Much like many other human interactions, it all boils down to psychology – body language, tone of voice, and other communicative signals can all contribute to the way it plays out. Marry a good level of social awareness with strong business acumen, and you’re on track for a positive outcome.

The good news is, everyone can learn how to negotiate effectively – it’s all about doing the legwork in advance of the meeting and then knowing how to adapt your behaviour appropriately on the day. Here are a few things to consider for optimal success going forward.

Do your research

Turning up at a business meeting unprepared is unprofessional and could seriously hinder your chances at success. While there will be an element of improvisation that comes with any discussion, to gain the respect and attention of the other party, you should do your research and come equipped with your findings.

This doesn’t solely apply to the topic you are discussing, but also the person you are negotiating with. Spend time understanding what the company does, what their roles is and even a bit about their background. Once you’ve built a picture of who they are, it may shed some light on how you should approach the meeting – what will impress them and what’s likely to put them off.

Respond to their behaviour

The correct technique to adopt in a negotiation can vary depending on who you are meeting with as, what one person responds well to, may prove ineffective with another.

Denise Jeffrey

Denise Jeffrey
Negotiations and Communications Expert

Contrary to popular belief, negotiation is more about an individual’s behaviour than their personality. Somebody who is generally easy going may decide they’re going to play hardball to achieve their desired outcome, so you need to be reactive to their actions on the day.

Mimicking the other party’s behaviour can help you get on the same level as them and build a good rapport. If they’re being cooperative, be cooperative back; if they’re going into a lot of detail, try to offer the same in return, and so on. An exception to this is when they’re being overly dominant or aggressive. This is unprofessional, and you have the right to call them out on this sort of conduct.

You can read more of my advice about how to adapt your own behaviour according to another person’s in Hiscox’s guide to negotiations.

Listen to the other party’s point of view

The best negotiators are the ones that listen as effectively as they talk. By paying close attention to what the other person is saying, you’ll be better equipped to understand their perspective, and to respond to their offers in an informed and rational manner.

Really considering what they have to say will also help to nurture a positive relationship, gaining respect from them, which can be beneficial when it comes to striking a final arrangement.

Know when to close the deal

With each party fighting for their own desired outcome, it can be difficult to decipher when the negotiation is over.

If it’s apparent that you’re not going to get what you want out of the arrangement, sometimes the best thing to do is to walk away. While this isn’t the ideal situation, it’s better than settling on a less than satisfactory arrangement, and on occasion the threat of leaving could be what it takes for the other party to make concessions.

On the other hand, if you’ve struck an agreement that you’re happy with, try to wrap it up as quickly as possible, to avoid the other side renegotiating any terms. You can politely communicate your intent to close the negotiation by saying something along the lines of “to finish with…” or “to settle one final point…”. Once it’s settled, get the deal in writing as soon as possible. If it’s going to take a while to get signed off, write the details of the negotiation in an email, so there is a clear paper trail to refer back to in the meantime.

As mentioned above, anyone can learn how to become a good negotiator – it’s all about efficient planning and observing other people’s behaviour in order to respond in a way they will be receptive to. Hopefully, the above advice will provide you with a few key insights to go forward with when it comes to closing those all-important deals in the future. For more advice, you can read the full guide to negotiations by Hiscox.