What's Your Negotiation Style?

I recently participated in a program to become a Certified Negotiation Expert, and it was fascinating. Going into the class I felt like my skill level in this area was already on point as I negotiate regularly as a part of my business, but I came out armed with additional tools to help serve my clients well. I learned what a BATNA is (Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement), about anchor setting, “the nibble”, the SAM Model, the SUCCESS Model, the ACCE Model and more. I also learned about three negotiation styles, and I want to detail those for you today.

Why? Because negotiating can be intimidating and anxiety producing, especially if you are new at it. And, we all negotiate - with our clients, customers or suppliers, with our colleagues or teammates, with our significant others and with our kids. Negotiations, both big and small, happen every day. So - if you are going to negotiate, why not do it to the best of your ability, and in a way that feels authentic to you?

Style #1: The Competitive Negotiator

A competitive negotiator sees a negotiation as a win/lose scenario, where they want to beat out the other side and end up on top. They can be abrasive with their tactics, using intimidation to overpower their “competitor”. and may or may not have sound logic to back up their arguments. They tend to hide information and are open to using any techniques that will influence the other side. If up against a compliant negotiator (the next style) it is highly likely their tactics will work, but the outcome isn’t as clear if they are dealing with another competitive or a collaborative negotiator.

Style #2: The Compliant Negotiator

The compliant negotiator is the opposite of a competitive negotiator - they are more interested in getting to an agreement than to serving their or their client’s best interests. They are concerned about being liked or accepted, and don’t want to rock the boat or start an argument. They are likely to give up any position of power in order to get a deal done, and are too eager to trust information the other side is providing. Their need is to satisfy the other party more than satisfy their own needs, and can often be taken advantage of, especially when they are up against a competitive negotiator.

Style #3: The Collaborative Negotiator

The collaborative negotiator is interested in a win -win situation, where both parties walk away feeling like they gained something of value from the negotiations. They are interested in finding out the interests of the other side, and presenting an offer that is compelling to them. They ask a lot of questions up front before deciding how to structure their negotiations, and are attuned to the emotions of everyone involved in the transaction - their aspirations, fears, anxiety and hesitations. They have the mentality that there is more than enough to go around, and that there is an outcome that is a good fit for all.

As these three types were described in class, I could clearly visualize experiences I have had with each one. I have had competitive negotiators shout at me, hang up the phone or be wildly rude in an effort to get me to concede, only to come quietly back when their tactics didn’t work. I have also dealt with collaborative negotiators who were absolutely wonderful to work with - pleasant yet firm at times, openly engaging in conversation and clearly working towards an outcome that worked for everyone.

Which style are you? Have you ever thought about it? Do you think that to negotiate means you have to stand your ground no matter what, or do you have the ability to change your offer terms to better suit a particular scenario. Do you have a “fixed pie” mentality, that there is only so much to go around? Or do you think there are ways to create a bigger pie so everyone walks away happy (or if not happy, at least satisfied?).

If you would like to become a collaborative negotiator, here are a few tips.

Tip #1: Ask Questions.

The best way to find out what someone values is to ask. Never make assumptions. Schedule a call or a meeting before entering into any negotiation or before presenting any offer, to obtain information, build a relationship and build trust with the other side. Using real estate as an example, I would ask a seller or their agent questions like: Why is the seller contemplating a move right now? Do they already have a new home lined up? Have they received any offers? How long do you think they are willing to wait to sell? And I let the other party talk (for as long as they want!). When someone gets to share what is important to them, and you listen with genuine interest, it fosters a positive environment and builds the foundation for a good win/win scenario. You can use what you learn to build your strategy and/or your offer to best suit their needs while also getting what you want.

Tip #2: Take the Time to Brainstorm and Put Your Strategy Together.

Take the time to think about what you have learned that can aid the offer you want to present. Highlight in your offer what might be of value to them, besides the price or main terms. Using the example and questions above, perhaps you learn a quick closing is important. Can you offer them that? Or, is the buyer very, very qualified so there is little chance the deal falls apart? The price obviously matters, but what else can you offer or highlight that would be compelling for them to strongly consider?

Tip #3: Practice, Especially If You Think You May Be a Compliant Negotiator.

As I mentioned, negotiations happen every single day - both big, and small. If you tend to be complaint, you likely find yourself saying yes to things you would rather say no to. You may find yourself giving up too much and later regretting it. If someone asks you to dinner and offers Thai but you would prefer Italian, say so and present your counter offer! Negotiation skills are like any other skills - they get stronger over time.

Tip #4: Stay Calm, and Be Patient.

Negotiations of any kind break down when emotions run high or the room becomes tense. And, if you become anxious or stressed you cannot think clearly enough to make good decisions regarding next steps. It is much more pleasant and productive to help cultivate a calm and amicable environment, ripe for open communication and a respectful back and forth. Always be the calm, for both yourself and the other side - it can be hard at times, but is so worth it.

Tip #5: Know When to Walk Away.

If you are willing to do anything to get a deal done you are not in a position of power. And, you need to be in a position of power in order to get what you want. Know what your back up plan is if the deal doesn’t happen, and be actively searching for other options even while negotiations are taking place. Having other paths available feels good, and gives you the confidence that life will go on, whether or not you can reach a negotiated agreement.

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