Talk to a major drinks buyer, be it for a big supermarket chain, restaurant group or pub chain, and ask them what the biggest bugbear they have about their suppliers and the chances are they will talk about the skills of some of the account managers they have to work with and, in particular, how good they are at getting the right deal and contract for their business. It might seem a strange thing to actually complain about, but for any partnership or contract to work then you need both sides to be working together for mutual benefit, according to business training expert, Nicole Soames. Here’s her top seven tips on how to improve your negotiating skills.
Nicole Soames, chief executive of Diadem Performance, and best-selling author of ‘The Negotiation Book’ and ‘The Influence Book,’ shares her expert advice on how to develop your negotiation skills so you can get the results you deserve.
Whether you are a wine company negotiating a new contract with a restaurant or a distributer agreeing terms with a drinks producer – the secret to negotiating like a pro is to draw on your emotional intelligence (EQ) – the ability to manage your own emotions and those of others – to help you find an overlapping position. The great news is that your EQ – unlike your IQ – isn’t fixed, it can be developed over time. So as an EQ practitioner with over 25 years commercial experience, here are seven steps to help you achieve a win-win negotiation:
1. Prepare for success
Preparation is absolutely key to negotiation success, so before every negotiation, make sure you write down a list of what you are hoping to achieve. Then, write down what you are prepared to offer in return – after all negotiation is about finding an overlapping position with the other party. As part of your preparation, anticipate any curve balls you think may come your way and plan how you will respond. This will help you manage and control the negotiation conversation during the meeting itself. Remember – in negotiation forewarned really is forearmed!
2. Adopt a winning mind-set
We’re often our worst enemy when it comes to negotiation – talking ourselves down before we even get to the negotiating table. So before every meeting, remind yourself what’s great about you, your company and your relationship with the other party. Boost your confidence by thinking back to a time when you successfully turned around a challenging situation. Then, visualise what success looks like – for example, signing your name on the new contract.
3. Set your sights high
Master negotiators understand that you need to be appropriately ambitious throughout the negotiation process if you want to secure the best possible outcome. So always start the negotiation ahead of your ideal as you are unlikely to get a “yes” to your opening offer. It’s important to prepare your highest, high and low offers before each negotiation – contrary to popular belief I don’t advise preparing a walkaway position as I believe your are more likely to end up there if you do. Instead think of your “low” offer as the bottom of your happy zone and your highest as the highest believable position. You will be amazed at the results.
4. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes
It’s crucial to remember that communication lies at the heart of every negotiation. You therefore need to draw on you empathy to understand what makes the other party tick. By putting yourself in their shoes and creating wins for the other side, you are far more likely to balance the playing field and find an overlapping position agreeable to both parties. Remember, people like doing a business with people they like – so your goal should be to build a relationship based on trust that leaves both parties feeling like winners.
5. Make a specific proposal
Use clear and confident language to deliver your ‘ask’ by stating the specifics. Avoid any “weak speak”, those vague and hackneyed phrases that undermine your negotiating position, such as “ideally I’m looking to get”or “let’s meet in the middle”. And remember, only 7% of communication comes from the actual words you say, 93% comes from body language and tone of voice, so it’s important to walk the talk and look confident and in control.
6. Recognise and respond to negotiating gameplay
By gameplay I mean the unfair use of tactics designed to weaken your negotiating position. Master negotiators respond rather than react to the use of gameplay by identifying the behaviour, naming it and moving the conversation on. For example, if you turn up to a negotiation to find six people sitting opposite you when you expected only two, have the confidence to say, “I didn’t get the party invitation?” This shows the other party you haven’t fallen for their gameplay and you expect to be treated as an equal.
7. Focus on the positives
You need to think creatively and be solution-orientated if you want to achieve a win-win outcome. By adopting a glass half full attitude, you are far more likely to bring different variables to the table and avoid what I describe as the 3 Ds of negotiation – deadlock, disagreement and disappointment. Remember to dial up your EQ and draw on your resilience to help you bounce back from any obstacles in your path. Instead focus on taking the learnings from any setbacks so you can move the conversation forwards and close the negotiation like a true professional.
Finally, it’s important to remember that mastering the art of negotiation doesn’t just happen overnight, it takes ambition, commitment and hard work. According to the 10,000 Hour Rule, it takes 10,000 hours of “deliberate practice” to become world class in any field, so take every opportunity to follow these seven steps to hone your negotiation skills in your daily life.
- You can come and hear Nicole Soames speak about how to develop your selling and negotiation skills as part of a special session in the Innovation Zone at the London Wine Fair on May 20 at 16.45 pm. She will be sharing her insights along with Anneli Thomson of Sandler Training, hosted by The Buyer’s Richard Siddle. See here for more details.
- The Buyer has teamed up with the publishers of Nicole Soames ‘The Negotiation Book’ and ‘The Influence Book’ to offer a 35% discount until June 20 2019 with the discount code: LWF35 via https://lidpublishing.com/shop// Her third book ‘The Coaching Book’ will be published in October. For more information go to www.diademperformance.com follow her on twitter @nicoleSAuthor, @diademperform or visit www.nicolesoamesbooks.com