Looking to brush up on the latest negotiation tools and techniques? The following three guidelines, offered by recent negotiation research, will help you maximize the benefits of negotiation in business:
1. Try a “Gain Frame”
Imagine you have decided to sell your car. After doing some research, you decide to ask for $5,000 with the goal of accepting no less than $4,500. When meeting with a prospective buyer, which of the following offers do you think you should make?
“I’m asking $5,000 for the car.”
“I can give you the car for $5,000.”
As you can tell from this negotiated pricing example, the monetary offer is the same in both sentences, but the offers are framed differently: the first highlights the resource you’re requesting (money), while the second highlights the resource you’re offering (the car). Expressed differently, the first focuses on taking something from the buyer, and the second focuses on giving something to the buyer.
This subtle difference matters, Leuphana University professor Roman Trötschel and his colleagues found in a 2015 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Across numerous experiments, the researchers paired up participants to engage in a negotiation. Whether playing the role of buyer or seller, when a participant offered a resource, his or her counterpart made greater concessions than when the participant asked for a resource—even though the offers were objectively identical.
Irrational “loss aversion,” or the common human tendency to prefer to avoid a loss over acquiring an equivalent gain, is among the fundamental aspects of negotiation. Due to loss aversion, framing an offer in terms of what your counterpart would gain is likely to get you a better deal than framing the offer in terms of what he has to lose.
2. Broaden Your View—Literally
Do you sometimes negotiate on your smartphone? Before tapping out your next offer, you might want to switch to a video chat on your laptop, the results of a 2018 study published in the journal Group Decision and Negotiation by researchers Terri R. Kurtzberg, Sanghoon Kang, and Charles E. Naquin suggests.
In one experiment, the researchers paired up 376 undergraduate business students and had them take part in a fictitious negotiation for a used car. Some negotiated on their computers and others on their smartphones. In addition, some negotiated via Skype’s video mode, while others simply typed messages in Skype’s text mode.
The researchers assessed participants’ outcomes using a point system. Whether they negotiated via video or text, pairs who used computers achieved better combined outcomes than those using phones. In addition, those who negotiated via video did better than those who conducted text negotiations. The highest outcomes were achieved by pairs who negotiated via video on a computer.
Why might larger laptop screens promote better negotiation results than smaller smartphone screens? Negotiators may be “more engaged and less distracted” when looking at a larger screen, the researchers speculate. For this reason, your negotiating techniques and skills might include powering up your computer when negotiating at a distance.
3. Boost Your Power by Offering Advice
The beneficial effects of power in negotiation are well known. But when you lack power in a negotiation, you may be able to enhance your sense of power—and get a better deal—by giving advice, Professor Michael Schaerer of Singapore Management University and his colleagues found in a study published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. In one experiment, they found that participants who recalled a time when they gave advice to someone, whether solicited or unsolicited, subsequently felt more powerful as compared to participants who weren’t asked to recall giving advice.
In another experiment, MBA students completed a survey that asked them about the degree to which they engage in networking as a measure of their desire to increase their level of power in their career. About a day later, the students took part in an in-class negotiation exercise between a buyer and seller. Afterwards, they were asked whether their counterpart offered them advice during the negotiation. The results showed a link between power seeking and advice giving, such that those who engage in networking behavior more frequently also were more likely to offer their counterpart advice. The results suggest that some people may be motivated to exert influence on others to achieve a sense of power.
Overall, the findings imply that when you have good advice to offer, you should give it freely, as doing so may increase your sense of power—and, quite possibly, your negotiation outcomes.
What other negotiation tools and techniques have you found useful in your recent business negotiations?