Here is the big question: What strategies can we adopt if there is no budget for training available and we still want to get better at negotiating?
Today, May 5th 2020, I ended up in a traffic jam in Prague and felt happy about that. Why, you think? I thought it was the proof world – business in Czech republic at least – is coming back to normal. But then, the longer I was sitting in the car, window rolled down, fingers fidgeting, the less I thought the world will look the same for my clients.
Here is why: training budgets are typically the first to disappear when tough times are ahead. And that has been my experience over the last couple of weeks. So here comes the question again: what self-help strategies can we adopt if there is no budget for training available and we still want to get better at negotiating?This blog series is the answer and I hope you’ll have fun both reading and practicing.
Negotiation Books Won’t Do.
First thing to realize is that your negotiation skills won’t improve by reading a book alone. Or watching a YouTube video. Not to say reading negotiation books is useless, but it’s important to note that negotiation is a behavioral skill set. And a learnable one. And as such, it requires practice. And lots of it.
In fact, negotiating is like figure skating. You might read books about it, watch famous figure skaters do it, but unless you feel the ice skates on your feet, you don´t really know what it´s all about. Neither can you appreciate the skill of the masters to the fullest. If you´re freaked-out already, hold on.
Here is a number one tip to make negotiation less stressful:
Tip No. 1: Pick safe face to face situations.
What do I mean by safe? Here are two examples of mine:
Negotiating a discount in a clothes shop.
“Oh no, sir. We´re not that kind of shop.” I once entered a clothes shop in Oxford, picked a few pieces and asked about a discount for buying several items. The poker face of the shop assistant did feel awkward. Luckily, I´d been chatting with her previously and I’d already built enough rapport and she knew I was taking a negotiation course in the town.
Negotiating extras at a hotel.
The other day, I asked if my hotel had any loyalty program for regular visitors and if I could get a bottle of wine on the house. To my surprise, I learned that I’ve had a loyalty card waiting for me. It offered discounts in the hotel chain across Europe (we took a wonderful weekend in Paris) plus a free welcome glass of wine every time I stayed with them. Nice surprise, wasn’t it?
Well, as you can see, new skills are a little uncomfortable and you won´t succeed every time. Which leads some people to practice their negotiation skills when e-mailing or chatting with other people.
But here is my recommendation: avoid practicing negotiation skills online. It’s riskier.
I admit, it is good for having the whole history of the exchange – just scrolling the screen will do. You can analyze what you wrote and what impact it had. But again, the other person might be chatting with you from a phone in a busy traffic. Or the phone might be passed to various people just for fun.
One more important thing to consider is this: we sometimes choose online as an avoiding strategy. It gives us a false feeling of safety and indeed, it’s not the same as actually negotiating face to face with someone. All it is is withdrawing from what might feel scary at first. And few people need that sort of practice.
Practice negotiating while travelling (across your country, too).
Remember negotiation feels uncomfortable? That´s why you might pick situations where your negotiation partners don´t know you or won´t meet you every day, but you still talk with them face to face. So next time you’re in a new town, on a business trip or vacation, think this: hotels, restaurants or car rentals are perfect places for testing out your newly acquired techniques and attitudes.
Don’t wait for the big moment.
With importance, stress goes up. And if you haven’t practiced the uneasiness of negotiating, you’re likely to make many dear mistakes. Like saying too much. Or not being able to withstand the silence. Or committing before actually negotiating the deal. Simply, don´t wait to practice on the most important deal. You know, the kind we typically do once or twice in a lifetime. Buying your dream house is not the best place to start jazzing-up your skills. Quite the opposite: it’s the moment to utilize all you’ve learned in the series of small exercises!
So there you have it. You can improve your negotiation skills without a training budget or a professional trainer. What it takes is a learning attitude (there is no failure, only learning), regular practice and the low-risk to medium-risk situations. It might take a little longer, you might repeat a few mistakes her and there, but definitely, when the economy starts rolling again, you’ll be farther ahead.
Ready for the next step? Check the Part 2 of this series.