Developing Negotiation Skills

There is much to be gained from being a member of a Peer to Peer group, where you regularly meet with peers and share a wealth of knowledge, skills and opinions. One of the benefits is access to regular expert speakers, who can really give you a boost in their specialist areas. In Bubble Chamber’s most recent monthly meet-up of social enterprise CEOs, we were treated to a workshop with Damian Culhane, an experienced coach who is an expert in negotiation, among other business skills.

Who running a social enterprise doesn’t have to negotiate on an almost daily basis, and who couldn’t do with fresh ideas and knowledge on how to do it better? If you’ve ever ended up with a deal that wasn’t what you’d hoped for, either in work or personal life, you can hopefully gain something from what we learned during the day.

The main takeaways were:

– the need for full preparation for any negotiation
– going in with the right attitude
– having and articulating a clear rationale for the benefits you are presenting
– the importance of a Win/Win scenario
– the need to use your values and develop long-term relationships

Preparation is about both knowing who you are dealing with and what their needs are likely to be and being absolutely clear on what you want from the situation yourself. Clarity is what we are all about at Bubble Chamber, so this immediately rang true. Damian described a number of techniques you can use to ensure you have considered all angles. It’s key to be absolutely clear on what your opening gambit is and what your fallback position should be (the point at which it no longer works for you and where you have to be prepared to walk away).

And then it’s important to have trade-offs up your sleeve (so, if for instance you can’t get those on the other side of the table to accept the price you want, you can do a deal on other areas – timing, quantity etc). An example would be, if you can’t quite get your optimum price, you can give way a bit on that but increase the quantity they order. Having solid reasons for why you’re asking what you are is part of the prep.

Attitude takes us into a whole other, and potentially more interesting, area as it’s fundamentally about psychology, both yours and that of those you’re negotiating with. A basic model that Damian communicated was that you need to have a clear focus on what you want – go in with an end result in mind and don’t allow your underlying assumptions and beliefs to scupper you.

We all have thoughts and feelings about ourselves that can be either fruitful or disastrous. No matter how successful we are, we can harbour hidden beliefs, such as the feeling that really we’re not that good. If we allow these unconscious assumptions to dominate (which they will if we are not aware of them), they will dictate the outcome. If you go in to a negotiation believing, even deep down, that you’re not actually that good at negotiating, the result will be inevitable.

It’s important not to deny those feelings – rather we should be fully aware of what drives us personally – but we must focus completely on the end result we want or they will take over.

Win/Win, making decisions based on your values and putting long-term relationships over short-term gains are all key messages we promote at Bubble Chamber and are also key to effective negotiating. Get an introduction to our Core Habits of Enterprise in this video from our learning curriculum.

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