We all need to negotiate from time to time, whether it is on price for something we’re buying or selling, or on the conditions of someone’s employment. And it is a tricky process to get right. Aiming for a win-win for all parties is the key At Holborn Assets we’ve seen a lot of negotiations over the years, some that have gone well, and some not so. So, we thought we’d share a few of the tips we’ve picked up on how to negotiate – and win.

Start with a handshake

Negotiation is about cooperation – a kind of dance between two parties that should result in something that benefits everyone. And the best way to begin this particular dance is with a handshake – a gesture that says: “I’m prepared to cooperate with you, and you’re going to be happy to do the same”. The science backs this up too – research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology says that a handshake at the beginning of negotiations encourages cooperation and actually makes a positive outcome more likely.

Show them how they will win too

Nobody goes into a negotiation to lose. So, why do so many negotiators go into the process expecting the other side to accept that as an outcome? Of course, there are degrees of losing, but one of the most important lessons to learn about negotiations is just that it always pays to help the other person to feel as if they’re gaining something too. To put it another way, the other party are much more likely to want to strike a deal with you if they feel they’re going to be in a better position than they were when they started. And this is about understanding that so much of negotiation is about showing the other person what you can do for them to improve their current situation.

So, how do you do get to this point? Listen to them. Understand their situation, get a sense of how you can improve it and then use that as your starting point.

Only give something away when you’re getting something in return

Giving things away makes you feel great, it’s true. But as a negotiating tactic it rarely works, unless the other party is giving something in return. This isn’t about getting the better of the other person, or extracting as much out of them as you can – but rather it’s about maintaining the balance of the relationship between the negotiating parties. If that relationship becomes lopsided, with one party beginning to feel that they have given away too much without a corresponding gesture from the other, it can lead to ill feeling that can colour the negotiations. Equally, giving things away can change the perception of the power relationship between the two sides, with one side potentially sensing weakness (real or otherwise) in the party who give away freebies. In our experience, it’s just not worth it.

Be optimistic, but be realistic

So much of negotiation is about the attitude you take into the process. Here at Holborn Assets we firmly believe that it always pays to enter any negotiations with your sights set high – aim to try and achieve even more than you think might be possible. But also never lose sight of what you’re trying to achieve: a winning outcome for all. Try to avoid getting too emotionally invested in a particular outcome – whether it’s a new recruit you’re trying to sign up or a smaller business you’re attempting to acquire.

Crucially, as a last resort, be prepared to walk away if you feel that the deal you’re heading towards is not good enough.