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Are Your Project Negotiation Skills Letting You Down?

A project manager is in the middle of a negotiation where the customer is telling secrets.A big part of successfully running a project comes with the negotiating around some of the issues which are sure to come your way. You will have to deal with stakeholders, team members and possibly other people too.

As they all want to look after their own interests you could find that you need to find a way to ensure that the best interests of the project come first. How successful you are with this will often depend upon the quality of your negotiating skills. Here are a few of the tips which might come in handy along the way.

See Both Sides of the Issue

Good negotiating is all about seeing both sides of the issue which needs to be resolved. You might urgently need a resolution which lets the project move forward but don’t forget that the decision which is reached could also have a big effect on other areas of the business. This means that you need to take into account other people’s needs and wants before you press ahead with your plans. Some of the stakeholders you come across will be very open with you about what they need but others may take a more low key approach which tempts you into trying to railroad through your ideas. You should definitely avoid doing this and instead always look to take into account what the other people you are dealing with need. If you are always entirely honest and scrupulous about doing this then you will soon earn a reputation for being fair with your stakeholders and you should find that this makes your future negotiations easier to handle.

Be Tough but Fair

One of the most difficult things about negotiating is that it can be extremely hard to tread the middle ground between being too soft and being too aggressive. Ideally you will be able to find a compromise which lets everyone walk away happy from the talks. However, if the matter is especially complicated you could find that it is possible that you either back down on what you need or else get overly aggressive and refuse to budge an inch. Neither of these approaches is a good idea but staying away from them can be difficult. The best tip I have received on the subject is to go into the meeting with a range of options to hand. You might have a preferred solution but if no one else likes the sound of it then you will need a backup plan to try and get their agreement with. I would suggest that you list as many different possible approaches as you can and then try to work out which ones would be best and worst for you. This way you will know right away during the meeting whether or not you can afford to compromise or whether you need to dig your heels in. Hopefully the other attendees do this as well.

Don’t Rush Things

If you try and reach a rushed agreement it is far more likely that you run into problems along the way. To stick to a tight deadline you will probably be tempted to try and push through the solution you want rather than properly negotiating it. Clearly the quicker you flag up the issue then the more time you will have to calmly consider it, so this should be the first thing you aim to do. You should also ensure that any meetings you have on the subject are arranged for a long enough time for everyone to put their case forward and debate the subject in a reasonable way. No matter how important the matter is to you there is always the chance that it is equally important, or more so, to someone else on the project.

Make the Situation Clear

Finally, one of the most important points you have to be on top of is the need to make the situation clear. For example, if you need resources and the stakeholders don’t want to agree to it then there is no point going into a bad mood about it. You should show you the material effect this will have on the project. Will it now run past the scheduled completion date or will the quality of the work potentially suffer? If they really don’t want to negotiate then you should show them what results they can expect and hope that this is enough to make them change their minds on the matter.

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