Opinion

Negotiate your way into the driving seat

Negotiating skills are becoming increasingly important to IT professionals as IT and the business get ever closer, writes Nadia Damon.

Getting what you want is a lot easier if you learn to negotiate. Whether you are dealing with customers or simply after that pay rise you think you are due, learning to negotiate for it can really help your cause.

"There is an old saying: 'You don't get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate'," says Mike Emmott, an adviser on employee relations for the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. "While that might not always be the case, you have to be aware that life is a constant negotiation, otherwise you are preparing yourself to be a chronic victim."

Mike Hartley-Brewer, a negotiation consultant who has produced a course entitled Effective Negotiation for Internet-based training company Wide Learning, believes that, in addition to the professional benefits of negotiation skills, people will find the techniques useful in other areas of life - saving money on anything from clothes, holidays, cars and houses.

"Learning this type of skill improves confidence," says Hartley-Brewer. "Many of the people who go through my face-to-face programme comment on how much more confident and in control they feel. The skills of listening and reading people's body language have many uses beyond the formal setting. One of the principal things we teach is that people should be clear and firm in what they say."

Some of the key points that Hartley-Brewer has worked into his course are:

  • Set the right atmosphere and build a relationship with your counterpart
  • Build an agenda to clarify all the issues and negotiate them as a package, rather than one by one
  • Recognise that you have to meet the interests of the other party as well as your own side in order to reach an agreement
  • Ask a lot of questions rather than putting forward arguments
  • Be creative in getting around problems in the negotiation, instead of head banging and debating
  • Put forward clear, firm proposals and manage concessions carefully.


According to Hartley-Brewer, one of the biggest mistakes people make during negotiating is to be limit-driven instead of target-driven. "People typically set themselves a limit, for example, 'I won't pay more than' whereas with target-driven negotiations, they say 'I won't pay more than but my target is actually' This can make a huge difference to how well you do," he says.

Being "floppy", ie uncommitted and weak, in making proposals is a common error in negotiations, as is asking the other side to make the first proposal or making large free concessions instead of small conditional ones. Importantly, you should not see a negotiation as an argument or debate.

While negotiation is all about getting what you want, it is also a trade, says Emmott. Therefore, don't expect the other party to roll over at your first suggestion. "Usually people have a fall-back position," he says. "You should be looking to reach an agreement where both sides feel they have got something out of it."

Emmott says people should show respect to the person they are negotiating with at all times. "You are not trying to humiliate that person. If they feel one down, they might not feel that is the end of the matter. Don't behave as though you have wiped the floor with them - try and preserve the long-term relationship," he advises.


Negotiating dos and don'ts

Do
  • Build a relationship with your counterpart

  • Build an agenda to clarify issues

  • Recognise that you need to meet the interests of both parties

  • Use questions rather than arguments

  • Be creative with problems

  • Put forward clear, firm proposals

  • Make small conditional concessions


Don't
  • Ask the other side to make the first proposal

  • Be limit-driven

  • Be "floppy"

  • See negotiation as an argument

  • Make large free concessions.



Nadia Damon

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This was first published in May 2001

 

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