Ask A Coach: I’ve Been Told To ‘Build My Negotiation Skills’. How Do I Do That?

First of all, ensure you get some specific examples of where it apparently went wrong, and what a better result would have been in each situation. Keep at it until you are completely clear: too much ‘developmental’, critical or negative feedback is way too vague. Just doing this is a great practice run for your negotiation skills: you will need to listen really, really carefully to what your feedback giver is saying, and use careful questions, respectfully, to get to the bottom of this challenge.

Did you give in too easily? Did you lock horns and take a position that you were (too) determined to defend? Did you miss opportunities to clinch the deal or offer concessions that you didn’t need to? What was the impact of your not-yet-built negotiation skills?

Armed with this you can get some expert advice, from my guest contributor, Marc Lockley. Marc is the author of ‘How To Pay Less For More’ and a regular contributor to The Guardian’s website, where he’s ‘The Negotiator’ and is currently writing a series, ‘Store Wars’, on how to be a canny shopper.

Marc reckons there are plenty of opportunities for us to build our negotiation skills; only thing is we’re unaware of them most of the time. It’s not just about money: we can negotiate all kinds of purchases for sure, but there are also deadlines, joint decisions about holidays or going out, to name a few. For Marc’s detailed advice, you’ll need to sign up to my monthly newsletter (and if you already have, watch out for Marc’s top tips landing in your in-box on 17 October). Meanwhile, here are two of Marc’s pearls of wisdom:

  1. Prepare relentlessly. Over 80% of a negotiation is down to preparation: product, competitors, client and industry/sector knowledge, strategy, profiling your buyer, listing justifications for buying your proposal and even rehearsing beforehand all help a negotiation. What has your buyer bought before? What did they pay for that? What is really important to them in this negotiation?
  2. Listening is as powerful (if not more) than talking. Listen, and take notes. Don’t ‘reload’ – which means thinking of your next statement/question whilst someone’s talking – you might miss vital information and alienate the other party all at the same time. By all means think/write up some respectful questions as part of your preparation, but in the moment, aim for dialogue and don’t rush it.

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