5 Attributes of Top Negotiators

The good news is that we are born negotiators. The bad news is that, mostly due to cultural conditioning (as outlined in a previous article), we lost our negotiation abilities. However, negotiation skills can be (re-)learned by anyone. I am often asked what makes a top negotiator, so here are their top 5 attributes and how you can recognise them:

  1. 1. They know that life is one big negotiation

Even though we are not directly involved in the world peace process, we negotiate every day and top negotiators know that very well.

It all begins with this awareness, because in order to activate the strategical thinking part of our brain, we first need to recognise when we find ourselves in such a situation. How can you start using your negotiation tools if you are not aware that you are in a negotiation?

Negotiation opportunities are everywhere, not only at the time of negotiating contracts with your stakeholders. Try it next time you buy furniture, clothing or electronic items. Just because an item has a price tag, it doesn’t mean that its price is fixed. If the price cannot be changed, perhaps there is something else you might be able to be offered, such as free delivery, longer payment terms or any other kind of bonus. You will be surprised how much money you will be able to save.

  1. They understand the negotiation process

Like any other process, the negotiation process has its steps. Knowing and understanding these steps and at which stage they are at any given time makes them confident negotiators.

Just as you cannot eat the bread before you bake it, the same way you cannot close the negotiation before you go through these steps.

  1. They are comfortable negotiating

John F. Kennedy once said: “Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.”

When you are thinking of an upcoming negotiation, how do you feel about it? Are you calm, excited or nervous, anxious?

Whichever way you feel, it is caused by your beliefs about negotiation as such, which has mostly a cultural background. In the western world negotiation has a negative connotation, whereas in Asian cultures it is expected that people negotiate over everything. In some countries, such as the Middle East, it is a must that the parties involved sit down and drink tea or coffee together while negotiating, no matter how small the negotiated matter is. They take the negotiation steps very seriously and nothing is skipped.

Top negotiators do exactly the same, and because their beliefs about negotiations are positive and empowering, they get top results every time.

  1. They work towards a win-win outcome

Without doubt, there are people out there who do not work towards a win-win outcome. Their mentality is win-lose or even lose-lose, in other words if they can’t win, they will make sure you won’t either. You might recall situations where you felt ripped off for one reason or another. Even if the other party won that negotiation, they probably didn’t win your business, nor a good reputation. Ultimately this attitude translates to an actual loss for them in the long run.

For this reason, top negotiators always work towards a win-win outcome, because it will be translated into long term success through repeat business and great relationships with stakeholders. In other words, not only they make sure they win, but they will also make sure the other party wins as well, so everybody feels good about the long-term business relationship.

  1. They don’t take it personally

When emotions take over, our strategical thinking becomes clouded. Skilled negotiators see negotiations as a game, such as chess or monopoly, removed from emotional engagement. Therefore they are able to maintain their calm state and to notice all details and opportunities, which otherwise would be clouded by emotions.

Here is my challenge for you: Start negotiating by implementing the tools I have shared in this 3 part article series on negotiation and make notes of the improvements you made. Please share them, and I would love to hear from you.

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