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Secrets to Being a Savvy Negotiator

» Introduction
I was recently asked by a friend to critique a negotiator she was considering for hire for her firm. She inquired into exactly how I would evaluate this person’s negotiation talents. She wanted to know if I was going to test his knowledge about negotiation strategies and tactics. I responded by saying, no.
» Step 1
I told her, I would have a general conversation with him and observe his reactions and responses. She then asked how I would be able to evaluate him based on that criterion. She asked why I was not going to test him by creating elaborate negotiation scenarios. I told her, there are several traits that savvy negotiators have. She asked what those traits are and I replied …

1. A good negotiator has to be a good listener. In particular, she needs to possess the capability of being able to hear the unspoken word and be able to interpret that unspoken word to determine what was not said, and the meaning of it. I went on to further explain, anyone that listens intently can discern the meaning of the spoken word. It takes special, and some would say ‘exceptional’, skills to be able to determine what is on someone’s mind without them disclosing it to you. Listening for the unspoken word entails observing how someone conveys their intent and reading their body language (tone of voice, eye movement, body movements, etc).

2. A savvy negotiator can interpret body language with a high degree of accuracy. He knows, just because someone has their arms crossed does not necessarily mean they’re ‘closed’ or reserved. A savvy negotiator understands that he has to look at body language gestures in clusters. By that I mean, he must first get a baseline of the body language gestures of the person he’ll be negotiating with to determine how that person uses nonverbal signals (body language) to communicate. The savvy negotiator instinctively knows that the body doesn’t lie and thus when someone tells a lie, the body will ‘do things’ to compensate for the lie. It’s the detection of the ‘things’ the body does that allows the savvy negotiator to gain insight into the real intent of the person delivering the message.

3. A savvy negotiator has to know how to go about gathering background information. Before entering into a negotiation session, a savvy negotiator will …

a. compile a dossier on the person with whom she’ll be negotiating

i. the purpose of this information is to get insight into why the other person is negotiating with you

ii. assess what the person with whom you’re negotiating with will do if they can’t get what they’re negotiating for from you

iii. try to determine the total amount of time the other person might have to negotiate

iv. ball park what the other person’s best offer might be to you

v. determine the least they’ll accept from you

b. understand the characteristics that make up the style and demeanor of the person with whom they’ll be negotiating

i. the more you know and understand about the style of the person you’ll be negotiating with, the better you can prepare to negotiate in the style that will be most complementary to that person’s style – in essence, you’ll be able to build rapport faster, which will advance you towards a more successful negotiation outcome



You can easily discern the capabilities of a savvy negotiator, if you take a short period of time to talk with her. If she constantly interrupts you, most likely she will miss vital information during a negotiation. If on the other hand, she listens to you very intently when you speak, builds rapport, paraphrases what she perceives to be your intent, more than not, she will be a savvy negotiator. Of course there’s a whole lot more that goes into the makeup of a savvy negotiator, but all things being equal, the person with the latter traits will reach more successful negotiation outcomes … and everything will be right with the world.



The Negotiation Lessons are …

· When considering the makeup of a savvy negotiator, watch and listen to the manner someone interprets unspoken words. In particular, observe their perception of that which is not said.

· Being able to read and accurately interpret body language will give a savvy negotiator additional insight into the inner thoughts of the person with whom he’s negotiating.

· If you wish to test someone’s negotiation skills, while talking to them, stop speaking in mid sentence and see how they respond. Take note of whether they’re able to pick up on the fact that ‘something’ happened and if they can tell you where you were in the conversation and where you were headed. You’ll receive great insight from this little test as to the potential negotiation capabilities they possess.

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