Classic mistakes in negotiation

Everyone negotiates. Negotiation is not just a skill for diplomats; it’s for everyday life, both at work and in relationships. So what happens when negotiation skill is absent? Here are some of the classic mistakes:

#1. Saying Yes too quickly. Being too eager is a classic pitfall. Whether this eagerness is born of enthusiasm, anxiety or need, eagerness does not enhance your credibility. On the contrary, it weakens your position. While it’s good to be friendly, it’s counter-productive to be too eager.

#2. Offering to do everything. In order to impress, many people strive to exceed expectations. To maintain credibility, however, it’s best to balance this by equal emphasis on what the other person needs to contribute for the project to be successful. Paradoxically, this enhances the value that you bring.

#3. Quoting numbers too soon, for example, your salary expectations. Why should you be obliged to name your expectations first? They know the value of the role; they know what they pay to others. There’s a golden rule in negotiation: He who names a figure first loses. (Many of my coaching clients have gained thousands by learning how to stick to this maxim.)

#4. Going straight into “solution mode” without exploring the problem fully. Like no. 2 above, this often stems from a desire to impress. But it bypasses two key steps in the negotiation process, depriving the provider of vital “ammunition” to establish value. (See “A structured approach to negotiation” below.)

#5. Not understanding the Why: i.e. the key drivers and the agenda of the other person. Even experienced negotiators fall into the trap of discussing the What: e.g. what needs to be done, what you want from me, what is the desired result etc. But it’s even more important to understand the Why, because this where their threats and opportunities lie. This is the vital context that drives the value of what you are doing.

A structured approach to negotiation

It’s increasingly likely that those who are buying your services have received training in negotiation skills. Have you? Are you ready to deal with them?

Many purchasers are trained in a technique called BATNA: (“Best alternative to a negotiated agreement”). Briefly, this means they will be letting you know they have alternatives – whether they have or not – in order to strengthen their position and weaken yours. Do you know how to counter that tactic?

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