10 Tips to Develop & Hone
Excellent Negotiation Skills 

See also: What is Negotiation?

Negotiation skills are valuable in nearly all industries because they contribute to long-term business success. It would be difficult to build relationships, deliver quality solutions, or avoid future business problems if you’re unable to negotiate in a way that benefits all or most parties.

However, the main factors that make someone a great negotiator (i.e., finding win-win scenarios and compromises) are exactly where novices slip up. Negotiation isn’t about bulldozing over the competition; it’s about understanding the other person, listening, and tailoring your responses.

With that said, just about anyone can be an expert negotiator with practice, so long as they know where they’re starting from. Regardless, a new or seasoned negotiator can use our tips.

Two people sitting on a park bench looking at a tablet.

How to Develop and Hone Your Negotiation Skills Quickly

Even if your job or career doesn’t require the use of negotiation skills, you can still benefit from improving them. In fact, great negotiation skills can help you ace your interview or earn more.

1. Think Like a Lawyer

Lawyers must have impressive negotiation skills to win cases for their clients, but only the most experienced attorneys are able to examine a case from multiple points of view. For example, the Bagen Law accident injury lawyers out of Gainesville collect big wins for clients using this tactic.

As lawyers try to avoid emotional entanglement, they’re more able to look at situations logically. This allows them to question everything, break down assumptions, and accept ambiguity. This mindset can help you understand what clients want, even when they aren’t expressing it.

2. Show Real Empathy

Sales prospects are going to have a number of objections, which can be frustrating. As the objections pile up, clients may take their anger out on you. But if you express empathy during a discussion, you’re able to appreciate their struggles and avoid becoming too defensive.

For a negotiation to be effective, you need to understand both sides. Without empathy, you’ll be banging your head against the wall when the prospect doesn’t consider your points. Instead, listen to their points and affirm them, as clients will see you care for and appreciate them.

3. Listen Very Carefully

Nature gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason. Listening to your prospects is the fastest way to win the day and the only way loyal customers will trust you. All negotiations should start with the question, “What do you want out of this negotiation?” as it shows you want to listen.

In any negotiation, knowledge is power. If you don’t know what the other person wants, you won’t find a way to give it to them. That’s why negotiators should ask questions and take notes prior to the actual meeting, so they can arrive with pre-written questions that touch on specifics.

4. Learn to Take Breaks

It sounds bizarre to take a break in the middle of a negotiation, especially if it’s going well, but sometimes things get heated. You wouldn’t want your prospects to feel like they’re being coerced, as that makes them question your motives. It’s better to stop when emotions go wild.

Not only that but some big business decisions shouldn’t be made right after negotiations are finished. Give yourself and your prospects at least three days to reconsider the proposed deal.

5. Allow Give and Take

One-sided concessions are self-defeating and could affect your confidence. Compromises are common in negotiations, but if you have to give something away, you need to make sure you’re getting something in return. With any concession, always say, “I’ll do this if you can do that.”

If you don’t, you’re allowing the other party to make more concessions, which could make negotiations very unilateral. When concessions are earned, they aren’t requested as often.

6. Don’t Get Personal

Pride has no place in the negotiation room, but any experienced negotiator knows it shows up more often than not. But if you can’t control what someone else is doing, focus on yourself. Do your best to avoid assumptions about someone's character, or you’ll sabotage the negotiation.

If someone is rude or hard to deal with, try to understand their behavior (using empathy) instead of pointing fingers. Don’t let someone else's poor or bad attitude ruin your shot at a fair deal.

7. Be Mentally Prepared

While it isn’t a hard and fast science, nonverbal signals can express your true thoughts and feelings. About 60% to 65% of all human communication comes from our body language, and some of your prospects are hyper-aware of it, especially in a face-to-face conversation.

Since our thoughts often reflect on our bodies, it’s a good idea to mentally prepare yourself before negotiating. That means losing those feelings of subordination or imposter syndrome.

8. Discuss and Don’t Sell

If you’re approaching a prospect to discuss a new deal, product, or service, there’s already the assumption you’re going to sell to them. Instead of making the conversation about you and what your business can do, state what you can offer the client and ask how it can truly help them.

You should also consider the trade-offs. What you’re offering clients has to be valuable to them, but that won’t always make a sale. Instead of giving clients a free 14-day subscription, give them 28-days or throw in a freebie. But don’t do this right away; save the good stuff for later.

9. Tailor Your Responses

One often missed part of negotiation is knowing your audience. There’s an assumption that all clients will react to an emotional plea, but if the person is familiar with the tactic, they’re going to be annoyed. You need to figure out who you’re dealing with, or you won’t get through to them.

While you won’t always get the chance to research a person before you start the process, that doesn’t mean you can’t figure out their personality. With that said, learning how to tailor your responses requires people skills and a lot of practice, and there aren’t any shortcuts for that.

10. Know Your Position

You should always form three positions in your head before entering into negotiations. These include knowing what you can get away with (your huge wins), what you can expect to get based on market factors (your expected wins), and your deal breakers (when to walk away).

Even the most logical people get swept away during negotiations, but if you know your positions ahead of time, you’ll stay aware of your needs, wants, and boundaries. It can also prevent you from revealing your hand too soon or keeping your position hidden for the whole negotiation.

The right time to reveal your position isn’t always clear. However, if your client isn’t budging for a while or through multiple concessions, that may be the best time to declare what you want.

Further Reading from Skills You Need

The Skills You Need Guide to Interpersonal Skills eBooks.

The Skills You Need Guide to Interpersonal Skills

Develop your interpersonal skills with our series of eBooks. Learn about and improve your communication skills, tackle conflict resolution, mediate in difficult situations, and develop your emotional intelligence.

About the Author

Cristina Par is a content specialist with a passion for writing articles that bridge the gap between brands and their audiences. She believes that high-quality content plus the right link building strategies can turn the tables for businesses small and large.