4 guidelines to become a better negotiator

July 7, 2020


Published in Noticias Profesores
by Marco A. Azuero Isaza

In the last 10 years of my life I have been able to do something that I love doing since my college years: Teaching. During that time, I taught graduate students and business executives how to develop or improve their skills to negotiate more effectively. This experience as a negotiation teacher allowed me to realize that one of the main barriers that must be overcome to be a better negotiator is to stop being selfish and instead have an attitude that seeks a common benefit.

In this writing I share 4 habits that will allow you to significantly improve your ability to negotiate:

  1. Prepare well beforehand: something that happened to me and that has happened to many people with whom I have shared this topic in teaching sessions is that we spend very little time preparing for a negotiation session. While working in some companies, I would only spend half an hour prepping for the meeting and if it was with another company, I would prep on the ride to the appointment. In this way I achieved some result, but not one that created value.


In order to obtain a result that is worth negotiating for both parties, it is necessary to structure a preparation that includes an analysis of the environment where the business deals are carried out, reviewing internal and external factors such as whom I am going to negotiate with, what goals I want to achieve, how far I can go with my offer, what happens if I don't do business, and what other alternatives I have at my disposal to fulfill what I set out to do.


  1. Spend enough time building an atmosphere of trust before negotiating: the best negotiators I have met in the last 10 years have one thing in common: they spend a lot of time getting to know each other and finding points of affinity that will let them "break the ice" and build confidence. Without this last ingredient, the negotiations are too rigid and without any possibility to explore new ideas that benefit both parties.


A good example of this occurred to me when I went to sell a sports armband to a very serious customer, with whom I had no relation. When I was delivering the product to him in his office, I realized he was a stockbroker. At the end of my 5 minute visit, I asked him how one could tell if a stock was going to go up or down in the market. That was the magic key that changed his mood and allowed him to become a very kind teacher who wanted to explain the subject to me at that moment. The meeting ended 1 hour later and at the end he said that I could come back to learn more about this matter. Asking questions about topics that interest your counterpart in a negotiation can help you build trust.


  1. Have a long-term vision: it is not the same to assume that the person whom I am going to negotiate is my enemy instead of considering him/her a strategic ally. In order to shift the attitude of seeing negotiation as a battlefield into one of sharing potential benefits, it is important to realize that in the long term we can have greater achievements if we collaborate with each other.


This is one of the conclusions that the students draw the most at the end of the course that I teach in the MBA: realizing that the person whom they negotiate with can help them carry out their economic activity, through significant agreements that create value for both parties in the future.


  1. Know yourself: this could sound philosophical, but in a negotiation is absolutely critical to know how to handle the different reactions you may have in a difficult environment. If you don't have some sort of self-control you won't be able to limit your instinct reactions if someone attacks you during the negotiation. On the contrary, you may cause damage by simply counterattacking, losing all the preparation and good atmosphere and probably the deal itself. Part of a complete preparation is to identify your personal blind points, or the attitudes that get you out of control, in order to be calm and avoid those triggers in your personality.


Most people imagine that a good negotiator is the one who beats the other and gets the most advantage in a negotiation. If you analyze this idealized profile of a negotiator, in light of the 4 habits that I have shared with you, you will realize that this belief of the advantageous negotiator is false and that the true image of the effective negotiator is that of a disciplined person, who prepares, keeps calm, analyzes before speaking and is willing to share benefits in exchange for satisfying what she/he set out to obtain in the negotiation. 


Originally posted here.


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