How to Use Role Play to Strengthen Your Negotiation Skills

The ability to negotiate is one of the most critical elements in having a successful career, and like anything else, your negotiation skills will improve with practice.  However, it can be difficult to get the practice you need before heading into the board room.  That’s why role play is such an effective method for strengthening your negotiation skills.  Working through hypothetical scenarios allows you to identify strengths, build on weaknesses, and try out new techniques in a low-stakes situation.  Role play also provides the opportunity for you to work with a coach who can give you suggestions for how to handle difficult situations or unreasonable demands.  Learn how you can reinforce good negotiation skills through the following exercises.

Overcome Personal Negotiation Weaknesses

We all have a few areas that could use some improvement when it comes to negotiating.  Maybe you get nervous when a client disagrees and you offer premature discounts or maybe you don’t know how to compromise, causing buyers to walk away.  Whatever the issues, identify your weakness and build a role play scenario around that area.  For example, one person will play the salesperson and the other person will play the prospect.  Go through a standard negotiation, placing emphasis and focus on overcoming your specific weakness.   After the negotiation is over, each person has a chance to provide feedback before switching roles and completing the exercise again from a different perspective.

Practice Negotiating an Extreme Situation

When training for a sport, most athletes train in extreme conditions because if they can run 6 miles in frigid weather and rough terrain they can certainly complete a 3 mile race in ideal conditions.  The same principle can be applied to negotiations.  Once you have successfully negotiated an extremely difficult situation, you will be mentally prepared for a more standard and straightforward negotiation.  Practice this exercise by making note of the most extreme situations you can think of such as tight deadlines, massive deal, difficult personality, etc.  Randomly pick one scenario and run through a negotiation.  Once an agreement has been reached, talk about what techniques were successful and which ones weren’t.  Redo the negotiation until you have practiced with all of the scenarios.

Learn How to Reach a Mutual Agreement

Many people think of negotiation as a win-lose agreement, but in fact a successful negotiation is one in which both parties feel like they have come out ahead.  This type of bargaining is known as win-win negotiation.  Come up with a standard negotiation scenario and act it out, making sure to focus on win-win results.  As you are negotiating, pay close attention to the needs of your counterpart, as listening is one of the most important components to this type of bargaining.  Once an agreement has been reached, talk about how it will benefit both parties and discuss other possible solutions that could be even more beneficial.

The more you practice, the better negotiator you are going to be.  Role play will help you to gain confidence, get more comfortable, and try out various techniques before working on a high-stakes negotiation.  Use these exercises to prepare yourself for every possible scenario and how you are going to handle it.