The core principles of good negotiation

Monday 24 August 2020
How do you negotiate well? David McLaughlin, ChMC assessment manager at CMI, shares some fundamentals of negotiation via his recent CMI webinar
Three people sat in negotiation meeting across a desk

There’s a common misconception that negotiation is somewhat of a battle: that one side always wins. In reality, it is about finding a mutually beneficial solution that both sides are happy with.

David McLaughlin CMgr FCMI, ChMC assessment manager for CMI, outlined what really matters in negotiation during the CMI webinar Balancing the Bargain. On the webinar, David outlined best practice – and not-so-best practice – around negotiations, and the sort of personality types you might come across when negotiating.

First and foremost, you need to ensure that you’re mentally prepared to undertake a negotiation – despite the desire for the outcome to be win-win, it can be a taxing process. “It can feel like a battle even though it's not meant to be a battle,” says David. “We can feel embarrassed and unsure about the process that we're going into.”

You should ask yourself some key questions before entering a negotiation, David explains. What are you trying to achieve? What are the costs and benefits of negotiating? It might turn out that the time and effort put into the negotiation isn’t worth the result you get out of it. “You need to consider these things as we go through the process,” says David. “Sometimes it's about saying you know what a negotiation needs to take place but I might not be the best person to do it.”

Keep your aims at the front of your mind throughout the negotiation process. Also consider if you’re the best placed person to run the negotiations – you may have a conflict of interest or are too close to the issue being negotiated over. It’s important to be ethical in your dealings when entering negotiations, says David.

“When we think about ethics, there are three things you need to think about: what is your gut saying about this? Are you getting something that isn't freely given from the other side? Are you beating them up to win the negotiation? Does it feel right?”

Types of negotiation

  • Distributive: A negotiation where there’s only one winner. This is less common now, and David advises against negotiations such as this.
  • Integrative: Most negotiations will fit under this category – the aim is for both sides to come away with what they want. The wider goal beneath this is to build a long-lasting relationship between both parties.
  • Deals: Aiming to get the best position possible for both parties when negotiating over a purchase.
  • Dispute resolution: As this is more focused on arbitration, it’s sometimes sensible to bring in a third party. The aim is still to get the best result for both parties.

The three ‘P’s of negotiation

  • Position – “Do you have a position of power or is the other person holding all the power?” says David. “What does that mean in terms of negotiation? If you are in a position of power think very carefully about how you use that power because you want to have a win-win at the end of it. If the other person has the power, how can you tap into that power? What is it that you've got that they need?”
  • Perspective – You have to come into negotiations with an empathetic position, says David. “Where is this person now? What are they trying to achieve? Is it better for somebody else to do the negotiations?”
  • Problems and solutions – “We need to understand the problem before we try to solve it or the solution won't actually meet the problem.”

Negotiation personality types

As we’re looking to enter negotiations in a position of empathy, it’s important to try to understand as much about the other party as you possibly can. David offers up some common personality types that you may come across in negotiations.

  • Feelers: Feelers are looking to build a relationship. They want everyone involved in the negotiation to feel at ease and want to avoid a battle at all costs. Because they’re so concerned about feelings, they sometimes miss the bigger picture. “They may not want to give you bad news so they may not at the time be able to say ‘no’. We need to bear that in mind and think about that when we're dealing with them.”
  • Sensors: Sensors are very decisive. They're results-oriented people who tend to keep their emotions to themselves. They're mission focused and they like to get things done. They do not want to feel like you’re wasting your time. “If you're dealing with a sensor, think about what you bring to the negotiation. Be very clear about what it is you're trying to achieve. If it's a problem-solving thing be very clear about the problem that you're trying to solve, the deal that you're looking for, before you get to the negotiation.”
  • Thinkers: Thinkers are very organised and logical. They won't rush to make a decision; they want to reflect on it. They can be overly cautious and can become very concerned about the risks involved in the negotiation. “You need to allow more time for working with thinkers. Look at the pros and cons that you bring, think about the options that you're giving them. Are they going to be comfortable with that? Is it logical, organised and clear? Clarity is very very important.”
  • Intuitors: Intuitors are highly enthusiastic and very creative. You will need to help them focus and stay on the agenda, or they will get sidetracked by their ideas. “Remember when you're dealing with intuitors, you need to build in that extra time in order to negotiate. If you shut them down too soon the negotiation is going to stall,” David says.

You can watch the webinar in full here. Why not check out our full series of webinars?

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