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Negotiate Your Way to the Top

Apr 10, 2012

From outgoing people-pleasers to critical-thinking introverts, different personalities have their own ways of making a deal. Here's how to use your qualities to achieve a successful negotiation, no matter who you are.

Negotiation opportunities are everywhere in business. Sales contracts, the purchasing process and salary agreements are just some examples of deals that warrant a negotiation, and a successful outcome can lead to long-term benefits.

For example, research reveals that good negotiation skills pay off for years. Researchers at the George Mason University (GMU) and Temple University found that effective salary negotiators were able to increase their starting income by an average of $5,000. "Assuming an average annual pay increase of 5 percent, an employee whose starting annual salary was $55,000 rather than $50,000 would earn more than an additional $600,000 over the course of a 40-year career," according to GMU.

Other than financial rewards, a successful negotiation can establish a good working relationship. To secure benefits, negotiation workshops, forums and consulting companies offer solutions for professionals to hone their negotiation skills, and experts offer a few universal strategies.

What are Negotiator Stereotypes?

Negotiation expert Ed Brodow explains in his book Negotiation Boot Camp that there are various false assumptions about negotiators. Among the prime misconceptions about negotiating, Brodow writes, are that "the average person is not tough enough to win at negotiation" and "negotiation is all-or-nothing," that "you are either a winner or a loser."

Where personality types are concerned, people tend to assume good talkers are also effective negotiators and assertive types may be categorized as "selfish and rude." Women, sometimes perceived as more passive, may be automatically be categorized as weaker negotiators, Brodow explains.

It's just as important to avoid misconceptions as it is to avoid stereotyping yourself. It's a good idea to approach a negotiation with a positive mindset and realize that anyone can be an effective negotiator with the right approach.

Quiet Types vs. Extroverts

Those who consider themselves shy may actually have an advantage in negotiations. Psychology Today offers negotiation tips for the most timid professionals.

Lee E. Miller and Jessica Miller, authors of A Woman's Guide to Successful Negotiating, claim that a well-prepared negotiator who stands his or her ground and isn't afraid to walk away will be a success, no matter how timid. When dealing with loud aggressive types, it's best to wait them out until they get tired. "Quiet, firm confidence is the key," the authors say.

On the other side of the personality spectrum, extroverts and those with a fierce competitive edge may be firm and direct in stating what they want - a very successful tactic in negotiation - yet they risk making the mistake of talking over the other negotiator.

To that point, experts say listening skills can make a great difference in negotiation outcomes.

How to Be a Better Listener

Here's a tactic that everyone can practice: adjust your listening skills to "active." Chris Voss, a former negotiator for the FBI, argues that such a listening approach produces a better negotiator.

"Active listening means listening to the person you're negotiating with to find out what's driving them, what's important to them, what's motivating them," he explains to CSO Online. With this basic approach, negotiators can pick up on nonverbal cues that might otherwise be missed if a negotiator was listening for solutions to their own situation.

Brodow recommends the 70/30 rule, encouraging negotiators to speak only 30 percent of the time and listen for the other 70 percent. While listening, it's essential to start forming open-ended questions, both experts advise. Open-ended questions will focus attention on the other negotiator and demonstrates that you are in tune with his or her needs, while also giving you the upper hand.

The mirroring tactic is also effective. By using imitative body language, and paraphrasing questions based off negotiator statements, you'll be able to influence them. "People respect, like and are most easily influenced by people who they perceive to be similar to themselves," All Things Workplace explains.

Anyone Can Prepare

Perfectionists may excel at preparation, yet it's essential to know what exactly to prepare for. "When negotiating with an unfamiliar company, become familiar with their mission statement and goals/purpose ahead of time by checking background information, references and business statistics," Six Sigma Online recommends.

By doing thorough research, you'll be equipped to make decisions with better knowledge of a situation and be able to walk away, which should always be an option.

At every point of a negotiation, it's essential to keep emotions in check, but never be a business robot, the American Psychological Association says. Instead, address emotions in a positive and non-offensive way. "Emotional needs should be addressed - not suppressed - when it comes to negotiating."