Are you hoping to improve your negotiation skills but find the concept a bit intimidating? Perhaps you don’t even know where to begin when it comes to developing strong negotiation techniques.
To start, a key aspect to successful negotiations is creating a win-win situation—in order for you to succeed during negotiations, the other party doesn’t need to lose. Striving to achieve a mutually beneficial solution to a conflict, sales discussion, or any other situation allows you to maintain a positive relationship while reaching your goals. To do so, many negotiators find value in a process known as the “3 Ps” —prepare, probe, and propose.
Breaking down the negotiations process in this way will make it far simpler to navigate, thus boosting your chances at success. We’ve developed a simple outline of the 3 Ps to help you get started.
Stage One: Prepare
The preparation step of negotiating can be further broken down with a simple acronym: GETPAID. Thus, your preparations will include:
- G: Goal. Consider the goal you intend to reach during the bargaining process. In an ideal outcome, what do you hope to achieve?
- E: Exit Point. Conversely, what is the least beneficial solution you are willing to settle for? At what point will you be willing to exit the negotiation without accepting an offer or coming to an agreement? Where do you draw the line?
- T: Trends. Make sure you have gotten to know your opponent to the best of your ability. In particular, try to develop a strong grasp of your negotiation partner’s history, strengths, and weaknesses. All of these bits of information can benefit you during the negotiations process. A clearer idea of the opponent’s motivations and goals will make it easier to see the discussion from their personal point of view and ascertain their potential next steps.
- P: Profit Breakdowns. Take a detailed look at the conflict, service, or product involved. How do all of its elements break down into potential gains or losses for your position? With this information in hand, you’ll be able to prioritize your negotiating points.
- A: Attitude. Make sure to retain a respectful attitude before, during, and after negotiation, and convey this aspect in your pre-negotiations discussions. Even if your opponent fails to afford you the same courtesy once negotiations begin, you are not required to retaliate. Always keep your attitude calm and under control, even if you believe you’re being treated unfairly or personally attacked. Be firm, but not disrespectful or rude.
- I: Interests. Consider your and your negotiation partner’s interests—what are you able to give while retaining your best interests? What have you already given prior to negotiations? Then, try to envision your opponent’s best interests and the approach they must take to achieve them.
- D: Deadlines. Chances are that the negotiation you’re involved in includes a deadline. You should remain aware of time constraints you are operating under and try to gain an understanding of your opponent’s. You may be able to incorporate their deadline to influence a more beneficial outcome for yourself.
Without adequate preparation, it’s impossible to negotiate successfully. Preparation builds a foundation for negotiations prior to meeting with your negotiation partner for the first time. Using the GETPAID method, you can significantly increase your own chances of reaching your goals.
Stage Two: Probe
Once you have navigated the preparation stage of negotiating, you can commence the probing stage. This stage occurs during the earlier part of the negotiation process when you are still uncertain of your opponent’s position. If you have engaged in adequate preparation, you should have a good idea of your opponent’s needs, goals, and interests, but probing will help you become certain.
For example, what is the opposing party’s goal for the negotiations process? What elements are most important to them, and what are least important? What concessions do they expect you to make, and what concessions are they willing to make for you? Before negotiations begin, you can conduct research to answer these questions. Once you are at the negotiations table, however, you must do your best to get your answers directly from your opponent.
The crux of this process is to make sure you are listening more than you’re talking. Ask questions in order to probe for these vital pieces of information, then follow up to ensure understanding. Establish and understand your opponent’s position as soon as possible once negotiations begin. Don’t assume or attack under any circumstances.
Stage Three: Propose
Taking what you have gathered during probing into account, begin forming a proposal. Be sure to consider the following when crafting a proposal:
- Try to make the first offer to establish the negotiations range firmly within your comfort zone.
- Alternatively, if you have established a firm goal and exit point, let your opponent go first to see if you can attain your pre-established goal and make a counteroffer that exceeds it.
- Never accept your opponent’s first offer, which is likely well above their own personal exit point.
- Consider trading something you value less to receive something you value more.
- Don’t rush the process—sometimes, the party who outlasts the other can benefit.
- Always keep your goal in mind and stomp out the fear of rejection; the negotiation process will likely involve several offers that are not accepted before you land on mutually agreeable terms.
As mentioned, the goal of the negotiation process should be to provide both parties with some degree of benefit. Consider your and your opponent’s goals in your offer to ensure you can reach a solution that preserves your relationship and benefits you both.
Negotiate More Productively with the 3 Ps
If you’re new to the negotiating process, the 3 Ps are an excellent place to start. Whenever possible, develop your negotiation with respect to the preparation, probing, and proposing stages. This is a technique that will set you up for bargaining success and increases your chances at a win-win solution that benefits both participants.