top of page
  • Writer's pictureMarc Saris

The Ultimate Guide on Negotiation Training

Updated: 2 hours ago

In the world of business, a common misconception is that you are either good or bad at negotiating. Nothing is further from the truth as negotiation is a key skill that can be developed and improved upon with training and practice.


And there are good reasons to invest in improving negotiation skills. In any business, interaction among people is inevitable, and these interactions often involve discussions and negotiations. This is a standard part of the workday, involving not only internal team members but also external stakeholders.


Equipping individuals with the vital skill of negotiation enables them to reach agreements more swiftly and efficiently, while preserving positive relationships. Essentially, the proficiency of an organization’s employees in negotiation can be seen as an indicator of their effectiveness in implementing corporate strategies.


It's surprising to discover how many professionals lack dedicated negotiation training, especially when considering their significant commercial responsibilities. These include managing budgets, meeting sales targets, and handling third-party spending. In fact, allowing professionals to engage in high-stake negotiations without proper training is not just surprising, it is highly irresponsible.


The following article is written to help you understand everything you need to know about negotiation training, helping your organization close the gap in negotiation skills. The following topics are covered:

  • Why invest in developing negotiation skills?

  • Who should be trained in negotiation skills?

  • What Negotiation training provider is right for your organization?

  • When should people be trained in negotiations?



Why invest in Developing Negotiation Skills?

Investing in negotiation training directly impacts your organization's bottom line. This impact is realized through addressing the following crucial elements:


  • Improved Deal Outcomes: Training enhances the ability of employees to negotiate better terms in deals, leading to more favorable outcomes for the organization. This can directly impact the bottom line, whether in sales, procurement, or other business agreements.

  • Relationship Building: Effective negotiation is not just about winning a deal, but also about building and maintaining relationships. Training helps employees to negotiate in a way that is respectful and considerate of the other party, which can be crucial for long-term business relationships.

  • Conflict Resolution: Negotiation skills are invaluable in resolving internal and external conflicts. Employees who are trained in negotiation can more effectively mediate disputes and find solutions that satisfy all parties involved.

  • Enhanced Communication Skills: Negotiation training often includes elements of effective communication, such as active listening and clear articulation of points. These skills are beneficial not just in negotiation scenarios, but in all forms of workplace communication.

  • Increased Confidence: Employees who are trained in negotiation techniques are generally more confident in their ability to represent themselves and their organization effectively. This confidence can lead to greater assertiveness in pursuing the organization’s interests.

  • Adaptability and creativity: Negotiation training can also encourage employees to be more adaptable and creative, as they learn to find creative solutions to complex problems and to think on their feet.

  • Enhanced Influencing Skills: Negotiation training significantly boosts an employee's ability to influence others. This skill is crucial not only in direct negotiation situations but also in broader organizational contexts.

  • Risk Management: Understanding negotiation dynamics helps in better assessing and managing risks associated with business deals. Trained negotiators are more adept at identifying potential pitfalls and negotiating terms that mitigate these risks.

  • Unified Negotiation Language: Adopting a unified negotiation language and terminology within an organization enhances internal communication among stakeholders and subsequent alignment. This common linguistic framework ensures more effective and efficient exchanges, facilitating clearer understanding and collaboration during negotiations.

  • Standardized Preparation Approach: Implementing a standardized methodology for preparing for negotiations within an organization leads to more efficient and aligned processes. This consistency ensures that all team members approach negotiations with a similar strategy and understanding, fostering unity and effectiveness in negotiation tactics.

  • Global Competence: In an increasingly globalized business environment, negotiation training that includes a focus on cultural sensitivity and international business practices is vital for companies operating across borders.

The impact of enhancing negotiation skills on commercial results is both immense and long-lasting. Organizations that invest in negotiation training see immediate improvements in how their employees negotiate. This isn't just about closing deals or winning arguments; it's about creating a culture of effective communication, mutual respect, and collaborative problem-solving.

Who should be trained in negotiation skills?


Negotiation training is crucial for many professionals, not just those in business roles. It's often thought that only commercial roles such as sales and procurement need these skills. However, even IT and project managers negotiate daily (e.g. discuss deadlines, resources, and priorities). Almost all professionals can gain from improving negotiation skills, as it is a key contributor to communication and decision-making.


That said, an organization does need to prioritize and start somewhere, and a great first step is pinpointing those whose work directly affects the company's financial results. Professionals in sales, account management, procurement, human resources (especially in recruitment and employment relations), and business development are such functions that directly impact on the bottom line. They negotiate daily with both internal and external parties.


Different trainings suit different needs, and using the same training for everyone isn't effective without evaluating their current and desired skill levels and training needs. Begin by listing the yearly business responsibilities of various individuals or roles. Then, categorize these people or roles by determining the necessary negotiation skills and competencies for each. Use the following segmentation to help you identify what type of training is suitable per segment:

These thresholds are indicative and can vary based on the industry, size of the organization, and specific roles within the organization. It's important to tailor these to the specific context of the professionals who are assessed.


Also supporting functions like finance and legal may greatly benefit from participating in negotiation training as they are often involved indirectly with the preparation and support of negotiations. Having such functions trained in the same methodology and concepts will greatly increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the negotiation preparation.


Once you have categorized the professional population and the desired negotiation skill level you need to start sourcing the right negotiation training.


What Negotiation Training Provider is Right For Your Organization?


There's a wide variety of negotiation training providers, and their quality varies significantly. Since there's no official accreditation body for negotiation trainers, choosing the right provider can be challenging. Moreover, considering the substantial investment involved, selecting the appropriate provider is crucial, especially given that negotiation training is not typically an annual occurrence. Keep in mind that, in professional services, the age-old wisdom holds true: you get what you pay for.

So, what should you considering a negotiation training provider, take the following:

  • Understanding Organizational Needs: Does the provider recognize and address your specific negotiation challenges and goals, or do they offer generic solutions? Seek a provider that offers custom-tailored training for your organization's unique situation.

  • Quality of Training Content: The training should encompass critical negotiation skills such as verbal and non-verbal communication, behavior analysis, different negotiation styles (competitive and collaborative), power dynamics, preparation strategies, move planning, psychology, and influencing techniques.

  • Provider's Expertise and Reputation: Investigate the provider's credentials. Look for those with experience relevant to your industry or the specific types of negotiations your team encounters.

  • Prioritize expertise: It may be tempting to opt for a training provider that claims to cover a broad spectrum of skills, ranging all the way from negotiation and project management to presentation and leadership. However, this approach carries the inherent risk of sacrificing depth and substance.

  • Trainers' Practical Experience: Favor trainers with real negotiation experience over those who solely focus on theoretical knowledge. The most effective commercial negotiation trainers often have substantial experience in commercial roles themselves. Managing negotiation consulting projects also indicates the professionalism of the trainer. Take control of the trainer selection process, especially when engaging with larger training providers. Ensure you are allowed to actively participate in the selection of the trainer (Obtain the trainer's CV, have the opportunity to interview the individual and make the final decision).

  • Interactive and Practical Learning Approaches: Choose programs that include interactive sessions, real-life simulations, and role-playing exercises. Practical experience is more valuable than theoretical knowledge for honing negotiation skills. For behavioral and advanced training, video feedback is crucial.

  • Customization Options: Opt for a training provider that is flexible to meet your organization's specific needs and constraints. A good provider should be willing to customize their content and the flow of the program to address your particular scenarios and challenges.

  • Post-Training Support and Resources: Determine whether the provider offers more than just training, such as consultancy services. This can be indicative of their capacity to provide post-training support, which might include coaching, online resources, and refresher courses to reinforce the skills learned.


Cost vs. Value: Consider the cost of the training in relation to the value it brings. Don't just go for the cheapest option; evaluate the ROI based on the potential improvement in negotiation outcomes. Consider what a 3%-5% improvement in commercial results means for your organization.


Once you have selected a training provider there are some must haves for each level of seniority to maximize the effectiveness of each training. Below table summarizes key points:


When should professionals be trained in negotiations?


It is useful to break this down into two aspects: the optimal point in someone's career and the best time of year for such training.  It's important to understand that a training session in isolation won't make someone an expert negotiator. Negotiation is a skill that needs ongoing practice and regular training to improve.


When thinking about the right time in a career to start negotiation training, it's best to begin early. Learning negotiation skills early helps a person grow from basic to more advanced levels as they move up in their career. This way, as they take on more responsibilities, they can keep improving and adjusting their negotiation skills, as well as directly benefiting the organization in improved commercial results. For talents within the organization, one should consider developing a negotiation curriculum, which is – next to the benefits as highlighted before – a kind of retention policy.


It's important to note that staying at a particular career level doesn't mean one should cease training. Even if someone has completed an intermediate course, for instance, regular refresher or coaching programs are recommended. These ongoing training efforts help keep negotiation skills at the forefront of professional development, ensuring that individuals remain adept negotiators throughout their careers.


When deciding the best time of year for negotiation training, it's important to consider the specific needs of each organization. A key factor is to schedule training during quieter times in the business calendar. This ensures that participants can fully engage with the training without the distractions of their day-to-day work responsibilities. Choosing a less busy period allows for more focused and effective learning.


Another crucial aspect is aligning the training with the peak periods of negotiation within the organization. For instance, many professionals face a surge in negotiations towards the end of the year when contracts are typically renewed. In such cases, it's beneficial to begin negotiation training 3-6 months before these critical negotiation phases. This approach not only provides ample time for learning but also includes coaching sessions, enabling participants to immediately apply their new skills in real negotiations.


Conclusion


Negotiation skills are vital for every professional, regardless of their position. Choosing training that aligns with your job and its impact on the business is crucial. Picking a training provider with the right expertise and practical, supportive methods is also important. The timing of your training matters too. Starting early in your career builds a solid base, and ongoing training keeps you sharp. Scheduling training around your company's busy and slow times enhances its effectiveness and relevance. Ultimately, investing in negotiation training is not just a bonus; it is a key part of professional growth and essential for gaining a competitive edge in business negotiations.


Investing in negotiation training strategically improves business performance in deal-making, relationship building, conflict resolution, and communication. Selecting the right training provider is vital for overall business success. At Impact Negotiation Group, we are passionate about negotiation and have successfully assisted a range of companies, from Fortune 500 to SMEs, in developing and implementing effective negotiation curricula. Our training programs have delivered a measurable ROI of 17.9%.


Reach out to us today to explore how we can benefit your organization.



bottom of page