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How to succeed at your next business negotiation

View profile for John Wiblin

Have you heard the phrase ‘90% perspiration, 10% inspiration’?  It applies to many things in business and negotiating your next deal is no exception.  For some reason, many business people believe that skill in negotiation is down to natural personality, charm or ‘gift of the gab’. Those things can help but the fact is that negotiation skills can be learned.  A well prepared but inexperienced negotiator can achieve a better outcome than a more experienced counterpart who is ill prepared.  

Here are some things to consider in advance of your next negotiation:

#1: Choose the right person to negotiate with - There is no point in wasting your energy negotiating with someone who has not got power to make a decision.  Never go into an important negotiation without having confirmed in advance who you will be negotiating with and that they have the authority to make a final decision.

#2: Build rapport – Break the ice early in negotiation so that you can go on to establish mutual trust. Try to find mutual interests/common ground at the earliest stage. Meet face-to-face whenever possible and talk about sport, the weather, anything but the negotiation for the first few minutes (Advance research on your negotiating counterpart will pay off here: if their website profile says they support a team, be ready briefly to discuss the results of the team’s last match). Research shows that negotiators who engaged in ‘small talk’ before a negotiation increased successful outcomes four fold over those who went directly in to negotiation.  Never take your frustration out on your negotiation counterpart. 

# 4: Bash your counterpart’s BATNA - Try also to work out in advance what you think the other side’s BATNA is and then set about making that look less certain or attractive. BATNA-bashing can be highly effective.  Recognise when it is being done to you in a negotiation!

#5:  Change the players – If the negotiation stalls and all else fails, withdraw yourself from the negotiation and substitute a colleague in your place. Try to get the other side to do the same.  New people will come to the matter fresh and can revitalise discussions where others have failed to build rapport or the discussion has stagnated. 

If you are in need of advice on business negotiations, get in touch with our Dispute Resolution team by email or call 01992 300333. John Wiblin, head of department, has received training in advanced negotiation at the Harvard Negotiation Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts and has more than 20 years experience of business disputes.


Please note the contents of this blog are given for information only and must not be relied upon. Legal advice should always be sought in relation to specific circumstances.