10 Tips to improve your negotiation skills

At Shoup Evers  & Green, we are prepared to try our cases before a judge or jury; but the vast majority of our cases end with a negotiated settlement. We are committed to negotiating the best settlement for our clients. John Schraven has extensive experience negotiating for over 25 years. John also applies his skills in his day to day life. While we all want our negotiations, whether for a legal claim or a car purchase, to be successful, few of us have the skills and experience to achieve that. We hope you will find John’s pointers helpful in your next negotiation.

1. Prepare.

Do not go in unprepared with the expectation that your blinding white smile and charismatic personality will win the day – it won’t. Remember the Five P rule – Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance. Do your homework. Gather information and evaluate it before you begin negotiating.

2. If You Are Not Willing To Walk Out, Don’t Walk In.

“Walking out” or politely ending a negotiation is one of the strongest statements you can make. It signals to the other side that you believe your position is fair and you are willing to risk not reaching an agreement. Ending a negotiation without settlement should be a business decision, however, not an emotional decision. If you cannot reasonably afford to increase the offer, end the negotiation. One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to have an emotional attachment to the outcome or the object of the negotiation. Decide beforehand what you can afford and stick to it.

3 . Understand Alternatives to Settlement.

What are your options if you do not reach an agreement? Understand that, in most cases, you can return to negotiate later when circumstances make it more favorable to you, You may also decide it is not possible to reach your goal and abandon the negotiation entirely. It is very important to understand that not everything must happen today. Instant gratification is not a friend to a good negotiator.

4. You Get More With A Carrot Than With A Stick, But Bring A Stick Just In Case.

The best negotiators are calm, reasonable and well prepared, however, they can be firm and unyielding when necessary. Be friendly and fair when possible but do not avoid conflict.

5. Take Your Time – Do Not Rush.

Take the time to constantly reevaluate your position, even if it means walking away from the table for a few minutes to clear your head. Remind yourself of your goal, assess any new information you have received and adjust your goals if necessary. There are very few situations when you need to respond to a time deadline. Control the clock, do not be controlled by it.

6. Be Flexible.

Recognize when you have made an error in your overall evaluation and adjust your goals accordingly. Refusing to accept a factual error in your evaluation is being obstinate and not helpful strategically.

7. Drop Deads and Bottom Lines.

Bottom line statements and drop dead offers should be used sparingly and only when you are prepared to back them up. A statement such as “This is my bottom line. Take it or leave it.” suggests that you have drawn a line in the sand that you will not cross. The problem with a bottom line statement is that it only leaves you with two further option: 1) you walk out if your bottom line is not met, or (2) you disregard your own bottom line and continue negotiating at which point you have lost credibility.

8. It Is Not Personal.

It is not personal. It is not personal. It is not personal and do not let it get personal. Your own emotion is a distraction to you, not your adversary.

9. State Your Position – Shut Up and Endure the Silence.

Have confidence in your position, state it and then do not speak until the other side responds. Otherwise, you are negotiating against yourself. Silence is one of the strongest statements you can make.

10. Ask For More Than You Expect and Do Not Be Insulted When You Are Offered Less Than You Believe is Fair.

Negotiation is like a dance, the first offer and counteroffer are the first steps, and the music is just beginning. It does not matter where you start, it is where you end up that counts.

The goal of negotiating is to obtain something that you want or need. Very rarely is it something you need. A specific car or a specific house are things you want. They are not things you need. Understanding the difference between “wants” and “needs” are important. Food, water and a roof over your head are things you need. When you are negotiating a “want” item and understand that you do not need it, it is far easier to walk away from the table when you cannot get it for the price you desire.