Pitfalls in Negotiation: How to Avoid the Most Common Mistakes

Negotiation is an important skill for any business. Whether you are hammering out the details of a contract, discussing deadlines with team members, or trying to get a group to come to an agreement, you will struggle in your career if you fail to negotiate effectively. Even the smallest mistakes can cost you time and money. As with any other skill, success starts with a keen understanding of potential pitfalls and traps to avoid. Here are some of the most common negotiation mistakes and how you can avoid them. 

Not Preparing Enough

You may be familiar with the saying, “Fail to prepare and prepare to fail.” All too often individuals approach negotiations with the mindset that they are going to “wing it.” Unfortunately, this leads to poor outcomes. Before you begin any negotiation, you must have a clear understanding of both your position as well as the needs of the other party. This means gathering information about what is motivating the other party in order to prepare a well-rounded conversation. You also need to know your own must-haves, concessions you are willing to make, as well as your BATNA. 

Going in with a Win-Lose Attitude

Inexperienced negotiators often feel like there is only one option for a negotiation, and that’s to have a winner and a loser. Approaching negotiations with a win-lose mentality without exploring opportunities for mutual gain will result in missed opportunities and strained business relationships. 

Taking Things Personally

Don’t fall into the trap of letting your emotions take over at the bargaining table. It’s difficult to negotiate effectively if you allow it to affect you on a personal level. In those moments where you feel attacked, try turning that into an opportunity to ask questions to gain helpful information. A great negotiator knows their triggers and doesn’t let their emotions get the best of them. 

Not Building Relationships

There may be times when you go into a negotiation with someone you barely know. At times like this, try to establish a relationship with the other party. A little small talk can build trust and give you a better insight into the goals and values of the other person. You are more likely to reach an agreement if you build a solid relationship early on. 

Competing Instead of Collaborating

As mentioned above, it’s not always smart to enter into a negotiation with a competitive mindset. When you see yourself as competing with the other person, you might miss opportunities to build relationships. A smarter approach is to be open and transparent and look for ways to better understand the other party’s needs. Then, you can find a solution that best suits everyone involved. 

Succumbing to Pressure

If you have ever bought something because it said there was “only one left” or the “sale ends today,” then you have succumbed to pressure tactics. Don’t let this happen at the bargaining table. Learn to recognize when another party is applying pressure that is intended to influence your decision. Remember what your goals are as well as you walk-away point and don’t accept a deal you don’t really want. 

Not Knowing Your BATNA

The term BATNA refers to your “Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement.” While the aim of any negotiation is to get what you want, you should always be prepared with your next best option. This allows you to know when it’s time to cut your losses and walk away. Decide on your BATNA before you enter the negotiation so you can push harder during the discussions and potentially get a better deal.