Confidence the key to successful negotiations

Jul 30 2015 by Brian Amble Print This Article

If you lack confidence, the chances are that you’ll make a pretty ineffective negotiator. In fact according to new research, under-confident negotiators achieve a successful outcome in just one in five of the negotiations they’re involved in.

The survey of over 1,300 professionals in 52 countries also found that those who feel ‘neutral’ achieve an even lower rate of success in negotiations, with only 16 per cent of them succeeding.

Successful negotiators were defined as those who implemented 75 per cent or more of their negotiations without the need to renegotiate. Those defined as unsuccessful were negotiators who had a rate of success lower than 50 per cent in their negotiations.

More than six out of 10 (62 per cent) of successful negotiators describe themselves as “very confident” when entering negotiations, according to the study by Huthwaite International, a UK-based sales and negotiation specialists,

“Confidence has a huge impact on negotiators’ behaviour and what they ultimately achieve,” said Tony Hughes, Huthwaite International’s CEO.

“The first step for building confidence is by thoroughly assessing the strengths and weaknesses of a deal and how to best use the information about the other party. These are key steps to any effective negotiation.”

Planning what strategies and tactics to deploy for reaching the targeted objectives will give any negotiator a significant boost in confidence, Hughes said, because they will feel prepared to handle almost any issue the other party might bring to the table and still steer the negotiation along the desired path. “If they have also had training in behavioural skills and understand how to persuade effectively, the negotiator will be more confident that they can overcome even the points of disagreement that might arise at the bargaining table.” But as the study also found, confidence on its own can be counter-productive if it isn’t tempered with real skill. Only a third of negotiators who felt powerful and were overconfident during negotiations were actually successful. “What people need to understand in such situations is that being confident and having power during negotiations, doesn’t mean going in there all guns blazing, with a focus only on what they want to get out of it,” Hughes said.

“Our advice is to be confident but not aggressive. Try to strike the right balance with your negotiation partner and focus on long-term partnerships.” Other key factors that influence a successful outcome include asking questions to explore the final outcomes both parties desire, having real clarity on the proposals up for negotiation and avoid counter proposals, focussing instead on exploring the underlying interest of the other party. It’s also prudent, Hughes said, to avoid using ‘irritators’ - words or phrases that have the potential to upset the other side though self-praise or condescension such as “fair”, “reasonable” and “generous”.

“Negotiation skills are essential for any professional who wants to succeed, no matter the job title or industry. And the good news is that negotiation is a learned skill and we all can become better at it with effort and training,” concludes Hughes.