I have been training business professionals and lawyers to more effectively negotiate since 1995. I have written this monthly column since 1999.
I make my living from the former. The latter is free (including the almost 300 at www.ExpertNegotiator.com).
So here’s the question: why do my training clients — and the clients of other negotiation trainers — pay significant sums for live in person and/or online negotiation training? After all, lots of free negotiation resources exist on the web. And many negotiation books can be picked up cheaply (including my two books).
I have found at least five main reasons. Each will help you decide how to take your skills and results to the next level.
By the way, don’t be put off as this may sound like a pitch for business. Keep in mind: the vast majority of my readers have already attended one of my programs. Plus, just because self-interest may be involved does not detract from the value here—an effort to help you substantially improve your skills.
Frankly, large scale improvement just can’t happen solely by accessing the free available resources.
1. A Fundamental Proven Framework
We all know “you must walk before you can run.” In the negotiation world, this means front-line negotiators should internalize a fundamental research-based strategic framework BEFORE engaging in high-impact negotiations (I call mine the Five Golden Rules of Negotiation).
You don’t have to know the framework in depth to start. But you should a) know the basics, b) trust its quality and credibility, and c) be comfortable it’s proven and practical.
Let’s say you are interviewing for a promotion within your company, so you search online for “salary negotiation.” A bunch of free articles and videos show up.
What will you find? Specific tips regarding what to do and not do, some of which might be based on proven research. Importantly, some invariably will be counterproductive and could really mess up your negotiation.
What won’t you get? A credible framework sufficient to empower you to develop a strategic salary negotiation plan and know how to execute that plan.
2. Learn by Doing
“Reading how to ride a horse won’t turn you into a skilled rider,” a friend recently told me. He’s obviously right. Yet how many of us jump right into a major negotiation without practicing it?
About 30 percent of my training clients are litigation lawyers. Before any trial, most litigators spend a ton of time practicing their openings and closings and witness examinations.
In negotiations, everyone should practice their moves before their real deals. It’s one thing to understand these strategies. It’s a completely different skillset to put these strategies into practice within an interactive process that includes an almost unlimited number of variables.
3. Drill Down in Depth
Learning and practicing a proven framework will get you walking down the right path. But to run, understand it in more depth. And practice it in a risk-free environment.
Professional football coaches spend hours developing detailed game plans for each opponent. Their players then practice it.
This same principle applies to negotiation. Research the specific strategies and tactics most impactful for your type of negotiation, whether it’s a sale or purchase, a raise, a legal settlement, a partnership, or some other kind. Then develop a game plan to implement them.
While the framework will be the same (akin to run, pass, kick, tackle), the tactics will invariably differ.
4. Negotiations are Not Linear
U.S. President and Army General Dwight Eisenhower, who led the invasion of Europe in World War II, said “Planning is everything. The plan is nothing.”
Negotiations rarely go exactly as planned. But this doesn’t mean you don’t plan. It means you comprehensively plan, but then must be flexible and pivot when unanticipated moves occur. Your knowledge and planning will enable you to change and make the most effective strategic moves in the moment.
Harvard Business School Professor Michael Wheeler, author of The Art of Negotiation: How to Improvise Agreement in a Chaotic World, suggests that improvisation and constant flexibility are perhaps the most important drivers of negotiation success.
5. Negotiation Training May — or May Not Be — Worth It
Taking the time and spending the money on high quality, credible, interactive negotiation training may not be worth it for you. You might never engage in significant negotiations. Or you might already get everything you want in them.
- how often you negotiate (at work and at home),
- the importance of them (financial and relationship-wise),
- the extent your professional or personal success depends on your results,
- whether you have a significant upcoming negotiation, and/or
- how much a 5-10% or more improvement would make in your negotiations.
For most, and I include myself here, the value proposition is compelling. Of course, I shouldn’t be in this profession if I believed otherwise!
Latz’s Lesson: Super-charging your negotiation skills will almost certainly require a strategic framework, practice, in depth knowledge of specific tactics, and flexibility. Training in this may be worth it for you.
Special Request for Help: I am looking for organizations or associations that might be interested in partnering to sell my new Master Negotiation in a Day online course to their members. This 8-hour premium course includes a special focus on salary and human resource (HR)-related negotiations. Please email me if you are a member of an organization or association that might want to explore this or know someone interested. Thanks!