According to Tony Hughes, CEO of Huthwaite International, a UK-based sales and negotiation training company, recent research by the company reveals people in most businesses negotiate badly most of the time. “That’s costing businesses a lot,” he says.

Here are five tips from Hughes for negotiating more effectively.

1 | Do your homework the right way

Before entering a negotiation, most negotiators will spend the majority of their time preparing facts and figures. But the most skilled negotiators spend twice the time on planning how they will use such information in the negotiation. They focus on finding ways to use data to establish common ground or gain an edge.

2 | Ask, don’t tell

Skilled negotiators are more concerned with seeking information than giving it. Careful questioning provides insight into the other party’s position and allows you to understand their strategic objectives. Also, questioning can create doubt in their mind about their approach. That’s important because doubt creates movement — and movement takes you closer to your goal.

3 | Feelings matter

Using statements like, “I’m delighted we’re moving closer to an agreement on price” or “I’m disappointed that you’re not able to extend the contract length” can be powerful. While the other party might disagree with you on the substance of the negotiation, no one can question your feelings. Referring to your feelings can help establish a co-operative climate.

60% | Percentage of skilled negotiators who express “feelings” statements

4 | Don’t be irritating

Self-praising — “I’m being very reasonable here” or “I think you’ll agree a contract review within two years is very fair” — are what professional negotiators call “irritators.” According to Hughes, an irritating statement like, “I’ll be honest with you” communicates to the other person, “previously, I was dishonest.”

5 | Counter proposals can be counterproductive

Counter proposals rarely work. Responding to a suggestion with an immediate alternative is equivalent to saying: “I’m not listening to you, I have certain targets and I’m sticking to them.” The trouble is, if you’re not listening, you’re not really negotiating.


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