By Tony Hughes, CEO, Huthwaite International

Lack of confidence at the bargaining table dramatically reduces the chance of a successful outcome. Only 19 per cent of negotiators who are unconfident are successful in achieving their targets. Furthermore, those who feel neutral see an even lower rate of success, with only 16 per cent of them succeeding.

Global research of over 1,300 professionals in 52 countries including the UK reveals that 62 per cent of successful negotiators are very confident when entering negotiations. The research was conducted by Huthwaite International, sales and negotiation specialists.

The survey defined successful negotiators as those who implemented 75 per cent or more of their negotiations without the need to renegotiate. Those defined as unsuccessful were negotiators who had a rate of success lower than 50 per cent in their negotiations.

According to the research successful negotiators build confidence through preparation and planning, strategies and tactics and behavioural skills.

Confidence has a huge impact on negotiators’ behaviour and what they ultimately achieve. The first step for building confidence is by thoroughly assessing the strengths and weaknesses of a deal and how to best use the information about the other party. These are key steps to any effective negotiation.

Planning what strategies and tactics to deploy for reaching the targeted objectives will give any negotiator a significant boost in confidence because they will feel prepared to handle almost any issue the other party might bring to the table and still steer the negotiation along the desired path.

If they have also had training in behavioural skills and understand how to persuade effectively, the negotiator will be more confident that they can overcome even the points of disagreement that might arise at the bargaining table.

But confidence is not enough on its own. Huthwaite International’s study showed that only 32 per cent of negotiators who felt powerful and were overconfident during negotiations were actually successful. There is much more skill required to negotiate well.

What people need to understand in such situations is that being confident and having power during negotiations, doesn’t mean going in there all guns blazing, with a focus only on what they want to get out of it.

Our advice is to be confident but not aggressive. Try to strike the right balance with your negotiation partner and focus on long-term partnerships.

The other key factors that influence a successful outcome are:

1) Asking questions to explore the final outcomes desired by their business partners. 41 per cent of successful negotiators use this strategy, compared to only 33 per cent used by unsuccessful negotiators.

2) Having clarity on the proposals up for negotiation is crucial in any deal. To achieve this, successful negotiators use testing understanding and summarising techniques such as, “Are you saying that…?”, “OK so we’ve agreed on price and volume then?” twice as much as average negotiators.

3) Strong negotiators avoid counter proposals and tend to explore the underlying interest of the other party. During a negotiation, an effective negotiator would use only 1.7 counter proposals per hour, compared with 3.1 used by average negotiators. They also avoid using ‘irritators’ - words or phrases that have the potential to upset the other side though self-praise or condescension such as “fair”, “reasonable” and “generous”.

Not all negotiations take place in a formal negotiation setting. The majority (55 per cent) of negotiations are in fact short, encompassing less than five negotiable issues. This confirms once again that negotiation skills are essential for any professional who wants to succeed, no matter the job title or industry. And the good news is that negotiation is a learned skill and we all can become better at it with effort and training.