Negotiation Tactics are essential for negotiating in the big world wide. As children we learn how to negotiate from a very early age. We manipulate our parents using emotional black mail, by stamping our feet, or making our parents feel awkward in public. Children know what they want, and how to get it. Here we can see the roots of the old fashioned Positional Negotiation approach, which is all very much one-sided. This can be boiled down to taking strong positions, not striving to understand the underlying needs of the other party, and striving for the best deal for you at any costs. But the shouting and screaming approach is best left to children wanting a biscuit, and those fictional talent agents and film producers shouting down the phone yelling “show me the money – or the deal is off!” You will not win many friends or influence people this way.

Negotiation is a skill set that requires a far more sophisticated approach. It is more than just winning at all costs, and yet, on the other hand not about meekly conceding too much. So can we apply a set of steps to make us a better negotiator?

Here are my five essential tips to becoming a better negotiator:

Preparation – Try to discover as much as possible about the party you will be negotiating with. The Internet is a great source of information at your finger-tips so there is no excuse not to be prepared. Whether is it is published company records, latest market prices, news reports on the industry you are in, stock prices etc, there is a wealth of information out there. The more you understand the other party, the more you will be able to assess their needs and requirements, and even anticipate certain responses. Having done the research start putting yourself in their place, and try to explore different ways they may respond, so you can be prepare.

In addition think about your needs, but also what you can offer, or trade. What is valuable to them, but may not be all that valuable to you. With all this information you can begin to plan. This is your Position Analysis, and with this you can start developing your tactics and concession pattern.

Also, prior to the meeting, think about the location, timing and seating arrangement. It is said that the Japanese used to use time as a powerful negotiation weapon with US businessmen, as they checked when the US business men had to fly home, and so could put pressure on them as that time approached. Seating can suggest confrontation if you are all seated on opposite sides, consider a more relaxed open approach, if that suits the negotiation.

Introduction and Preamble – This is where you start to cover what it is that is being negotiated, and explore what the other party want and what information they are prepared to give you. Use open ended questions and build trust and rapport, whilst garnering as much information as you can. Being a good listener is crucial here, and “reading” other people will put you in a great position. This is not idle chit-chat, but an opportunity to establish personal contact, assess how the other party is reacting, and explore the parameters of the negotiation. It is useful to establish how much time is available, the level of their authority to settle and the form any agreement is going to take. It also helps if you know a bit of the background of the people you are dealing with, and their relative positions in the organisation.

Opening – who makes the opening offer? Should you invite an offer, or take the initiative. This will depend on the nature of the negotiation and the balance of power. Here we are trying to establish where both parties are coming from – whether these are specific positions they have, or general intentions. Try to avoid opening positions that are not credible, by all means go in high, but make it credible, and try to avoid establishing a position so firmly that if you move from it you will lose credibility.

Exchanging – Here you are trying to explore and understand each others needs. This is not about just stating what you want or what they need, it is about exploring matching interests, and exchanging offers and testing areas where you both agree. Here we can start trading, using the preparation from earlier, as we start to move the negotiations forward.

Reaching Agreement (or Disagreement) – Now we start finalising the agreement of what is on offer from each party and where it meets the needs of the other party. You need to make sure that each party fully understands what has been agreed. It also acts as a process of reinforcing the relationship. It is important that you summarise and listen. Try to avoid ambiguities and loose ends. Also, establish what happens if one party does not abide by the agreement, what legislation or jurisdiction would apply or do you agree to an arbitration process.

Taking these steps will ensure a negotiation that will benefit both parties, and maximise the outcome for you and, ideally, the other party.