Effective negotiation skills for contractors

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When being a contractor, the ability to negotiate will have a significant impact on your own success or the success of your business, particularly when it comes to sales, advertising, buying, and preserving relationships so it really is a worthwhile skill to learn.

Short-term success can be achieved by ‘negotiating to win’ but this can lead to long-term resentment and create negative attitudes toward you and your business. The most effective form of negotiation is joint negotiation. This is a win-win situation where both parties get what they want by reaching a mutually satisfactory agreement. In the long term, this is the most effective form of negotiation.

Achieving successful joint negotiation

You can achieve long-term gains by negotiating jointly but it involves honesty and integrity from both parties in order to establish mutual trust. You will likely have to compromise and consider the interests of the other party as well as your own. Maintaining an assertive attitude is important to ensure you are not taken advantage of, but you must also be understanding toward the needs of the other party and consider the situation from their perspective. In order to achieve the most successful negotiations, you should consider employing the following skills:

Analyse – Before you can effectively negotiate, you should carry out a problem analysis to identify the issue and determine the interests and desired goal of each party concerned.

Prepare – This will be determined by the initial analysis. Once you know what you want to achieve you can plan for the negotiation. What areas are you prepared to compromise? Is there any aspect of your goal that is non-negotiable? Do you and the other party share any common goals or areas of interest? Can anything be learned from past negotiations?

Listen – Skilled negotiators will spend more time listening and less time talking. The more you talk, the more you give away. Be aware of body language as well as verbal communication. Find out what the other party wants to get out of the negotiation before revealing anything. Ask open-ended questions and tailor your position around what the other party reveals.

Communicate – Whether this is verbal or physical, be aware of how and what you are communicating. Do it clearly and effectively – do not be ambiguous or vague, as this will only cause confusion and misunderstanding. Be assertive but not aggressive. Be understanding but not passive or weak. Make it clear to the other party what it is you want and justify your desired outcome.

Attitude – Show patience and understanding. Maintain a diplomatic, positive attitude to ensure an amicable exchange. By showing yourself as a calm, reasonable negotiator you are more likely to achieve a positive response from the other party and reach a mutually favourable result. Do not let your emotions take control of the situation – it is more difficult to stay in control and achieve desired results if you let your emotions get the better of you. Ultimately, it will break down communication, make you appear weaker to the other party and lead to unfavourable results.

Be decisive – Do not be wishy-washy and fickle. If you have analysed, prepared and listened, you should be able to make a decision during a negotiation. You may have to compromise in some way, or you may achieve your goal but whatever the situation is, make your mind up quickly. This shows confidence and assertiveness.

Keep your word – If you agree to do something, stick to your promise. You will create trust and reliability by following through on your word. How you choose to act after the negotiation could affect any future negotiations, either positively or negatively.

By employing these skills in any negotiation you may be required to enter into, you will stand a much better chance of settling differences through compromise or agreement whilst avoiding arguments and contentious situations. You may not achieve the exact result you want, but the principles of fairness often require negotiation in order to reach a mutually beneficial outcome and maintain positive relations. In the long run, this will lead to greater success in any business ventures you undertake.