MBA blog: a timely lesson on how best to negotiate

In light of the UK’s EU referendum result and the bargaining to come, what better time to talk about negotiation.

Effective negotiators are valuable in all businesses, in all industries. During an elective for the MBA I am studying at the University of Edinburgh Business School, I learnt strategies to develop and protect both commercial objectives and relationships through methods such as role play.

One of the most important points highlighted in the course is that you need to recognise your own, and the other side’s, best alternative to a negotiated agreement. This takes sufficient planning and is a point echoed by Natalie Reynolds, chief executive of Advantage Spring, a London-based negotiations consultancy, and author of We Have a Deal.

During a workshop in London in May, Ms Reynolds said doing your homework before a negotiation is a “bit like human due diligence” — understanding the people involved is as important as the topic. Here are some key points to bear in mind:

●Negotiation is like a muscle, says Ms Reynolds, the more you train and develop it, the stronger it becomes. Over time you learn to label certain behaviour and strategies, then work around them and use them to your advantage.

●Have your business case ready. Ms Reynolds says plan, prepare and never “wing it”. Know your moves in advance, do not take uncalculated risks, be flexible and creative.

●Giving concessions is key; try to see the world through the eyes of the opposite side. Empathy can go a long way.

●Open ambitiously but credibly, and try to go first.

●Be prepared to share information. Knowing what to share is hard, but listening and questioning will help negotiators establish what to reveal.

Full post: ft.com/mba-blog

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