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Five Mistakes To Avoid in Negotiation

It’s rare to come out of a negotiation situation with a feeling that everything has gone to plan. This is only natural, as negotiations are about finding compromise and seeking common ground rather than getting everything you want. But there are some common mistakes made by both seasoned and rookie negotiators that it would be wise to avoid.

1. Not doing your homework

As any schoolteacher knows, it’s very obvious when someone hasn’t done their homework. They can’t answer key questions, they stall for time, and even try to change the subject. Save yourself this trouble by setting aside adequate time to understand your position, research the other party, have a strategy including a Plan B, and walk into the negotiation confident in the knowledge that you’ve done your very best in terms of preparation.

2. Losing your temper

If you’re the type who easily loses their temper or gets frustrated with little provocation, perhaps procurement negotiation isn’t the best career for you. While some would argue that showing anger or aggression is a valid negotiation tactic, studies have shown that anger and confrontation is more likely to lead to stalled negotiations or other poor outcomes. If the discussion does become heated, call a break, and make sure the people on your team are not too personally or emotionally involved in the subject under discussion.

3. Giving in under pressure

Anyone who is familiar with radio or TV ads would be familiar with common pressure tactics such as “while stocks last!” or “offer expires this Friday!”. This is a very powerful technique used to make you feel under pressure to make a hasty decision. But once you learn to recognise a pressure tactic for what it is, it becomes easier to resist its influence.

4. Negotiating in bad faith

“Bad faith negotiation” means negotiating without any real intention of ever making a deal. Some businesses will use this as a way to milk the other party for as much information as possible. A related concept to this is “tyre-kicking”. Developing a reputation for untrustworthiness will lead to suppliers either refusing to do business with you or putting a premium price on their product or services to cushion themselves against the risk of working with you.

5. Not being flexible in negotiation

It’s important to have a plan, but also important to be willing to abandon or rapidly alter that plan when necessary. The best negotiators are prepared to the point where they’re able to rapidly adjust their strategy as the situation requires, while poor negotiators attempt to doggedly “stick to the plan” and find themselves losing ground or coming to a stalemate. Every negotiation is unique, and will require a unique strategy and approach.

In summary, these are the five key rules of negotiation:

  1. Do your preparation
  2. Keep calm
  3. Resist pressure
  4. Be ethical
  5. Be flexible.  
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