Author: Natalie Reynolds, Founder & CEO, advantageSPRING

As the CEO of a global negotiation training company, I believe passionately that everyone can learn to be an amazing negotiator and that knowledge is power. In this blog I will share some of the most common mistakes made when negotiating. If any of these mistakes ring a bell with you, it might be time to re-think your existing negotiation strategies.

Mistake 1: Negotiation is all about winning

It isn’t. Not outwardly anyway. At the end of the negotiation you need the other party to feel like they have “won”. If they feel they have lost, the negotiation ends and they will be the client or customer who keeps asking for more, making late payments, not prioritising your requests or just being generally un-cooperative. Nobody likes to feel like a fool. So at the end of the negotiation, make sure you behave with grace and professionalism. Make them feel like they have won, even if you know that you have secured the deal of a lifetime.

Mistake 2: Avoiding negotiation is a clever strategy

Not many of us really enjoy negotiating, so let’s just cut to the chase and save time. We all know it’s just a game, right? Wrong.

A common mistake is to try and bypass the negotiation entirely, believing that both you and the other party will be grateful that they have avoided all that unnecessary awkwardness. The problem with this strategy is that despite the old saying – people do look a gift horse in the mouth. If something is too easy, people start to wonder why that was the case and what might be wrong with the deal they have just (so easily) agreed to.

Mistake 3: Always trying to be fair

Just to be clear, I am not suggesting that you should actively be seeking deals that are unfair to the other party. What I am suggesting is that you shouldn’t always assume that your definition of fairness matches theirs. I routinely hear people delivering proposals to the other side and then following up their suggestion with “I think that’s a fair proposal, don’t you?”

Each party approaches a negotiation with their own interpretation as to what makes an agreement fair. Put simply, what is fair to a buyer is probably not fair from the perspective of the seller, and vice versa.

Mistake 4: It’s not you, it’s me

When we approach a negotiation, we often spend most of our time thinking of all the reasons why the outcome is important to us. We get bogged down in thinking about deadlines, expectations, demands, targets, pressure from competitors, ambition or whatever it might be that matters to us. We allow this to cloud our thinking and in doing so we ramp up the pressure on ourselves to do well. This often results in anxiety, fear and nervousness clouding our judgement, planning and performance.

Smart negotiators realise that the best way to diffuse the pressure of our own expectations is to simply acknowledge these pressures and then put them to one side. The real set of pressures and priorities that we should be thinking about exist in the head of our counterparty. Even if they do come across as powerful and intimidating, they too will have deadlines, expectations from colleagues and demands from their boss.

The more you research your counterparty and understand things from their perspective, the more you can start to use their pressures to your advantage. It also goes a long way to boosting your own confidence if you know that the balance of power might just be a bit more even than you had previously thought.

Mistake 5: Never changing style

Running negotiation workshops around the world I have met a great many good cops, lots of bad cops, my fair share of collaborators and plenty of tough cookies. The problem is that they use that same style every single time they negotiate, regardless of the situation.

Not all negotiations are the same. Some require a more direct and unemotional response, whereas others require more creative thinking. Some will have one variable, others will have hundreds. If you adopt your standard collaborative’ approach in a hard-bargaining scenario, you will be taken advantage of. Similarly, if you approach a win/win negotiation with a tough and aggressive style, you are unlikely to get the result you want. To be the best negotiator you can be, get comfortable with flexing your style.

Mistake 6: Being scared of rejection

Nobody likes to be rejected. It is because of this that I routinely see people falling apart and losing focus as soon as they hear the word ‘No’ when they are negotiating. We have to learn to stop being afraid of the word ‘No’ and instead start to reframe our relationship with it. When my team and I work with delegates on our workshops we encourage them to start to see ‘No’ in a different light. Try seeing ‘No’ as an opportunity or a springboard to explore just what could be possible. View No as the starting point to building a solution that could lead to ‘Yes’.

I hope you found this blog insightful. For more hints, tips and advice about the world of work, visit our dedicated blog page here or click on one of the links below.