How can you become a successful negotiator? (Part 3: Principles of Negotiation)

The lion and the calf shall lie down together, but the calf won’t get much sleep.
— Woody Allen

In a previous blog, we looked at the outcomes of negotiation. To reach these outcomes you need to take into account your own principles and those of the parties with who you are negotiating.

In an ideal world everyone would have high principles and unimpeachable business ethics. Regrettably, we don’t live in an ideal world. The most common mistake negotiators make is to ignore these four principles, so fix them firmly in your mind before you walk into a negotiation and you will have a much greater chance of guaranteeing survival and success.

  1. There are no rules
  2. Everything is negotiable - except your ethics
  3. Ask for a better deal
  4. Learn to say ‘No’

1. There are no rules

People often refer to the ‘negotiating process’ as the ‘great game of life’. Why?

  • They assume that rules are present
  • They assume they will not get stung

These assumptions don’t hold water. Don’t take it for granted that just because you make a generous concession, the other party will do the same thing.

To overcome the ‘no rules’ trap, establish an agenda early in the negotiation process. You then work within certain parameters and keep reasonable control. An agenda allows you to establish working processes on how to call time out or a recess, so these aren’t seen as tactical.

2. Everything is negotiable

Anything and everything you can think of are available to be negotiated; relationships, products, services – with the only exception being your ethics.

Most people accept printed documents every day, without question, from solicitors, accountants, government departments and large companies. However all of these businesses would be prepared for you to negotiate a better price, better terms, better delivery dates etc. This refers to the substantive issues in the negotiation, not the other side’s principals or yours.

Through the philosophy that everything is negotiable, you will be surprised how often you obtain a mutually satisfying agreement.

3. Ask for a better deal

Many people don’t negotiate, and salespeople are reluctant to ask for the order because of a conditioned fear – the fear of hearing the word ‘No’. If you don’t like anyone saying ‘No’ to you, you will try not to put yourself in a position where someone can reject you.

Start today and try asking for a better deal, you really can ask your way to success.

4. Learn to say ‘No’

Equally, in a negotiation you should be prepared to say ‘No’ and put a halt to proceedings. You must be able to walk-away, some people go far beyond their worst possible outcome, just because of how much time they have invested, so neither party was prepared to say ‘no’.

Learn to say ‘no’ and you will not only survive, but you will ultimately have far more success in negotiating. It’s an interesting phenomenon, but it’s true, I am sure it’s repeated every day in every nation around the world. There are times when a ‘no’ deal is better than a terrible deal. The ability to say ‘no’ means that you have planned, and the ‘no’ deal is a prepared outcome.

For guidance on how to say ‘no’ productively, read our blog, How you say No is as important as how you say yes.

These are just four of the common mistakes that negotiators make, identify more mistakes at the ‘Negotiation Skills’ course at the University of Newcastle, Sydney.