Having the right negotiation skills is important in many areas of business – they will help you achieve better results but also boost your career prospects.
They are skills that you will hone over time by learning the approaches that deliver the best outcomes. And when it comes to managing projects the results that you will achieve through your project will, to a considerable extent, depend upon how successful you are at negotiation.
Not surprisingly, project managers will have to negotiate on budget, time and resources but they will also have to negotiate when it comes to project scope (and scope creep) and, potentially, with reluctant groups of users who are having major changes imposed on them by the organisational changes that result from major project.
There are number of different methods of negotiation that project managers can use in different situations. Here are the top 5 from project management training provider Parallel Project Training.
Make the pie bigger
All too often negotiation is in relation to fighting over a scarce project resource i.e. distributive negotiation, and all too often there is a distinct winner and of course a loser. It is not completely necessary for different interests to be competitive; they can be complimentary. A good project manager will work out a way to ensure that both parties leave the table feeling like they have “won”. In order to achieve this, you will need to spend time finding out the top goals of everyone involved.
Ask a question
Asking a question or even for advice is in fact not a weakness but rather can be seen by others as a sign of competence. When someone is asked for their advice, they feel flattered and their confidence is boosted. So, if you find yourself in a difficult negotiation and are in need of some advice then ask for it, not only might the advice help you, but it may also make for a better relationship between you and the person you are negotiating with.
Sometimes negotiations can get a little tense, and this can lead to both sides getting frustrated. One thing you probably won’t be formally taught is that humour is a great way to diffuse a tense situation. Just ensure that your humour is appropriate to the situation.
Take a break
If you have been negotiating at length for a considerable time and there seems to be no end in sight, then it can be a good idea to take a break from the negotiations. Take some time away from the table, look over your notes, do some more research, have a cup of coffee and give yourself a breather. Then you can return to the negotiations with a fresh head and potentially some new ideas that might make all the difference.
Use silence to your advantage
The power of silence can be a powerful tool when you are negotiating. All too often we rush in to speak when there is an uncomfortable silence, using persuasion techniques or even counter arguments to fill the awkward gap. This is not necessarily a good thing. Give yourself time to consider what has been said, silence is a rather valuable tool that can give you, and your counterpart, the time you need to think over what has been said whilst considering a response.
Remember that honing any skill takes practise so the more you have to negotiate with colleagues or external people or suppliers the better you will become.