Do negotiations make you uneasy? You’re in good company. Many of us instinctively shy away from the act, yet negotiations play a pivotal role in our daily lives. From professional discussions to personal choices, they’re more common than we often realize. What to have for dinner. When your child must do their chores. Who will own what piece of that project at work. And, of course, how to ask for the compensation you think you deserve.

At the Channel Futures Leadership Summit, technology channel powerhouses Amy Bailey of Unusually Unusual Consulting and channelWise’s Kathryn Rose took the stage to teach the audience how to get over their fear of negotiation. Too many of us never negotiate salary offers or sales and services prices, so we’re just leaving money on the table. Over time, missed negotiations can translate to lost opportunities and significant financial losses.

So, what’s the root of our hesitation?

Why We Don’t Negotiate

Lack of Preparedness

Research, research, research. Going into a negotiation without adequate information about the person you’re dealing with and the point of view they’re coming from  is like entering a maze blindfolded. Knowledge is power, and understanding both your stance and the other party’s can pave the way for fruitful discussions.

Fear of Confrontation

The idea of facing opposition is daunting for many of us. Yet, more often than not, the other party is also looking for a way to find mutual benefit. They aren’t out to get you; it isn’t personal. Approaching the table with a win-win mentality can shift the dynamics in a positive direction.

Negative Mindset

Self-doubt can be a formidable obstacle. However, it’s crucial to remember that possibilities open up only when you take the first step. You can do this! Being assertive (but not aggressive) can often yield surprising results.

Risk Avoidance

The fear of rejection is real. But, taking risks can lead to growth. By confronting our fears and embracing vulnerability, we allow ourselves to experience new horizons.

Lack of Effort

Accepting things as they are might seem like the easy way out. But growth often requires challenging the status quo. Effort and research can turn the tide in your favor during a negotiation.

Inattentional Blindness

Individuals often get so engrossed in their own thoughts that they miss what’s right in front of them. Your partners have sales quotas to hit, their customers have businesses to run, and everyone has money to make. We’re busy, distracted, and immersed in our own priorities. Remembering this can offer a fresh perspective on the reactions and responses of others.

A 4-Step Plan to Defeat Negotiation Intimidation

Take a deep breath. Anyone can learn to negotiate, no matter how intimidated they are by the prospect. Take some tips from Bailey and Rose, and try these strategies.

Step 1: Preparation

Navigating the maze of negotiations, it’s easy to become so wrapped up in our agenda that we overlook the broader context. Dedicating time to do your homework isn’t just about upping your confidence; it’s about understanding the narrative on both sides of the table. When you’re gathering facts and figures, remember it’s not just about arming yourself with data, but about appreciating that those numbers tell stories, reflect challenges, and signify aspirations. 

Recognizing mutual goals isn’t merely a strategy, it’s acknowledging that, like you, the other party has ambitions to achieve and stakes to uphold. And while the devil is often in the details, we shouldn’t lose ourselves in them. It’s essential to zoom out occasionally, understand the shared journey, and be open to alternative routes. After all, amid the chaos of competing priorities, finding common ground can lead to some of the most rewarding solutions.

Step 2: Build Relationships

In the dance of business dialogues, it’s often the nuances that make all the difference. Building rapport isn’t just about being amiable; it’s about diving deeper into the tapestry of another’s background and interests. In doing so, you’re not merely showing that you’ve done your homework, but you’re weaving a bridge of shared understanding — a foundation that can simplify even the most complex negotiations. 

Practice the art of active listening, a skill often overshadowed by the rush of getting our point across. True engagement goes beyond just processing words; it’s about resonating with the emotions and intentions behind them. When we truly hear and empathize with another’s perspective, we illuminate paths of agreement that might have otherwise remained hidden. And while every negotiation has its own rhythm, the ability to read the room can set the tempo. Proactively presenting solutions and anticipating hurdles isn’t just good strategy; it’s a testament to foresight and adaptability. Remember, every interaction holds a symphony of underlying narratives, and harmonizing with them can often be the key to success.

Step 3: Handle Objections

Amid the whirlwind of business negotiations, it’s often the subtle shifts in our approach that make a monumental difference. Staying calm isn’t merely about maintaining an unflappable exterior; it’s an inner anchor that keeps us grounded. Emotions, while human and natural, have a sneaky way of clouding our judgment. By preserving our composure, even when the tides seem turbulent, we ensure our decisions remain rooted in logic and thoughtful consideration.

Then there’s the age-old art of inquiry. Remember the foundational questions of “who, what, where, when, why, and how” we were taught in school? They’re not just relics of our past; they’re powerful tools in the present. Asking these calibrated, open-ended questions isn’t about merely filling the silence. They invite meaningful dialogue, sparking conversations that delve beneath the surface and illuminate clearer paths forward.

Yet, even with the best intentions and strategies, not every conversation will lead to a harmonious chorus. This is where the strength to embrace rejection becomes invaluable. It’s essential to understand that not every ‘no’ signifies a closed door. Sometimes, it’s merely a detour, nudging us towards a different direction, potentially leading to a more fitting opportunity. After all, each rejection, each ‘no’, is merely a lesson, a stepping stone paving the way to future successes and harmonious ‘yeses’.

Step 4: Close and Follow-Up

It’s the attention to finer details that often crafts the most seamless journeys. Affirming the next steps isn’t just about plotting the course forward; it’s a compass ensuring clarity amidst potential storms of misunderstandings. By ensuring alignment between both parties about what comes next, we weave a safety net against unforeseen discrepancies and confusions.

Then comes the age-old wisdom of documenting everything. In an era of information overload, a tangible, written record goes a long way. Capturing the essence of agreed-upon points promptly, preferably the same day when the details are fresh in everyone’s minds, acts as a testament to transparency, ensuring everyone involved remains in harmony with the established narrative.

Yet, mastery in negotiations, much like any other craft, isn’t a destination but a journey. Practice is the ever-faithful companion on this voyage. With each dialogue, with each exchange, there’s an opportunity to refine, to learn, to evolve. Practice may not always make something perfect, but most of the time, it makes it permanent.

The Bottom Line

Negotiations, when approached with the right mindset and tools, can be empowering. By understanding the inherent challenges and arming ourselves with strategies to address them, we can transform these interactions into opportunities for growth and collaboration.