We are all born negotiators. Even before you started talking, you managed to get what you wanted from other people.

And after working with professional services for over 20 years, I can confidently say lawyers are some of the best negotiators – it’s how you get great results for your clients.

Unfortunately, this style of negotiation doesn’t always work with your peers. Dealing with team dynamics, requesting more resources, or providing constructive feedback are just a few scenarios that require a different style of negotiating.

Here are four steps you can take to ensure win-win negotiations within your team.

1. Prepare

One of the keys to negotiating effectively is to be able to express exactly what you want and why. This means researching a number of things.

  • Work out exactly what result is needed and why it is so important to you.
  • At the same time, work out what’s in it for the other person. Why should they care?
  • Research any relevant policies, procedures, or precedents.
  • Find concrete examples to back up your story.
  • Build a detailed business case around costs.
  • Understand your “wiggle” room. How much are you prepared to give up?

Finally, learn as much as you can about the other person and how they’re influenced. This should dictate how you present the information you’ve uncovered.

If they’re the analytical type, arm yourself with the facts – you could even send them beforehand to help them prepare. If they take in their information in more a big picture ‘global’ way, be prepared to cut to the chase.

Now you’re ready to negotiate.

2. Exchange Information

Arrange a mutually convenient time and place to meet. When you do, consider the other person’s commitments and when they’re at their best (especially if you are delivering bad news).

Then, when you’re stating your case, always:

  • Talk through your position clearly, concisely and confidently. Avoid phrases such as ‘I hope I don’t…’ or ‘I’m worried that’. Instead, keep it positive and say, ‘I plan to…’ or ‘My goal is….’.
  • Consider and articulate the other person’s point of view.
  • Listen carefully to their perspective before jumping in.
  • Address problems and not people.
  • Watch and, if necessary, moderate your tone, volume, body language and eye contact.

3. Bargain

Now that you’ve explained your objective, it’s time to bargain. This is where your terms should be explained and any agreements start to take shape.

Bargaining is never easy – both sides often need to compromise. So always know what your core, non-negotiable wants are and what you’re willing to let go of.

Don’t view your counterpart as an adversary. Instead, focus on the merits of the case and search for ways to achieve reciprocity. If you feel yourself getting angry learn to ‘go to the balcony’ or to disconnect your emotions (a phrase coined by Roger Fisher and William Ury in their classic Getting to Yes).

Make sure you focus on the underlying issue, rather than the other person. For that reason, try not to make too many assumptions about what’s in the other party’s mind.

Always go in expecting negotiations to work. But just in case they don’t, take in a Plan B or what Fisher and Ury call a BATNA (best alternative to a negotiated agreement). That way, even in the worst case scenario you’ll have an alternative.

If you’re really good you can even use your BATNA for leverage during negotiations.

Here’s my dos and don’ts for this vital stage.

Keep an open mind, avoid defensiveness, be empathetic, be honest, remain positive.

Be aggressive, talk and not listen, get angry, concede too much.

4. Close and Commit

Finally, you’ll probably need to make a few adjustments to the outcome before closing the conversation. Once you have, you should always reconfirm what you understand has been agreed in this way: “So my understanding is that we will now…”

Better yet, put this down in an email to make sure everyone is on the same page – literally!

And there you have it… you’ve negotiated a win-win outcome.

Merilyn Speiser – Principal Consultant, Catalina Consultants

Catalina Consultants’ founder and Principal Consultant, Merilyn Speiser, has over 20 years’ experience in the development of business strategies, leadership development, people and performance management and succession planning.