotiations is to understand what everyone wants. As an example, Schwartz cites the conversations he has with entrepreneurial companies as part of his role as the innovation leader at PepsiCo.

“One of the first things we do in our conversations when negotiating with startups is a magic wand discussion. We ask, ‘If you could get anything from PepsiCo, what would you want?’ A large part of the success we’ve had – and we’ve worked across many agreements – is due to us taking a step back and understanding each side’s interests and goals.”

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To date, PepsiCo Labs – a team of specialists within the company tasked with harnessing the power of technological innovation – has scaled more than 30 startups in over 200 countries. Schwartz says taking the time to understand each side’s interests and goals provides a platform for further fruitful discussions.

“This win-win or mutual benefit negotiation is a classic approach, but it really works,” he says. “Then we can have a multivariable discussion where we consider a bunch of other things, like, ‘What does they all want? what do we all want How important are these goals and how can we achieve them?’ That approach was really helpful for us.”

5. Communicate the changes you want to make

Adobe CIO Cynthia Stoddard encourages negotiation and wants employees to be open and flexible about how and where they work.

Stoddard created an Employee Experience Group that analyzes different personalities in the company and focuses on how Adobe uses new tools. She says bringing people together helps foster successful negotiations on the adoption of new technologies like robotic process automation.

However, she also recognizes that being open-minded is constant work – and professionals must ensure that people in all parts of the organization always know why changes are being made.

“One thing I’m going to say is you can’t just pick people up and move them around because that’s not good. I wouldn’t like it; You probably wouldn’t like it either. So, a big part of that is communication and being able to talk to others about why you’re doing something. Being close to employees is a crucial part of the equation for future success,” she says.

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