The Mindset of a World-Class Negotiator

The costliest mistakes in negotiations take place before negotiations even begin

Negotiators often think that if they bring a lot of value to the table and use their leverage, they will be able to strike a great deal. However, that is not the whole story: using the right leverage with the wrong mindset can turn an easy negotiation into a nightmare! Some of the costliest mistakes in negotiations take place before negotiators even sit down to discuss the substance of an agreement. There is however a way to shift your mindset and help you score the best terms for you

Approach the negotiations with the right mindset

It’s important to approach the negotiations with the right mindset and set the right expectations for yourself regarding the outcome that you deserve. Before the start of any negotiation, you should be comfortable asking yourself: what do I really deserve out of this deal and why do I deserve it? If you know what you deserve, you know what you should be working towards in the negotiation. An expert negotiator however will know to take this mentality one step further and ask themselves: what does the counterpart deserve and why? Going even a step further by asking – “what can I do to help them get it?” – is something that will distinguish you from the rest

Do not only compete but also collaborate

Many view the counterpart in the negotiations as a competitor. They try to outmaneuver each other, and both get mediocre results. In reality, negotiations should be a mixture of healthy competition and collaboration.

Instead of seeing your counterpart as someone who tries to get the best out of you, try to shift the mindset to start working together and achieve your mutual goals. Consider yourself as someone who helps their counterpart through the negotiation. Of course, being aggressive or competitive can occasionally be the better strategy, but only if your counterpart has no alternatives. If they don’t feel happy with the result of the negotiation, you will likely lose out from this in the future.

Think about their alternatives

Negotiators have a tendency to focus on what their outside option is and how they can improve it. Although outside options play a big role in negotiations, entering the room with this mindset can worsen your results.

If you are overly concerned with your own alternatives, you focus on what it will take for you to close the deal. This mindset might in fact get you a sub-optimal result. In contrast, if you make the negotiation about what happens to them in a no-deal scenario, then you shift the frame to the unique value you offer, and it becomes easier to argue why you deserve a good deal.

Being prepared on the facts and speaking the truth can beat any bluff

Remember: telling the truth is always better than a cheap bluff. Great negotiator would never lie, because they know that the trust problem is an essential feature of any negotiation. Once the trust is lost, the negotiation is over!

Being prepared on the facts and speaking the truth can beat any bluff and is a much better strategy. A world-class negotiator approaches every negotiation with the mindset of being truthful and building trust to preserve the reputation. And even though you should not lie, with time you might also discover that you do not have to tell the whole truth.

Business is people; there is no reason to be hard on the people

At the end of the day, negotiations are about people. Approaching a tough problem does not have to manifest itself in being tough on the person in front of you. What would happen if you change the mindset and work together to solve the problem?

Being hard on the facts and the business is oftentimes necessary. Being hard on the people would lead to aggression, misunderstanding and a ruined relationship. Remember – be hard on the problem and soft on the people. Willingness for collaboration, respect, recognition of counterparts’ incentives and needs are a necessary part of any negotiation. Do not hesitate to show that your counterparts’ interests matter to you and learn to use words wisely, especially when in disagreement. Needless provocations due to disregard for the person at the other side of the table have famously led to countless international conflicts.

Mastering your mindset can only come with experience

A world-class negotiator approaches every negotiation with the right mindset. They are aware of all the techniques they can use, they know when to use each one and how to combine them, while keeping in mind all the countless details. A correct mindset is the first secret in negotiations and perhaps the most difficult one to master.