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4 Tips for an Effective Negotiation and the "5-Step Negotiating Approach"

4 Tips for an Effective Negotiation and the “5-Step Negotiating Approach”

By Susan Croft
September 6, 2022

Some people think master negotiators are born with that special gift, and it’s part of their DNA. It is certainly true that you can watch children in a playgroup negotiate for a special toy more successfully than others. In fact, babies learn to negotiate with their parents very early in life. However, negotiation skills can be learnt with practice, and I’d like to share with you 4 tips for an effective negotiation.

The first two tips are part of your preparation – and I can’t emphasize how important preparation is in any negotiation. To enter a negotiating engagement without thorough prep exposes you to too much risk and too many surprises.

Firstly, you must determine what you want from the negotiation and what you would consider an ideal outcome. Be bold here. If it’s a salary increase, think the greatest percentage they could possibly give. Next, you must determine what would be acceptable given the market and economic conditions in your company. This is the figure that you would be okay with and is hopefully not too far off your ideal outcome. Then, you must determine what would make you walk away from the negotiation. In doing this, you must explore all your options. A walk-away position might mean leaving your job, so it’s important to know how long it might take you to find another one. Michael Donaldson, in his excellent book, “Fearless Negotiating,” calls this approach the WISH, WANT, WALK.

Secondly, you need to identify trade-offs, particularly if you are accepting less than you had hoped for. These might be a new laptop, mobile phone, extra holiday time, flexible working hours, new equipment, larger office, etc. These may well be within the gift of your company and relatively easy for them to provide and will help take the sting out of not achieving your wish or want position.

Thirdly, you must identify your own USPs, a term frequently used in selling but equally applicable to you personally. USP is Unique Selling Point. Your USPs represent the value you bring to your organization in terms of expertise, experience, special skills, knowledge, and strengths. You must be prepared to bring these to the table, especially when negotiating for a major promotion or salary increase.

Finally, you must be very focused in your communication. Speak with brevity and impact and remember to mirror your language with tone of voice and positive body language. This means you enter the negotiation with confidence – back straight, head up, good eye contact, smile and strong handshake. Listen carefully, take notes if you wish, and when you speak, be clear and assured in your message.

This is the first of a series of blogs I’ll be posting on negotiation. In this piece, I’m focusing on a very effective approach to negotiation which I call, “5-Step Negotiating”. Let me take you through the steps; and do let me know if you find these guidelines helpful.

1) Preparation

This is probably the most important step and often the one most frequently overlooked. For any negotiation, particularly those that will have an impact on your job and career, you must make sure you think through what you want from the negotiation and at what point you would walk away.

In his excellent book, “Fearless Negotiating”, Michael Donaldson calls this your Wish, Want, Walk.

Wish, being ideal outcome; Want, representing what is the likely outcome looking at market forces and one you would be prepared to accept; and Walk, the point at which you would walk away from the negotiating table.

2) Opening the Negotiation

Never underestimate the importance of positive body language, building rapport with the other party and starting the negotiating engagement with a positive attitude and empathy for the other side. This is particularly important when negotiating for a job and all its benefits. The more empathetic and positive you are, the more likely you are to get what you want. Remember people buy people.

3) Exploring Options

This is the discussion stage in which you explore possibilities, try to discover what the other party values, and firmly put forward your own wish list. It’s also the time to closely observe body language and to listen more than you speak. The more you listen, the more you can learn about the other party and the more empathetic to the negotiation and the other party’s needs you will seem.

4) Bargaining, Trading and Agreement

This is probably the stage a good many people find the most difficult, and it does indeed require a good dose of confidence and a direct, assertive attitude. In this fourth stage, you will come to final agreement on all negotiating points, and you should also be prepared to compromise on points that are highly valued by the other party, and which are easy for you to give away. It is also the stage at which you might need to leave the negotiation, but this should always be as a last resort when all other avenues have been explored.

5) Closing the Negotiation

This is the equivalent of asking for the business and is a very necessary step. It requires someone to summarise what has been agreed (preferably you) and move to the contract, terms of engagement, next steps or whatever else will conclude the negotiation. It’s probably a good idea to follow up in writing especially if there are to be a number of actions pursuant to the final agreement.

Consultant and Trainer, International Institute for Learning

Susan is a global sales, business development and leadership trainer with IIL. She is a qualified coach and has worked with hundreds of people going through life changes and challenging situations. She has earned her PMP accreditation and is an accredited PMI instructor and experienced virtual trainer.

She has written three books including, “Win New Business” (2012), which focuses on the sales process, and managing customer relationships.

Susan holds a BA Honors degree from University College London and a postgraduate diploma in executive coaching from Bristol Business School.

She is an Accredited Member of the Public Relations Society of America, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and holds a diploma in Journalism from the UK’s National Council for the Training of Journalists.

Susan has dual US/UK nationality.

Disclaimer: The ideas, views, and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of International Institute for Learning or any entities they represent.

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