How to Tailor Your Negotiation Approach
for Different Behaviours

See also: Negotiation Skills

Effective negotiation is a fundamental business skill. In today’s competitive market, it’s crucial that you can maintain key relationships, strike profitable deals and come to mutually beneficial arrangements in order to reap business success.

A recent and interesting guide to successful negotiations created by small business insurer Hiscox enlists the professional advice of Denise Jeffrey - an expert in leadership, negotiations and communications. The guide dissects what goes into attaining this skill, with Jeffrey explaining that negotiations are far more about the behaviour exhibited during the negotiation than an individual’s personality.

She outlined four key types of behaviour that are frequently observed in a negotiation setting, before presenting advice on how to best negotiate with somebody exhibiting each one.

To learn how you can improve your negotiation technique, read on for pointers on how to tailor your approach according to your client or customer’s behaviour.

Preparing for Your Negotiation

If you want to be in with a chance of negotiation success, winging it isn’t going to cut it.

You need to dedicate time and effort to research the person you’re negotiating with and identifying what possible outcomes you would be happy with settling on. Of course, there’s no telling how the other side will behave on the day but knowing a bit more about their background can only benefit you.

“When preparing for a negotiation, one has to understand what each party is hoping to get out of the meeting,” explains Denise.
“Be prepared to negotiate with an outlook of achieving different outcomes that could be acceptable for all parties, depending on the style of bargaining your counterpart pursues.”

In the same way that the behaviour of the other party could vary, you can also easily alter you own behaviour to suit the situation. This means that it’s possible for anyone to learn how to become a good negotiator – it just takes self-awareness and the willingness to push yourself outside of your comfort zone at times.

Tailoring Your Negotiation Approach According to Behaviour

Behaviour Type 1: “It’s my way or the highway”

Someone displaying this kind of behaviour is likely to come across as dominant, assertive, decisive and competitive. This individual is in it to win it and will be prepared to fight their ground in order to get their way.

How to negotiate with them:

Denise explains that the best thing to do when faced with overly dominant behaviour is to call them out on it.

“You should always be professional and polite, but you should also always call out that behaviour, because people who negotiate in that aggressive way are being unprofessional,” she says. “You’re not calling them out as a person, you’re calling out their behaviour.” 

Behaviour Type 2: “Sweet-talker”

The ‘sweet talker’ is characterised by influential, confident, enthusiastic and receptive behaviour. They’ll likely win you over with their charisma and charm - small talk is their ultimate relationship building tactic. Maintaining or forging long-term relationships is important to them and, ideally, they want to leave the negotiation with a win-win outcome.

How to negotiate with them:

According to the expert:

“This is probably the easiest type of behaviour to respond to when striking a deal, as it indicates that the person wants to keep it harmonious.”
“If somebody is cooperative and receptive at the negotiation table, you want to mirror this behaviour, because you’ll get the best results and the most respect,” says Denise.

Behaviour Type 3: “Let’s not rock the boat”

This behaviour can be recognised by qualities such as cooperation, dependability, and compliance. This is particularly common when entering a negotiation with an existing client or somebody with whom you have a long-term relationship that you want to keep intact.

How to negotiate with them:

Jeffrey says that entering a negotiation with somebody you have an existing relationship with is both a blessing and a curse.

“You know what they’re like as a person and can, therefore, predict how they may behave in the meeting; however, it means you need to adopt a soft approach in order to maintain good relations.”

Behaviour Type 4: “Devil’s in the detail”

As a stickler for detail, an individual showcasing this type of behaviour is likely to be meticulous, analytical, aloof and patient. They will be looking for all information and arguments to be backed up with facts. Expect them to ask a lot of questions, such as ‘how?’ and ‘why?’

How to negotiate with them:

The key to negotiating with someone who is detail orientated is to come prepared.

“Know what they respond best to,” says Jeffrey. “Someone who is detail-orientated will respond better to an in-depth ‘encyclopaedia’ of knowledge. If they enter the negotiation with lots of data-backed information, make sure that you can provide the same.”

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.

Closing Your Negotiation

Even when you feel like the negotiation has come to an end, finalising the agreement isn’t always straightforward.

In some cases, it will be apparent from an early point that you aren’t going to achieve a result you are happy with, and therefore, the best thing to do is to politely walk away. You can do this by being respectfully thanking them for their time, but honestly stating that you don’t think a partnership will work at that time.

On the other hand, if things are moving in a positive direction, but the other side seems reluctant to close the deal – possibly because they feel they can get more out of it – make it clear that from your side it is final. You can do this by saying something along the lines of “to finish with…” or “to settle one final point…” This should politely communicate your intent on wrapping the negotiation up.

Finally, it’s crucial that you remember to get the final agreement in writing and ensure that all promises made in the negotiation are delivered on.

Psychology plays a large role in negotiations and in business in general. It’s incredibly useful to understand how you can alter your own behaviour in a negotiation according to that displayed by the other party, in order to achieve the best possible outcome. With the above advice provided by Denise Jeffrey, hopefully you’ll improve your negotiation success rate and develop skills that will help you in your future career.

About the Author

Sophie Douglas has been a writer for many years, with a passion for and focus on the business world. She often delves in to personal SME news as well as larger corporate business writing that fits in with the topical news of the industry today. Her interests away from business writing include keeping her blog and columns up to date in the travel world.