Would you like to negotiate like a pro? Read below to learn how to drive a negotiation process in the direction you wish. Let us know when one of our suggestions work for you. We love feedback!

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How to read the deal (part 1 of 3)

Body language, animation and verbal tone convey amazing information – if you know how to read them. This week we will focus on body language, and cover animation and verbal tone over the next two weeks.

Face to face negotiations, and video conferencing to some extent, provide a wealth of signals for taking the temperature of a deal. We all communicate emotions with our bodies – from the subtle raising of an eyebrow, to an expansive waving of our hands. Learning how to read “between the lines” will allow you to keep negotiations on an even course.

What to look for: top 3 tell tale clues

Engagement: how involved is the other party in the current moment? Are they passionate, detached or thoughtful? If you negotiate with a team of people, notice the level of engagement between the individuals. Are they functioning as a team – or does one of them look off to the distance, make faces or troll their phone for messages. Any disconnect may convey a disconnect in deal commitment.

Shifts: watch for a sudden change in body language. For example, if the potential buyer  moves from a relaxed posture and now begins crisply organizing papers – likely a decision has been made. Ask a checking question: “Does this make sense to you?” or “Do you have any questions?” “Are you ready to make a decision?” Checking questions should uncover the reason for the change.

Incongruence: anytime incongruence between actions and words crops up, be on high alert. As my mother always said: “Actions speak louder than words.” If your negotiating partner says they are fine with the point you just mentioned, but their fists clench by their side, try to uncover the reason for a clenched fists. Watch for posture and mannerisms that don’t quite match words.

Practice tip: Try this: watch a TV show without the sound and learn to read the storyline just through the actor’s body language. Try to guess when the action is about to change in the storyline based on shifts.

As they say: “observe and learn”

By observing others throughout the negotiating process, you will become attuned to the “second language” of deals. This will give you a decided advantage in successfully negotiating.


Find common ground and agree (part 2 of 3)

Common ground helps people agree on a path of action. Here’s why: by definition common ground means that everyone agrees on something. And, until agreement occurs on something, nothing gets done.

How to find common ground: 4 part formula

The best way to find common ground is to focus on the desired goal both parties want to achieve. This becomes the touchpoint for conversation moving forward. Any time emotions get heated, simply bring the conversation back to the desired goal. Do this by acknowledging the point of view, stating the goal, offering an alternative and repeating the goal.

For example: Let’s say your goal is to balance a budget. One side wants to cut costs. The other group wants to keep everything in place, and figure out how to grow business to cover it. Divisions occur and bog down. What to do? Acknowledge the concern, bring up common ground, suggest an alternative, repeat the common ground:

“I agree that growing revenue is a way to keep the programs in place. (acknowledgment) Since our goal is to balance the budget with the money we do have (common ground), can we agree to create a plan based on the present reality first , then take a look at how we can grow revenues to get where we need to be to keep all of the current programs? (alternative) This will allow us to balance the budget, which is what all of us want to do. (common ground)

Pay attention to body language. Body language sends signals for refocusing on common ground, and potentially can avert emotional outbursts.

Persistence and patience pays off

This may require repetition and some “cooling off” periods. Watch the news these days, and you will see a lot of people digging in and defending their turf with a “no holds barred” determination to get their view across. In strategy, this we refer to this attitude as “scorched landscape” approach. It does not foster agreement.

However, staying the course and seeking common ground wins the day more often than not. By re-stating the common goal, and keeping focused on the end result, negotiations can move forward.

How to negotiate with calm so you get the best deal (part 3 of 3)

Passion and emotion bring a lot to business and life – but not so much for negotiation. Emotion clouds judgement, and often contributes to hard realities of a less than optimal deal. How can you avoid this pitfall? One handy tool is an improv guide, act “as if”.

Act “as if”

This simple guide means getting your thoughts in a place to act “as if” your desired situation is reality. And, surprise, if often does become reality!

Here are 3 ways you can apply “act as if” in a fictional negotiation:

Let’s say you want the approval for a major leasehold improvement, and the property owner resists the changes you want. Rather than get into a state of frustration, which can stall or halt the negotiation, approach it in one of these ways:

Detach the role: act “as if” your role is a 3rd party negotiator for your client (you). This takes the emotion out of the agreement, since the role you have is as a 3rd party representative. It also makes it difficult to take anything personally, avoiding counterproductive emotions.

Assumptive close: those of you in sales know this one – simply assume the deal is closed the way you want, and guide the conversation “as if” the landlord has agreed. Focus on how happy the landlord will be, the benefits and security they will have when these improvements are in place. Diverting the focus from your emotions to the owner’s benefits keeps the conversation moving in a positive direction.

Choose an emotional state: act “as if” you are in a more desirable emotional state, and nothing can rattle that state. For example: if you feel frustration or indignation taking hold, simply take a deep breath, pause, and act as if you are confident and calm. Pretend until it becomes real. It helps to imagine and remember what confidence feels like, and replicate it. (We will have more on this in next week’s tip: “How to get confident”.)


Now you have the tools….

By reading body language, finding common ground and acting “as if” on a regular basis, your negotiations will continue to improve. Most people want to have a mutually beneficial agreement (if not, consider walking away), and good communication helps move the process along more quickly.