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At any stage of your career – whether you’re interviewing for a job or are already a company leader – strong negotiation skills are a must. They’re also transferrable from the workplace into other aspects of your life: in the classroom, where you may be negotiating with classmates about who will tackle which parts of a group assignment, or in everyday life, where you may be negotiating a lower price with a salesperson.

With that in mind, consider the following skills to help you become a power negotiator wherever life takes you:

1. Be Prepared 

Preparation is the first step to negotiating successfully. Do your homework to understand the situation completely. Have a clear sense of what’s at stake, and run through all possible scenarios. Ask yourself:

  • What am I hoping to get out of this?
  • What am I willing to compromise?
  • Do I have a solid argument?
  • Are my asks reasonable?
  • What are the best and worst case scenarios?
  • How is the other party likely to respond? 
     

2. Set Your Goals

Know exactly what you’re asking for before you enter the negotiation. Build your case, and establish why the other party should consider your request. This helps you stick to your objectives and lends credibility to your position.

3. Consider Alternatives 

What’s your back-up plan? If you conduct your negotiation successfully, very rarely should you walk away empty handed – even if you didn’t get what you originally asked for. Ask yourself ahead of time, “What’s the best alternative?” and be willing to offer that as an option. Perhaps you won’t get the raise you requested, but are you okay if your boss assigns you more responsibilities that could lead to a promotion and raise in the future?

4. Don't Sell Yourself Short

Always set reasonable goals, but don’t be afraid to strive for the best. If you believe you truly deserve something, ask for it. Sometimes it’s OK to ask for more than you’re hoping to get, so your goal seems like a compromise. Whatever you ask for, make sure it’s what you deserve.

5. Take Your Time

For a smooth negotiation, don’t rush it. Slow down, and follow these steps:

  • Make all your important points.
  • Hear the other party out.
  • Consider everything that is discussed.
     

Don’t be afraid to take some time to evaluate your options before finalizing an agreement.

6. Communication Is Key

Proper communication lets you express yourself clearly so the other party understands what you’re asking, is willing to hear you out and can reasonably negotiate with you. To prepare for this outcome, you should:

  • Establish trust so the other party feels respected and heard.
  • Build a rapport so they can connect with you. Find commonalities so they are more open minded to what you have to say.
  • Be personable.
  • Maintain professional body language.
  • Be calm. The last thing you want is to lose your temper if things get heated.
     

7. Listen Carefully

You want the other person to feel heard. Their point of view is as valid as yours, so listen to what they have to say. Perhaps they’ve thought of something you haven’t. Maybe, in hearing them out, you’ll rethink your original position and arrive at a better alternative that works for you both.

8. Explore Other Possibilities

Being flexible is sometimes the only way to walk away with a satisfactory outcome. You must be willing to compromise when necessary. Listen to what the other party is willing to offer, determine if it aligns with your goals, and recognize the success of a well-thought-out compromise. If your original request just isn’t being met, it’s better to walk away with your best alternative, or something you hadn’t even thought of, than nothing at all. 

9. Be Willing to Concede

Not every negotiation will go according to plan. Perhaps your boss doesn’t have it in the budget to give you a raise this year, or perhaps that professor really doesn’t have enough room in their class for another student. It is the mark of a strong negotiator to absorb these setbacks, concede to the other party, and try a different approach next time. 

10. Seek a Win-Win Solution

Don’t just think about what the other party can offer you. Think about what you can offer the other party. How can you be sure they benefit from your desired outcome as well? What can you do to incentivize them? Negotiating efficiently empowers you to fight for what you want, and even when the negotiation isn’t successful, you’ve still made your voice heard. Knowing what you want, conducting yourself professionally and maintaining an open mind are key to negotiating your way to success.

Looking to improve your business skills? Check out the business curriculum at Strayer. 

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