Q. How many steps are there in the negotiation process?
A. The short answer is this: It depends on who you ask.
A. The longer answer is: It depends on who’s at the table and what’s being negotiated.
Let me just start by saying, if you take “process of negotiation” and Google that shit, you are going to come across a number of opinions on how many steps are involved. Believe me, doing some research in this space will get you off to a great start.
Today, I would like to provide you with what needs to be your follow up question, the one you eventually need to find yourself asking:
Q. How do I become a better negotiator?
Now, here is where we can actually use what our good friend Google says about the various negotiation processes. A quick search will provide you with three, four, five, and eight stage processes as well as more specific processes like collaborative and competitive. I suggest you spend a bit of time getting familiar with these various resources –but not just yet, hang with me here for just a bit longer.
Once you get familiar with the common aspects of the various negotiation processes, the next step is to recognize that negotiating a sale or business arrangement has as much to do with your weaknesses as it does your strengths. I get it, it is great (and easy) to look back on the moments when negotiations went your way. It is fun to reflect on that time when you got top dollar or landed that big account you were chasing –but what about those times when things went south? Can you think of a time when maybe you lost your temper, lacked the necessary compromise, or just walked away feeling like you got the short end of the stick?
If you’ve been in sales or business long, you should have a list of experiences to draw from for lessons learned. The goal is to go there. think back and look at the processes you’ve used previously and ask yourself (1) what went right and (2) what went wrong. If you’re just starting out, take a look at the processes provided to you through research and have an honest conversation with yourself about where your weaknesses lie and how your strengths may be improved upon.
Bottom line: It is through reflecting on your individual strengths and weaknesses that you can define (and refine) the skills you have -and those you are lacking, to not just be a good negotiator, but to be the kick-ass negotiator you can be.
Just to get you thinking in the right direction, here are a few examples of ways you can hone in on your negotiation skills to improve your overall process:
1) Evaluate your personal tendencies:Do you have a tendency to talk too much and forget to listen? Do you clam up in a tense situation or tend to exaggerate? Perhaps you are quick to get defensive when challenged. These are all personal tendencies that can be first recognized and second, kept in check to ensure they do not impede your success.
2) Recognize tactics:Tactics are a huge aspect of the negotiation process. Learning different negotiation tactics can go a long way to ensure you are able to recognize when they are being employed against you -and hey, it doesn’t hurt to have a few tactics of your own. Here is a list of hardball tactics offered up from Harvard Law School’s Program on Negotiation and the Authors of Beyond Winning.
3) Define the “win”:Defining the win is knowing (ahead of time) what it is you ideally want, as well as what you will ultimately accept –and not accept. There are tiers to winning at negotiation and let’s be honest, sometimes walking away from the table without a deal is much better than settling for something that goes against your ultimate goals. A properly defined “win” represents not just what you want –but also what you do not want.
Benjamin Franklin is known for saying, “by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail”. These are wise words that can be applied to many different situations, but I think they are particularly valuable in regard to negotiations. So here’s my challenge for you. Set some time aside to learn negotiation as a process and then, consider your individual negotiation skills as they exist within that process. Next, select a few areas where you could improve these and make a conscious effort to develop them through focused practice.