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"You must be part Sherlock Holmes, part Sigmund Freud.”

by Lucinda Milton November 06, 2015

​Negotiation is a powerful tool to have in your armoury. History has been made through great negotiation, wars have been avoided and events have changed course, as the most successful negotiators of our time have weaved their magic.

With the rugby world cup title up for grabs recently focus and strength weren’t the only tools players had to rely on. The captains found themselves honing their skills in negotiation when faced with rash TMO decisions. When it comes to day-to-day negotiation in business, you may not possess the power to change the course of history or sadly, a rugby match, but your ability to negotiate can account directly for the success of your business.

What exactly is negotiation?

A lot can be learned from the 15th century origin which defines it as “the act of dealing with other people.” This may sound a bit obvious but it is all too often forgotten in the midst of negotiation. As any seasoned negotiator will tell you, negotiation has changed. Gone are the days it’s you vs. them and the tables have turned, if you focus solely on what you want you will undoubtedly fail.

The key to successful negotiation:

Listening & Understanding

  • Understand what it is they’re really interested in. You know their position, but you want to know their underlying interests. What is it they really need?

  • Ask questions and don’t talk too much, this way you can work out what’s beneath the water line of the iceberg. By getting to know them and getting into their heads you’ll be able to propose a deal in a way which is most appealing to their underlying needs and interests.

  • Seeking mutual benefit and maintaining a relationship throughout are key to a successful outcome.

“A negotiator should observe everything. You must be part Sherlock Holmes, part Sigmund Freud.” – Victor Kiam

The Relationship

  • Insinuate importance, recognition and value in your dealings with them.

  • Have more than one person in your team on board as a contact.

  •  Build trust and align their goals with yours.

Preparation & Legitimacy

  • The key to being a great negotiator is preparation. Run the numbers shop around so that you know what’s out there and have the data.

  • You want to suggest a relaxed approach by reeling numbers off the top off your head, when in actual fact you’ve been preparing for hours.  

“If I had eight hours to chop down a tree, I'd spend six sharpening my axe.” - Abraham Lincoln

Options & Alternatives

  • Know your options. Don’t get centred on one thing, identify other possibilities and think outside the box. 

  • Plan and consider all alternatives,

    demands are made and have them already up your sleeve. You can’t make a wise decision about whether to accept a negotiated agreement unless you know your alternatives; it pays off being one step ahead of the game.

  • Always have a BATNA - a “best alternative to a negotiated agreement.” Having a good BATNA increases your confidence, leverage and negotiating power.


  • Clear concise communication is always the best way forward. Don’t over complicate things - there’s no need.

  • Using simple, straight forward language (especially over email) eliminates confusion and drives action forward, enabling you to progress to the next step faster.

“In business, you don't get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate.” - Chester L Karrass

To negotiate well is an invaluable tool; it requires above all the ability to be creatively adaptable in the conditions of development, which you can achieve by being fully prepared. It requires cautious analysis of the situation and a skilled listener to interpret underlying issues. You may not have the power to change history or prevent wars but you can, in business at least, negotiate your way to success!


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