10 steps to successful negotiations

by | Apr 14, 2020

These 10 steps to successful negotiations will help you get the most out of every negotiation and set you up for success. 

In business, just as in life, negotiations happen on a daily basis. Some are small, some bigger but they all have the same in common: find the optimal situation for all parties involved.

Now, if you’re negotiating with your partner over which movie to watch, the outcome is not so important. In the worst case scenario, you’re still going to enjoy some time together.

But, if you’re in charge of a key negotiation, you can’t leave things to the case. In fact, there are many principles and best practices which apply to most cases and you can use them consistently.

We collected these 10 steps to successful negotiations to help you get the most out of every negotiation.

1. Set your goals

Among the steps to successful negotiations, the first and most important is to define your objectives precisely. You should know what’s at stake and what’s your ideal scenario. But don’t stop there.

The other part might not be willing to concede you whatever you’re asking for. So just like you know what’s your best option, it is just as essential to know what you’re willing to compromise on. The best thing to do here, is to define well in advance what’s the least ideal scenario you’re willing to agree on. And of course, never go below that!

Moreover, when defining your goals, make sure you don’t consider only your immediate needs. Instead, look ahead in the future and include these factors in your strategy.

If you know precisely what you’re standing for and what’s at stake, you’ll be better able to build solid arguments and persuade your interlocutor.

2. Do your research

Information is power. Especially in negotiation. To boost your chances of success one of the most important things you should do is proper research. Get as much information as possible about your negotiating partner.

What are the hurdles their business is facing? Try to identify the challenges and what they could expect from the negotiation. See which options they have. Check out business and industry news. Acquire some more information about your interlocutor as a person.

You should not draw rash conclusions, but the preparation will help you steer the conversation to your advantage. It will help you ask more targeted questions and gather even more information

The research will put you in a stronger position enabling you to get closer to your ideal scenario.

3. Identify the decision maker early on

Before jumping into a negotiation, make sure you are actually in contact with the person authorized to make business decisions. It is a crucial step because you might end up wasting time trying to get a deal with a person who is not in power to give you a “yes”.

Sometimes you don’t know anybody from the company you want to approach, but a lot of information is already accessible online. Thus check out the company’s online presence and look at the company hierarchy. It can give you an idea about the person in charge of approving or signing business contracts.

If none of it takes you further, your first point of contact might be the gatekeeper. The first impression can decide whether or not the door will be opened to you for a meeting. Do your best to leave a good impression on the gatekeeper.

If you don’t have any contact with the prospect company, leverage your network. Do you know someone who has a connection at the prospect business? Mutual connections can be a beneficial, first contact point. You maybe get some valuable feedback or even referred to the decision maker.

4. Build trust

Next in the list of steps to successful negotiations is all about trust. In fact, the human aspect has a high priority in any negotiation. Your attitude towards your counterpart will affect the outcome of the conversation.

Step into the talk with a win-win approach. For that purpose, it is necessary to build trust on the interpersonal level. It will help you to work together towards a satisfactory agreement.

In this sense, face-to-face meetings are way more profitable. If this is not possible, use video chats to exchange ideas and get to know the person better. Ask questions about personal matters. What motivates them every day to get out of bed and get things done?

Find some common ground while talking about hobbies, passions, interests or even dislikes. Make sure to ask the other side about their pressures, needs and wants as well. They have them for sure. If you show you care about meeting their requirements as well, you will start building up some positive vibe and trust.

Just as you want to have information about your counterpart, make sure to not keep any valuable information for yourself.

Be open and willing to share business and personal information with your interlocutor.

5. Be firm with your request, but empathetic

Negotiations require a certain level of assertiveness. As a business developer, you know, most things are negotiable. So don’t be shy and ask for what you expect. Don’t take no as an answer straight away. Be persistent. Explain what you want to achieve, but do it in a peaceful, empathic way. Avoid aggressive behavior and respect the other person’s interests.

You can practice it anytime. Reflect on how you are expressing your arguments. Put more focus on ” I ” statements. Like, “I don’t feel comfortable with this,” rather than “You should not…”

Challenge information of your interlocutor. Do not take every information as told but think about it critically and question requirements such as a fixed price. Make up your mind about your opponent’s arguments, reflect on them and prepare counter-arguments.

On the other side, also ensure to communicate how you can satisfy your interlocutors’ requirements.

The more they feel heard and pleased with your proposal, the more likely you are to receive a satisfying offer as well.

6. Don’t accept the offer right away

Your counterpart will make an offer but do not feel obliged to decide instantly. There is a risk your interlocutor gets a better deal than you. Take your time and think about it. If you’re unsure about it and take it for the sake of closing a deal, you probably will regret your decision.

Instead, prepare a counteroffer, based on your goals and needs. Getting a quick deal is definitely preferred, however, it doesn’t harm usually to have a cooling-off period. Fresh ideas will pop up, and you can reflect on what has happened.

At best, you’ll get off on the right foot. If not, remember, you can always walk away. You do not have to cut the ties completely. Perhaps there will be a new opportunity to cooperate in the future.

7. Carefully think through your questions

The next item in the steps to successful negotiations is about asking questions. Of course, as a business developer, you know the value of relevant information about your counterpart.

That’s why it’s crucial to have the right questions in mind. Think through how you pose your questions well in advance, as the way you ask can radically change the outcome. Some might see it as an art, but the truth is that you can prepare and make sure you have things under control.

Whenever you can, try to avoid yes or no questions which are usually less effective. Focus on open questions to maximize the information input.  Questions that ask for “who”, “when”, “what” or “how” push the interlocutor to give you a more detailed answer. Use leading questions to steer your interlocutor towards your point of view.

Do you sense something boiling? Ask your conversation partner how they feel about the discussed points.

Make sure you formulate clear questions that will reveal the needs and desires of your counterpart.


 8. Demonstrate your passion

Just as important as keeping your feelings in check is showing when you are satisfied with something or not. How do you feel about a proposal? Let your conversation partner know. Body language is a great way to reinforce your agreement or dissent on a topic.

If you are happy about the opponent’s proposition, express it in words but with a smile on your face. The same applies when you want to show your dissatisfaction. Stress disagreement with an explanation and use the power of facial expressions to convey it.

Showing emotions can be a powerful act. It signals you care about the negotiated topic and both positions. And of course, always remember to keep the proper balance between rational and emotionally guided actions.

If you convince with your passion, it will be easier to connect with your interlocutor.

9. Set high expectations

Start the negotiation with higher requirements than you would expect for the outcome.  It will affect the rest of the course. How?

The chances are good your counterpart will focus then more on the arguments that support the initial value. In the best case, the interlocutor will bring suggestions around it.

Regularly, the claims decrease during the conversation. In any case, this approach gives you room for reducing prices, conditions and other parameters.

Nonetheless, it is good to start high because, in the end, you are still more likely to leave satisfied.

If you keep an optimistic attitude, it can boost a positive outcome as well. In contrast to that, if you enter with low expectations, it can push you into unsatisfying results.

10. Practice continuously

Last, in our list of 10 steps to successful negotiations, we couldn’t miss practicing, because as you know: practice makes perfect. So prepare yourself mentally and set your intentions for the interview. Formulate your plans carefully.

Do you ever catch yourself with negative thoughts in your mind while preparing for your negotiations? We all have these emotions more or less often.

The next time when these feelings get stuck in your head, just rephrase your thoughts. Choose positive phrases like “stay confident” rather than statements like “don’t mess it up”. A positive mindset helps to boost your self-confidence.

If you spend your days in a traditional work setting, you have several occasions to practice for upcoming negotiations. Think of situations where you need to assign tasks to your colleagues. Or maybe you want others to get things done so you can focus on your core work. They are great negotiation exercises. It didn’t work out as planned? Try out other another strategy next time.

Your personal life gives you excellent opportunities to put your negotiating skills to the test. Are you discussing who’s cooking tonight? Or are you debating which is the best movie for the next film night? Argue smartly to convince your counterpart.

Everyday situations permit you to fine-tune your negotiating skills. Your risk and stress level will be rather low, but it helps you to practice every day.

What is your ritual for negotiations? We are happy to hear your tips, valuable thoughts or any feedback at hello@thebdschool.com.

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Katrin Lindenbauer

Content Writer at The BD School

I am curious about discovering exciting opportunities. In this way, I am working on creating meaningful content to motivate others to also seek for new interesting experiences.


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