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The 5 Key Characteristics of Successful Negotiators

Have you ever wondered what it is that makes a world class negotiator?

What are the key characteristics that helped to determine the negotiation success of famous negotiators like Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi?

The results of research conducted by Business Negotiation Solutions Limited over the past 4 years reveal that world class negotiators must have the ability to deal with 5 areas central to negotiated success.

1. An appreciation & understanding of the ‘Big Picture’ as well as the ability to plumb the detail.

Probably the most critical characteristic of world class negotiators is their ability to understand what it is that all parties to the negotiation want. The ability to see past the ‘demands’ of your counterparties and really understanding why it is that they are negotiating with you is an essential element that will help you to understand what common ground exists between parties.

Equally important is to understand all the individual elements that will ensure the adoption and implementation of an agreement by all the parties. The key tool at your disposal to facilitate an understanding of both the big and the supporting detail is the effective use of questioning.

2. The ability to generate creative options.

What a lot of people would like to describe as business negotiation is often no more than one dimensional haggling about price. Our research suggests that more than 50% of negotiators struggle to create or uncover options outside of this one dimension. The ability to think creatively is not something that comes naturally to all of us but fortunately there are some tools that exist to assist us in generating creative options such as the Disney Creativity Model or De Bono’s Six Thinking Hats.

3. Treating others with dignity & respect at all times – occupying the ‘high moral ground’.

A common misconception is that in order to be a tough negotiator one has to be a rude negotiator. Both Mahatma Gandhi & Nelson Mandela are shining examples of how to occupy the moral high ground. One can be tough on the issues whilst treating the people involved with dignity at all times.

The rule of reciprocity states that we will return to others the form of behaviour exhibited towards us. It is folly to think that we can run roughshod over other without them resorting to means to reclaim their dignity. Remember that very often victims become aggressors.

4. Devoting time to structured preparation.

The success of your negotiations will depend in large part on the quality of your preparation. We often make the mistake of thinking that we don’t have enough time to spend on preparing for negotiations. Our research indicates that the primary contributor to eliminating misunderstandings & shortening the negotiation cycle – therefore saving you time – is the quality of your preparation.

You will most definitely benefit significantly from your upfront investment in preparation – try to spend at least as much time preparing for negotiations as you expect to be involved in actual negotiation – ideally spend as much as 3 times more time in preparation as you expect to be involved in actual negotiation.

5. Know and understand your own negotiation strengths & weaknesses.

Continuously develop your skills. Not unlike world class performers in professional sport, world class negotiators spend significant time analysing the way that they negotiate – particularly under pressure.

It is only once you have built an understanding of your own weaknesses & strengths that you can implement measures to improve your negotiated outcomes. World class negotiators never stop refining their skills because they realise that one can never reach perfection. The world within which we negotiate today can often seem much more complex than the largely monocultural and closed of yesteryear.

Times change and so do the key skills required to be a world class negotiator. If you are able to do nothing else but devote time to the above 5 key characteristics you will almost certainly improve the quality of your negotiated outcomes.

As Chester Karrass used to say,”in business you don’t get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate.”

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