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By Kobe Eru Godwin
Every business on the surface of the earth is into sales. You are either selling a product or a service. Your ability to grow your business has a lot to do with your power of negotiation. However, aside from the business perspective, being able to negotiate is highly paramount to your personal success as well as the achievement of your goals. Unfortunately, as important as being able to negotiate is, many people lack what it takes to be truly proficient negotiators. The art of negotiating effectively is a challenging skill but like every other skill, it can be learned.Here are a few pointers to place you on the road to becoming an effective negotiator:  
  1. Know what you want: Whether on a personal basis or as a company representative, a good negotiator has a sound knowledge of what he/she wants. You should not be uncertain about it. Before going to the negotiation table, list out your expected outcomes and be firm about it. Know the goals that cannot be compromised and the ones on which you can shift ground. As an organization, let everyone on your side of the negotiation be aware of these goals. That way, you can avoid confusion before the opposing side.
  2. Be prepared: A good negotiator can only be effective when he/she is prepared. Ensure that you do your assignment, research and background checks so that you are not left groping in the dark. It is important to have all your ducks in a row by putting together all accessible information related to the negotiation and making sure they are handy as the need arises. To be unprepared for a negotiation is to be prepared to lose.
  3. Be a good listener and a keen observer: Effective negotiation skills require that you put your ear to the ground. The more information you are able to glean, the better you’ll be at uncovering the other party’s needs and using them to your advantage. Watch out for unspoken cues like facial expressions and behavioural tendencies. Learn to pry out information from your counterparts so that you can be in a better position to develop your proposals or evaluate theirs. Your level of observation can go a long way in helping you detect whether you are dealing with the right kind of people or not.
  4. Keep your emotions in check: During a negotiation, things could sometimes get heated. A smart negotiator never takes what’s said as a personal affront and has the skill to separate the issues from the emotions. If conflict arises, you can compromise, compete, avoid, accommodate or collaborate but always maintain your perspective and be focused on your objectives. Remember, it is really not about you or your counterpart; it’s about the reason you are negotiating.
  5. Be flexible in your negotiations: An effective negotiator is not hell-bent on having things go his way. You should always make room for compromise. Take time to consider offers and be willing to give up things that don’t really matter to you in order to create a feeling of goodwill. Do all you can, when you can, to come up with a win-win strategy. This way, the interests of both parties are explored and the best solution for both can be obtained. At the end of the day, everybody is happy.
  6. Look out for possible allies: Even the best negotiators in the world don’t always find themselves operating from a position of strength. At the initial stages of negotiation, it might seem like you don’t have enough to work with and you might need to find ways to skilfully enhance your position at the table. Situations like this often occur in multi-party negotiations either within an organization or with multiple external negotiating parties. This is when an ally can come in handy. Those skilled in effective negotiation techniques know that there is strength in numbers, and they search out allies to form alliances that will increase their negotiating power.
  7. Maintain your reputation: Do not sacrifice your reputation on the altar of negotiation. Never resort to using underhanded techniques during a negotiation. Remember, you only have one chance to create a first impression. Make it count. If you create a negative perception where you appear sneaky and disreputable, this character trait will follow you around like a bad smell and will likely haunt you down the road in future negotiations. Negotiations should be built on trust and integrity.
Skilful negotiating requires tact, restraint, discipline and an imaginative, strategic mind. These qualities and traits take time to develop, but doing so can help you negotiate your way to achieving both your life’s and your company’s goals.

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This article was first published on 21st January 2013 and updated on January 23rd, 2013 at 12:29 pm

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