Let’s start by defining what it means to be an expert negotiator:

  • Expert – a person who has a comprehensive and authoritative knowledge of or skill in a particular area.

I see a LOT of people refer to themselves as “experts”. In my opinion, you’re NOT an expert until someone ELSE refers to you as an expert. But how do you get them to do that?

  1. The first level of expertise is to have a thorough knowledge of the subject though study. Taking advanced negotiation workshops, university courses, reading books written by other experts, etc. Then being able to effectively communicate what you’ve digested.
  2. The second level is to display excellence in the real world, working real deals where the people around you, your team and/or your counterpart(s), recognize the value you deliver. If they want you on their team, you just might be an expert!
    • Side note: demonstrating proficiency in MANY categories takes a person to an elite expert level. If you only practice your stills from 1-side of the table, sales or purchasing, and/or only in 1 category (compressors), you may be an expert in negotiating compressors sales contracts, but that’s quite different than being an across-the-board elite expert negotiator who can deliver value in any category.

Given that specific definition, it takes years of study AND practice to become an expert negotiator. So what are the benefits of being an expert negotiator? Here are a few:

  1. Bringing parties, often initially opposing, together to find common ground. A peacemaking problem solver if you will.
  2. The ability to make 1+1=3. Grow the pie so both sides can get more.
  3. Having the confidence to deliver results. Expectation impacts outcome. An expert negotiator enters the discussion expecting to out-perform the circumstances.

Mastering Negotiation – Top Concepts to Practice

Some of the key concepts that will help people master negotiation include:

  • Foundational principals like “try, plan, and raise the bar!”
  • The Pillars of negotiations (also known as the 3Bs)
    • The Basics (those who ask for more get more)
    • The Risk of Experience and (sellers are givers, buyers are takers)
    • The Trading Game (yes…IF, no…but…IF)
  • Making tactics a part of your planning:
    • What tactics will you introduce, and
    • Identifying tactics the other side is using, and knowing how to defend
      • A tactic discovered is a tactic disarmed
  • Keeping win-win front of mind as you reach an agreement
    • Short term vs long term wins
    • Identifying deal terms that are actually a mutual win for both sides!

Of all these, we find the most important concept to practice to become an expert in negotiations is the willingness to try. It sounds so simple, but think of it this way, you can read every negotiation book on the plant and take every course. You could then correctly answer any question anyone asks about negotiations, but… without trying, you wouldn’t truly be an expert – you wouldn’t know what it feels like to be at the table. To have the pressure of the deal(s) mold you into a diamond.

Expert negotiators try all the time, they don’t wait for formal negotiation opportunities, they seek them out, both in their professional life as well as their personal. They negotiate for themselves, clients, friends, family, anytime, anywhere. They keep trying – one might say, like a child.

Learning to Negotiate Effectively

Regardless of culture or country, it’s common knowledge that children are effective negotiators, dare I say expert manipulators. Somewhere in the maturity path most people lose those innate abilities, so they have to re-learn to negotiate effectively.

That process comes in many forms. There’s no shortage of books of course, but studies show reading, while enjoyable, isn’t the best way to learn or retain information. That requires additional “trying” by way of taking a course in negotiating. Not only does one have to understand negotiating intellectually, but to be an effective negotiator one must try to apply those skills in a safe learning environment. That practice will either give the person courage and confidence because they used their negotiating skills effectively, or they will have a failure. And often times the most profound learning comes from failures.

The best place to start learning to be an effective negotiator is Negotiating for Success I (NFSI). It’s our foundational course that produces an immediate ROI (Return on Investment) for everyone; sales, operations, program management, and purchasing alike.

Once that negotiation foundation is set, there are several paths a person could take to increase their expertise based on their individual needs.

And many more

In conclusion, learning to be a negotiation expert requires the commitment to try. To continue to “sharpen the saw” by learning what other expert negotiators do to be successful as well as from their failures. Then by not waiting for obvious opportunities to present themselves, but by trying to seek out opportunities to negotiate. Be it personal or business, easy or complex. Expert negotiators try more than others.