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In the UK, negotiation is one of the hot topics of 2017, says Monika Juneja. Whether we’re discussing Brexit deal, the upcoming General Election campaigns or even the gender pay gap, at the heart of these topics is the need to negotiate, and to do it well.

The act of negotiation is officially defined as a “discussion geared towards reaching an agreement”. Sounds easy, right? Well, yes, until someone goes and gets it very, very wrong.

On countless occasions, I’ve seen a competent and deserving negotiator trip up and lose everything because they made the most basic of errors.

So how do you make sure that your negotiation game is flawless? These simple but crucial steps should be taken to ensure that you always end up on top.

Prep, plan and practise

It’s amazing how many people enter negotiation conversations without having thought about exactly what they’re asking for and why.

It’s all very well having a vague goal in mind, but if you can’t clearly communicate what you want then you’re immediately putting yourself on the back foot. Set clear objectives for the conversation in advance of it taking place, and practise saying them out loud.

If you know exactly what you want, and can ask for it in plain English, you’ll exponentially increase your chances of success.

Take a ‘win-win’ approach

Many people fall down by taking an egocentric approach to negotiation. You should always take a ‘business partner’ approach to any negotiation strategy, as opposed to fostering a traditional ‘client / supplier’ dynamic.

What I mean by this is that you must find reasons to prove that your request directly benefits whomever you’re talking to, and if you can, enter into an agreement that isn’t simply transactional.

Ask yourself: how does what I want provide long-term benefits to the person I want it from? If you’re asking for a pay rise from your boss, for example, you should articulate this in the context of how it adds value to the business overall as opposed to how it would benefit you personally.

Abide by the 70/30 rule

It’s well known that listening as opposed to talking is one of the most successful sales techniques.

The same goes for negotiation: you should aim to talk for only 30 per cent of the conversation, and simply listen for the other 70 per cent.

This is because just like sales, a key factor in successful negotiation involves showing empathy, which arises naturally if you listen to and understand what the other person is saying.

Have patience

You may not get exactly what you want immediately, so be prepared to hold fast for a while before an agreement is reached. In our on-demand culture, this is very difficult to do, but the pay-off will be worth it.

Try not to make any unilateral concessions (e.g. giving something without getting anything in return) unless you absolutely have to; this will help you maintain a strong position for as long as possible.

Remove personal emotion

It’s very easy to be offset by the presence of emotion in important conversations, so remove all personal feeling from your negotiating endeavours. If something doesn’t go your way, don’t take it personally: this will allow you to stay calm and think clearly when the pressure’s running high.

Be prepared to walk away

The single most weakening factor in any negotiation conversation is a lack of alternatives. It’s essential that the other party is aware that you aren’t solely dependant on this particular deal.

If you create other options for yourself, it adds value to your position as a negotiator because you can pursue opportunities elsewhere. But even if you don’t, you always have the option to walk away: sometimes ‘no deal’ is better than an ill-founded agreement.

Monika Juneja is a Director of Fortitude Dynamics