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Negotiation Skills in the New World

By Francis Lotzer

Child:        Can I play online with my friends till ten o’clock this evening?

Parents:    We don’t want you playing games online this evening, we want you to do your homework!

Child:        But I’ve arranged to start a game with my friends at seven o’clock.

Parents:    Remember, doing well at school is the way to get a good job when you’re grown up. Then you’ll have the money to pay for your online games!

Child:        Oh please!

Parents:    OK, if at seven o’clock you can show us you’ve done your homework, then you can play with your friends until nine o’clock.

Child:        But we might not have finished the game by nine.

Parents:    If you’re not careful we’ll say eight o’clock!

Child:        OK – seven till nine it is!


In this short scene, the parents have used the four golden rules of good negotiating without even realising.

Any negotiation begins with a clear understanding of our negotiating partner’s aspirations. The better we understand their real expectations and motivations, the easier it will be to convince them and the less we will need to negotiate.

The iceberg is often used as an analogy of Freud’s theory of the mind. The visible part corresponds to what is “said”, and the hidden part to what is “unsaid”.

Your negotiating partner has an objective which is different to your own. It corresponds to the visible part of the iceberg. It is better to examine the hidden part of the iceberg, what is “unsaid”, by asking probing questions such as “Why?” and “Can you tell me more?”.

Once we’ve ascertained our negotiating partner’s expectations, we’re ready to conduct our negotiation using a four-stage process.

Set an ambitious goal

Let’s start from the principle that whatever you ask for, your negotiating partner is likely to say, “No, that’s too much!”. To safeguard your own interests, you’re best off going in high.

If you are project manager, and you want to have more human resources from your sponsor or board of directors, for example 1 stakeholder, isn’t it best to start by asking for 2?

In fact, it’s helpful to think in terms of three goals: a high goal; the goal you aim to achieve; and a low goal corresponding to the minimum that you are prepared to accept and that you can use if you find yourself in a second round of negotiations. In the example of the sponsor, your high goal would be 2 staff, your actual goal would be 1 staff, and your low goal would be 1 staff part-time.

Defend your position

At this point, your negotiating partner may reply that you’re being too ambitious.

For example, you would like to convince your top management to invest some money in a Team building event for your department. When you are presenting your quotation, your boss says “Too expensive!”

At this stage, you need to defend your ambitious goal.

There’s a method for this: think about your goal, which is to do a teambuilding, but try to identify what your partner stands to gain from it. Roger Fisher and William Ury, in their best-selling book on negotiation “Getting to Yes”, use the noble expression: “Look for mutual gain”.

In our example: “The organization of a teambuilding could bring a better collaboration within the department. Don’t you think that this could increase efficiency and results for the company?”.

Make a concession, ensuring you get one in return

Even after we’ve defended our position, our negotiating partner may remain sceptical or refuse to budge. At the end of the day, they’re defending their position too!

We’ve now reached a key point in the negotiation, where we need to be ready to give some ground so as not to appear too inflexible. But when we make a concession during a negotiation, it’s important that we ask for something in return to maintain a balance. When you agree to forgo your initial request, you are in a sense losing. So, it’s logical to look for a way to restore the balance by securing a trade-off. This is the famous, “Yes, but in return...”.

Imagine that you are asking for a 5% pay rise and management offers you 3%. In exchange for accepting 2% less than you wanted, you could ask for an additional benefit. For example, you could agree to 3% but ask for better health insurance, or more flexible working arrangements.

And if your partner refuses to agree to the concession you’re requesting, what should you do?

Have a second concession prepared in advance, of course!

In the situation we’ve just been looking at, it might be a good idea to ask whether the company is open to offering better health insurance. Imagine that management says no. Then you can explore another avenue, for example an increase in the number of days you work from home each week. If your employer seems more open to this second offer, then you can suggest your concession.

Closing the negotiation

Closing a negotiation is sometimes a challenge. People very often use the famous “I’ll think about it” as an escape route. So how should you go about closing? No one likes being forced to make a decision. The art of negotiating is to combine empathy and influence – and it’s not easy.

An example: You are a consulting firm which helps companies to reduce expenses on energy. You are in a short list to have the business with a big client in Singapore and they say “Why do we have to say yes to you? Your competitors are similar”

There is one influencing technique that can be used to kick-start the decision process: the persuasive action plan.

So, what is this exactly?

The main idea is to present your negotiating partner with an action plan consisting of three dates to help them visualise precisely how the future would look if they agreed to your proposal. It’s important to make sure they can see what tangible benefit they will reap when the third date is reached.

In our example, it could be: “If you give the go today, tomorrow we are able to deploy 3 full time consultants in your company for one week to investigate and provide reports. In one week, you can implement major changes in your energy system, and in one year you could have a 30% cost saving in your energy expenses. Can we have your go?”

In conclusion, given the high levels of inflation the world is currently facing, it’s more important than ever to know how to negotiate. Remember that to negotiate well, you need to:

  • start with an ambitious goal that leaves you room for manoeuvre.
  • defend your position by pointing out what your negotiating partner stands to gain.
  • make a concession, ensuring you get one in return to maintain balance.
  • close with a persuasive action plan.

So, are you ready for your next negotiation?


About the author:

Francis is an experienced training consultant in management and sales with international expertise.

After completing his studies in France, he worked as managing director of Tendance Training for several clients Total, Ericsson, Accor, Sanofi, University Paris Dauphine (PSL), Safran, Lactalis, Valeo. He has been a P.M.I. Registered Education Provider since 2013.

In order to focus his operations more closely on the Asia Pacific region, he makes the decision to relocate to Thailand in 2016.

He is now a DISC Practitioner Certified and continues to conduct training programmes worldwide for major companies including Bouygues, Philip Morris, UPL, Schneider Electric, Michelin, Institut Pasteur, and Total in Europe, Asia, Africa, and America.


About the company:

IMS Trainings Ltd

IMS Trainings Ltd offers a wide range of soft skills trainings (In-class and online) including Leadership, Project management, sales, Negotiation skills, Train the trainer. Operating in about 50 countries for major companies (Total, Bouygues, Schneider Electric), IMS Trainings delivers in-person and virtual training with an excellent combination between time management and learning experience.



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