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Negotiation Tools & Techniques

We are all negotiators. Life is full of opportunities to negotiate and libraries are full of textbooks and theories claiming sure-fire techniques and winning strategies. Negotiation is just as much common sense as it is science and art. Armed with a few practical tips and guidelines, our negotiations can be efficient and mutually rewarding.

Excerpts from K. W. Huskey Associates training programs:

  1. Setting the Stage
    Neutral locations are preferable. Noisy locations make it difficult to communicate. Mornings are generally better than afternoons and Fridays are usually poor. Don't get caught off guard by a telephone call call back. Consider physical arrangement, too.

  2. Authority
    Know the authority of the person you are dealing with. Don't let them undermine an agreement by alleged "limited authority." Of course, this is both an offensive and defensive technique. Streamlining the approval process and eliminating the tangles of bureaucracy will ignite a gleam in the eyes of many vendors, suppliers, politicians, etc.

  3. Separate the People from the Problem
    People have emotions, deeply held values and different backgrounds and viewpoints, and they can be unpredictable. So are you. Do not engage in personal attacks. Focus on the issues. Negotiation is neither debate nor trial. Be understanding.

  4. Deadlines
    Know the other side's deadline. This may give you additional leverage. If they have no deadline, create one if it works to your advantage. Allow enough time.

  5. Have a Game Plan
    Analyze the other side's interest and anticipated strategy. Know your interest and establish realistic goals. Have a bottom line position pegged and alternatives identified in lieu of negotiated agreement. There is no substitute for proper preparation. Information is power at the negotiating table. Know company guidelines, criteria, and variables.

  6. Take Higher Ground
    Have the other side make proposals. Armed with this information, you will be in a position to offer counter proposals or request modifications, deletions, justification, comparisons, documentation, etc.

  7. Listen Actively
    Look and be alert. Observe non-verbal signals that may temper statements. Check for understanding. Paraphrase "Did I understand you correctly that you are saying " Listening is a cheap concession.

  8. Test the Waters
    If you must propose an agreement, don't offer your bottom line first. Leave room for compromise. Suggest 100% if you want 80%. If you'll accept 50%, then consider beginning at 80%. Leave room to maneuver.

  9. Speak With a Purpose
    Measure your comments. Too much communication can be as disastrous as too little especially when angry. Before making significant statements, ask yourself what purpose it will serve. If uncertain, don't speak, listen. Silence is a useful tool.

  10. Don't Be Intimidated
    Don't be intimidated by complex issues. You have a right to understand. Seek clarification. Ask for explanation. Don't be afraid of looking stupid just because everyone else appears to know what's going on but you don't. Speak out.

  11. Recess
    Don't accept a proposal only to meet an arbitrary deadline. A rushed decision may not be the best decision. If you need time to think, research, seek counsel, etc. take it. If you feel overmatched, overwhelmed or unprepared, don't hesitate to request a recess. A recess can be fore 15 minutes, a week or indefinitely which creates the impression of withdrawl. Apparent withdrawl may motivate the other side to action. Reminders of deadlines and a sense of urgency will counter stall tactics by the other party. Set up a definite rematch.

  12. Association/Clout
    Alliances and associations can increase one's position of power or lend additional credibility. Third party endorsements may add strength to your cause. Involving third parties can be a complex and risky strategy especially if the third party is the print and electronic news media.

  13. Focus on Interest, Not Positions
    Interest defines the problem. The basic problem in negotiation lies not in conflicting positions, but in the conflict between each side's needs, desires, concerns, and fears. Your position is something you have decided upon. Your interest is what caused you to decide. Ask, "why?" draw out their interests, list them and rank them in order of importance.

  14. Power/Leverage
    In most cases the buyer is in a powerful position. This power should be preserved and enhanced throughout the buying process. If the "seller" believes that competition exists, then for practical purposes, competition exists.

  15. Bluffing
    This is a high risk technique wrought with disaster. Don't bluff unless you are prepared to be called.

  16. Unethical Tactics
    Do not engage in unethical tactics or cheap tricks. Deliberate deception is not an effective way to do business for the long haul. If similar tactics are used against you, expose them immediately.

  17. Use Objective Criteria
    The more you bring standards of fairness, efficiency, or scientific merit to bear on your particular problem, the more likely you are to produce a final package that is wise and fair. Put egos and wills aside. It is far easier to deal with people when both of you are discussing objective standards for settling a problem instead of trying to force each other to back down.

  18. Solve Problems; Theirs and Yours
    Thinking that "solving their problem is their problem" is unproductive. Understanding their interest and discovering potential solutions to their problems will lead to mutually productive results. Help them sell the "package."

  19. Be Positive
    Don't kick back. When your ideas are being criticized and attacked, listen with interest. Seek further criticism. Guide those criticizing into a productive problem solving session. Keep your ego on tight reins. Explain the benefits of your proposal as they relate to all parties.

  20. Documentation
    Take notes. Confirm all items of agreement in writing. Once negotiations are concluded, seek written confirmation as swiftly as possible. Since recesses can last days or weeks and the possibility exists that one of your colleagues may have to pick up where you left off, documentation is critical. Keep notes on file to be reviewed by the next negotiator dealing with the same party.

  21. Be Creative
    Invent options for mutual gain. Don't strangle creative thinking by searching for "the single answer." Premature criticism and hasty closure may short-circuit a wiser decision. Avoid the assumption of a fixed pie. Brainstorm new ideas and approaches. Separate inventing from deciding.

    "We will either find a way or make one."

  22. Never Gloat
    Be a "good winner." You are in the game for the long run. Be gracious and follow up with thank you letters and gifts, when appropriate.

  23. For more information on K. W. Huskey Associates training programs,
    contact us at or call (760) 327-2760

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