Negotiation skills are often overlooked by individuals who decide they need to develop and improve their professional skills in order to advance in their careers—and that’s a serious mistake. Negotiation training and practice can have a serious positive impact on your career.

While you might think negotiation strategies and ability are only important for corporate lawyers, many roles and positions require you to manage negotiations, regardless of your industry.

Entrepreneurs negotiate with potential investors and lenders. Homebuyers bargain prices on their dream house before buying. Corporate leaders work out deals with union representatives and potential partners. Project managers haggle rates with independent contractors. Human resources representatives must work out salary and benefits with potential hires.

And you practice negotiation in your own life when you get your kids to behave or when you negotiate for a raise at work. Negotiation can play an important role in both your personal and professional life.

The secret to walking out of a negotiation with the best possible deal is to walk into it with a negotiation strategy you’re confident in. Below are some tips that can help guide you through the process of developing a negotiation strategy that will work for you, no matter the situation.

An Example of Negotiation Skills in Action

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Imagine: You arrive to work ready for the worst situation possible, and, again, your expectations are exceeded. Your workers come to you with a complaint: Work will not be done under these unbearable conditions—standards must be raised.

Meanwhile, your bottom line is not being met. You set a meeting with your manager to talk about possible solutions, but there’s pressure from the top to raise sales and drive profits. You’re stuck between a rock and a hard place.

It's up to you to find middle ground in the midst of these turbulent waters and negotiations are about to begin. What is your strategy to ensure an equitable deal is reached?

How to Develop a Negotiation Strategy That Will Work For You

How to Develop a Negotiation Strategy

Stress and pressure are known to have strong and lasting effects on people in business. From union workers to corporate executives, these tensions can inspire hard work, but they can also raise internal conflicts between people within the same organization. Being able to implement proper techniques for handling stress in light of difficult situations can lead to higher performance and, ultimately, increase the likelihood of success.

How you would coach someone to prepare for a difficult meeting with their supervisor? With their staff? With their peer?

Consider these four steps to assist in developing a productive strategy for handling difficult conversations.

1. Define Your Role and Your Goal


It‘s important to fully understand your objective in order to craft an appropriate negotiation strategy. Is there a situation at work that is preventing you from excelling to your fullest potential? Are you trying to secure a promotion? What are your priorities, and what are you willing to compromise on?

2. Understand Your Value


What unique skills do you add to the team? How would the company function in light of your absence? And what would it cost the company in time, money, and energy to replace you? Avoid thinking of these factors in a threatening light with a potential downfall to the company. Instead, consider your contributions in a positive manner: If you’re already doing so much, imagine how much further you could reach with additional resources, or minimized setbacks.

3. Understand Your Counterpart’s Vantage Point


Who are you negotiating with and where are they coming from? It’s important to recognize and appreciate their point of view. Does your counterpart fully understand the importance of the job that you perform? How can you assist them in understanding the true value of your contributions? You should also be sure to note any other unspoken factors which could affect the dynamics of the negotiations.

4. Check in with Yourself


Stress and anxiety, like any emotions, may affect your ability to calmly and rationally advocate for your position. Before commencing any negotiation, try to calm down and channel those stresses into energy to inspire your passion for success.

Negotiation Mastery - Earn your seat at the negotiation table. Learn more.

Negotiation success can depend on many factors, but through proper preparation and a focus on gaining the trust of your counterpart, you can open the door to value creation before the negotiation has even begun.

To further unpack how self-awareness and emotional intelligence are leading factors in negotiation, and to master these skills through practice, collaboration, and reflection, learn more about our eight-week online course Negotiation Mastery.

This post was updated on October 2, 2019. It was originally published on October 24, 2017.

Alexandra Spiliakos

About the Author

Alexandra is a former member of the Harvard Business School Online Course Delivery Team who worked on the Sustainable Business Strategy, Economics for Managers, Disruptive Strategy, and Negotiation Mastery courses.