6 ways to prevent a negotiation blow up

You’re preparing for a big negotiation with a group of key suppliers and you’re already anticipating a disastrous outcome. Perhaps you already know that the people you’re dealing with are difficult, or you’ve heard about their reputation. Or, maybe you know your own negotiation skills leave a lot to be desired when it comes to crisis management.

Whatever your reason for being nervous, there’s no denying that negotiations can be tough. But, the best thing you can do to lessen the tension and prevent a negotiation from blowing up is to be prepared.

At a recent negotiation roundtable on the topic of emotions and negotiation, a number of procurement and sales leaders gave advice on how to keep negotiations sweet.

Join us at Smart Procurement World to discuss the top ten negotiation failures: negotiation is a key skill for any procurement professional. Knowing what to do and how to do it is important. But equally important is know what not to do!

Giuseppe Conti, Founder, Conti Advanced Business Learning, a firm that specialises in negotiation and influencing, led the conversation by discussing how emotions can influence decision-making during negotiations and ways that can increase effectiveness when considering this factor.

1. Practice mindfulness

If you enter into a negotiation like a coiled spring, chances are the spring won’t stay coiled for long. The calmer you are, the calmer you’re likely to remain for the duration of the meeting.

Olga Guerous, VP: Commercial, Mars, recalled a confrontation she experienced early on in her career. A particularly difficult supplier, who’s emotions were “all over the place” became so angry that he was forced to “leave the room mid-way through a negotiation and remained in the corridor for 15 minutes in order to calm down. He came back and apologised but the situation wasn’t redeemable and he didn’t get what he wanted. Losing his temper made him lose any power and control he had in the negotiation. Having full control of your emotions is a key benefit in negotiations”.

Paul André, Director: Reduced Risk Commercial Supply, JTI, agreed, recommending low breathing and mindfulness to help create a barrier to your emotions.

2. Practice what you’re going to say

If you’re nervous or apprehensive about an impending negotiation, there’s nothing wrong with rehearsing, in advance, to ensure that you come across as intended.

Regina Roos, VP and Sales Segment Leader: Mineral and Mining, Schneider Electric, notes that “in the morning, in front of the mirror, I smile and practice some conversations, particularly ones that help you respond to people that are angry. When you are talking you can’t see yourself but when you look in a mirror you can practice your facial expressions so that they are not ironic or sarcastic. I call it the ‘mascara moment'”.

Francesco Lucchetta, Director: EMEAI Supply, Pentair, agreed, asserting the “importance of making people aware of emotions without showing them; making an effort to keep the exchange respectful and controlled”.

3. Be physically prepared

Roos recalled working with a procurement leader who took a very unique approach to managing his negotiations. At the beginning of every meeting, and regularly throughout, he would direct participants to the bathroom.

“The need to take a break, to go to the toilet, can create problems and impact on emotions during a negotiation. It’s good to take a minute, recharge your batteries and re-enter the discussion with a fresh perspective.”

Guerous agreed with the importance of taking regular breaks throughout the negotiation process, even if it’s simply a break in the current conversation. “It’s a powerful technique, when emotions are running high, to completely deviate from that topic, particularly if you believe you are going to have minimal success. Switch to a less contentious discussion and return to the difficult point later, whether it’s in a few minutes or in a few hours.”

4. Prepare to be confident

Preparation before a negotiation is crucial to help regulate emotions because it gives you the confidence to calmly assert your position and communicate your key points.

Ifti Ahmed, Managing Partner, Titanium Partners, argued that the most important way to control emotions is through self-confidence. “Confidence comes from preparation. If you’re prepared, you’re confident. If you think you’re going to win, you’re confident. If you think you’re going to lose – that’s when emotions come into it.”

If it helps you, don’t be ashamed of preparing everything you have to say in writing and then sticking to that script.

5. Plan your stand-up routine

There’s nothing like a touch of light humour to diffuse an escalating argument. Alessandra Silvano, Global Category Director: CAPEX & MRO, Carlsberg, explained that his favourite way to blow out tension during negotiations is to crack a joke. “Of course, it has to be tactful, considered and culturally appropriate but it can be a useful and powerful way to break tension. Be sure to not offend anyone and perhaps keep it exclusively to jokes about yourself!”

6. Pick your venue wisely

The choice of location can make or break the success of your negotiation. If you want to ensure that all participants remain civil, calm and professional there’s nothing like a neutral or public space to guarantee best behaviour.

“I’m a very emotional person and I find it difficult to process”, said Silvano. “The venue of the negotiation has a big impact for me. I try to pick a relaxing, informal setting, such as a dinner. In an office environment, it’s easy to get angry. In a nice restaurant, I’m more relaxed and it’s easier to joke around and control emotions.”

Adapted from Procurious

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