Richard Arnott shows a way through the maze of business negotiation

Effective negotiation skills are required whether we are an Executive Assistant, an Executive, a Senior Manager or work in Sales, Marketing, Procurement, Project Management, Finance, IT or Operations. Virtually everyone has negotiated at some time in their lives however there are some key STYLE tips that will differentiate you from the pack and significantly enhance your effectiveness “around the table”

Over the years I have followed the simple 3-stage Scope – Plan – Conduct approach to all negotiations which has served me well through some very difficult challenges.

Figure 1: BMTG MasterClass in Effective Negotiating Skills


Understanding the scope of the negotiation means firstly deciding on the actual need for negotiation in the first place and, secondly, assuming that negotiation is required, deciding who will conduct the negotiation.


Planning the negotiation is essential for success and takes into account the various Internal and External factors that would impact the process such as payment history, previous performance, market capabilities and sector trends.

Good negotiators prepare, the BEST negotiators PLAN more than twice as much, however I will cover these subjects in more detail in later articles.


It is however in the conduct of the negotiation that deals can be won or lost. The Conduct phase involves the actual Negotiation itself, effective Closure and rigourous Follow on / Enforcement. Within the Negotiation itself it is critical that you have:

  • the right Team in place
  • agreed the Style to be used
  • planned how to Position yourselves (the meeting environment)
  • agreed and understood what Behaviours are acceptable, and
  • agreed how the negotiation will be Structured (agenda, time frames etc)

Adopting the best and most effective Style depends on circumstances. There is no such thing as a “universal style” – the best negotiators adapt their approach

What is the “right” Style?

Adapting the right style depends on how you view the other party. Are they someone that you can GROW, are they basically a NUISANCE, are they someone who can be EXPLOITED or are they a partner that you MUST KEEP?

Depending on where the parties sit can determine which style you should adopt. For example in the table below the Supplier sees the client as a “Must keep” and is therefore prepared to be conciliatory, is prepared to compromise and will be looking for a long-term deal.

The Client or Buyer however may see the Supplier as a Nuisance and can adopt a “What can I get?” approach, minimize compromises, be aggressive, offer short-term deals and be prepared to walk away.

Figure 2: BMTG Negotiations Skills: Styles

Once the Style is agreed there are a number of key points to be considered:

Listen: It is well recognised that the best negotiators listen far more than they talkNever personalise a negotiation – always keep it professional
Use silence: Never talk for the sake of it – do not be afraid of silenceNever give anything away for nothing, everything has a value
Wait: Silence creates pressure. When asking a questions wait for a reply; when someone finished their response, pause, they often give more informationNever assume that something that is unimportant to you is unimportant to the supplier
Think carefully about what you are saying, run through it in your own mind firstNever be too eager, always consider what you are being offered before agreeing
Think about how you are saying what you are saying – the tone you are using, the words you are usingNever be too eager, always consider what you are being offered before agreeing
Use open questions: Ensure you use effective (open) questioning – right question in the right areasNever show your hand. Poor negotiators often give themselves away. Supplier tactics include “let’s go to lunch”, “between you and me”, etc

Figure 3: BMTG Negotiations Skills: Styles

Richard Arnott, BA, FInatAM, FIToL, is the Director of BMTG (UK) Ltd, and the author and lead presenter of the groundbreaking, globally recognised Advanced Certificate for the Executive Assistant: ACEA® program. Richard also sits on the editorial board of ... (Read More)

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