Life skills: how to sharpen up your negotiation tactics

Get a better deal on your house, car and salary with these tips from the experts

Felicity Hannah
Friday 15 March 2019 14:46
Comments
One Theresa May could use a bit of expert help too
One Theresa May could use a bit of expert help too

This has been a pretty bad week for the art of negotiation.

First, Theresa May failed to negotiate the renegotiation of the backstop.

After that, her cabinet failed to get the non-renegotiated withdrawal agreement through parliament. At the time of writing, the nation's leaders have tumbled into a situation where no one is entirely sure what we still have time to negotiate and who with.

Negotiation is a skill that requires confidence, skill and some homework – but it can be learned through practice and repetition.

So if you’re negotiating a price on a car, a better deal on a financial product or a rate for a job in the gig economy, then you need to know how to do so from a position of strength.

We’ve asked some of the UK’s top negotiation experts for their tips on achieving the outcome you most want and saving some money in the process. Here’s how to negotiate a better deal.

Set your expectation early

It’s worth raising your own expectations early in the conversation, according to Jessica Exton, behavioural scientist at Dutch bank ING. She says: “In some cases it can pay to move first by sharing your viewpoint early in the discussion. This can anchor the conversation around your desired outcome and can make arguing for an alternative more difficult.

“And remember, continue considering the whole topic rather than focusing on just one or two aspects of the conversation.

“For example, effectively negotiating the purchase of a new car requires calculating the total cost of the vehicle including any add-ons, rather than thinking of incremental extras such as leather seats or additional insurance as separate costs.”

Remember it’s give and take

If you won’t budge and are only interested in what you want then it’s not a negotiation, it’s a series of demands.

Stephen Meade, of Cardiff-based law firm Capital Law, says: “Win the war, not the battle. Don’t be afraid to concede a point to your opponent; it may not matter that much in the grander scheme of things. Remember, you’ve already decided your objectives for the face-off.”

Know your worth

Going into a negotiation confident of your position and the value you are offering is key, whether you’re selling a car or your skills.

Dave Chaplin, CEO of Contractor Calculator, says freelancers in particular need to know their worth and value. He says: “It is important to have a clear idea of your going rate. If you are an experienced freelancer or contractor it is important you don’t sell yourself short or, conversely, set your rates too high.

“In any negotiation, you need to be prepared to have an open dialogue with the person who is considering hiring you. Spell out what the client will be getting for [their] money – explain how you can measurably add value.

“Clients hire freelancers based on their proven and quantifiable value that their skills and experience can bring to their organisation and if you can impress them you can justify commanding a better rate.

“By spelling out how you applied the technical skills and experience you have, and achieved X outcome over Y timescale, which resulted in Z greater productivity or higher sales or bigger profits, then your prospective client cannot help but be impressed. And once you’ve negotiated the rate, get it in writing.”

Make sure everyone is happy

In some negotiations, you’re just sorting a price and will never deal with that person again. But in others, you’ll need to go on to work with them – perhaps after negotiating a salary or, for our politicians at least, conducting international trade.

Sven Hughes, CEO at communications consultancy Verbalisation, developed some of his negotiation skills dealing with the Taliban in Afghanistan as a British army reservist in psychological operations. He now uses those skills in his strategic communications business.

He urges: “Focus on both sides leaving the negotiation happy and content.

“Be fair. This is key. If you overstep the mark then it will create a lasting impression that won’t help install and make a success of whatever you have just negotiated.”

So what about specific negotiations? Here are some ideas.

Negotiate a better salary

If you think you’re not getting paid as much as you should be then Nic Hammarling, head of diversity at business psychology firm Pearn Kandola, recommends you do three things to strengthen your position.

“Firstly, gather specific examples of how you believe that you are doing the same work. One of the biggest mistakes that we see is people acting solely on their gut instinct or attempting to do a better job of what they perceive their colleague to be doing, in order to prove themselves. Neither of these approaches compare to being able to provide solid evidence.

“Secondly, if your firm is large enough, look at what they have published around their gender pay gap. If you can present your evidence as an example of how you think a pay gap is present within the company, senior leaders are more likely to act on it.

“Finally, be prepared to walk away from the organisation. If you genuinely believe that you are being paid less than a colleague for the same work, this is likely to be indicative of further inequality throughout the business. It’s possible that this will go on to be reflected in other areas, such as promotions and bonuses.”

Negotiate the right price for a house

One of the biggest negotiations most of us undertake is when we buy or sell a house – and it can be quite daunting.

Phil Spencer, best known for his role on Channel 4’s Location, Location, Location and now co-founder of website Move iQ, says that getting the best deal on a house begins long before you actually open negotiations.

He says: “Knowledge is power. The more you know about the property, the surrounding area, the seller’s reason for selling – and what they feel about the property – the better.”

He suggests setting a realistic target price and an upper limit, based on extensive research into the area. “Then you need to understand the seller’s motivation. Ask the estate agent for the backstory, or if you fancy some real sleuthing, try asking the neighbours or enquiring in the local pub.

“Either by checking online or asking the estate agent, you should be able to establish easily how long the property has been on sale with the current agent.

“But you should also try to find out if it was previously on sale with another agent. Ask the current agent if the price has been reduced, and if so, why. Also ask if there have been any previous offers. If so, what happened? Was there a survey conducted for instance?

“The answers to these questions should give you a sense of how keen the seller is to sell, and how hard you can push them on price.”

A good tip is to open negotiations with a price 10 per cent less than the asking price, but it always depends on the specific home, he adds.

Negotiate better prices

Haggling is just hands-on negotiation and it’s worth looking for opportunities to use your skills. You don’t need to be attempting to exit the European Union to push for a good deal.

Adam Bullock, director of TopCashback.co.uk, says: “Shoppers need to be brave and try their luck with haggling – a sale at a lower price is still a sale for retailers – but it’s best to be prepared.

“Go armed with prices and deals from other retailers to play the brands off against each other, and always try to haggle when the retailer is quiet, as this is when they need sales the most.

“If bargaining for a lower price doesn’t work, don’t give up. Instead, ask for a freebie to be thrown in. It’s also important to build a rapport with the salesperson. Be friendly, polite and show them you’re prepared to negotiate instead of simply making a demand.”

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