How to negotiate through leadership and influence

Denise Jeffrey discusses how the behaviour of your negotiation counterparts can give you valuable clues about what’s driving them.

Reading time: 4 minutes.

Sitting down at the negotiation table can be nerve wracking for even the most experienced professionals. There’s inevitably something important at stake — be that money, new business, or even a working relationship — and you never know for sure how the person opposite you perceives the situation.

Are they going to play hard ball? Are they suspicious of your motives? Or are they keen to sit down and chat business, but with no real intention of signing a deal? Being prepared for every eventuality is a must and that doesn’t necessarily just mean going in with a game plan. 

The delicate dance of negotiation

Negotiation is ultimately about communication. 

What is it that you want from your counterpart? And what is it that they want from you? When you sit down at the negotiation table it’s the relationship between these two things that you’re trying to work out. It’s down to the people involved to find that balance and ultimately, strive for a win-win outcome. 

But as humans, we’re not always able to accurately interpret the signals other people are giving off. In business it can be particularly difficult to see beyond your own needs, goals and targets – so much so that you can forget that negotiation is a two-way street.

When you negotiate, personality shouldn’t come into it — it’s the behaviour of the person you’re talking to that you need to address.

You must always be prepared for give and take in a negotiation setting, and notice that how you like to do business might not necessarily align with everyone else. In many cases, it’s a missed opportunity. How many deals have failed to go through, simply because — rhetorically speaking — the parties weren’t speaking the same language? 

Dealing well with how other people negotiate with you – whether that entails them grilling your every statement, buttering you up with conversations about your life, trying to intimidate you or even trying to avoid negotiating at all – can mean the difference between failure and success.  

Doing your research

In some situations, you’ll already know the people you’re going to negotiate with, and the advantages of this are obvious. You know their business, and you probably have a pretty good idea of what they want and need. Even more important than that, you know what they’re like. 


So that means you’ll probably have an easy time working out whether it’s better to have the negotiation in a relaxed setting, for example, or whether you’re going to need a projector to show them data visualisations to bring the numbers to life.

These are the little things that can really help you communicate effectively and clearly – and if you’re on familiar ground with someone you’ll have a decent idea of which direction to take.

Without any prior knowledge of a person, however, it’s tough to know exactly what’s going to speak to them. It’s like going on a blind date — you have no clue if what you’ve prepared is going to appeal to whoever sits down in front of you. 

Thankfully, nowadays, there are plenty of ways to get an impression of the kind of person you’re going to speak to. LinkedIn (if they have a profile) is certainly a good way of getting a basic picture together — who they are, what their position in the company is and how long they’ve been there are all good indicators of what their concerns might be.  

It’s incredible how many professionals get to the negotiating table without having done so much as a Google search on the people they’ll be trying to reach an agreement with, and they’re missing a trick. If you have the time and opportunity, do what you can to get as much information about your counterpart as you can. 

Dealing with the human factor

When you negotiate, personality shouldn’t come into it — it’s the behaviour of the person you’re talking to that you need to address. 

Loud, brash and confident people are perfectly capable of coming into a negotiation setting armed with the most thorough research imaginable, and an open mind. Equally, the most affable person in the world could come to the table determined to prove a point and have you over a barrel. 

However well you’ve prepared for your negotiation make sure you also allow yourself to be flexible. You might not have made the right assumptions about what the other party wants, or perhaps they’ve come to the table with an attitude and an approach that you weren’t expecting. 

This is where your skills as a negotiator will really come into play — if you’re able to read the situation correctly and adapt your behaviour accordingly, you’re almost certain to get a better result at the end of it.

This piece will be concluded next week.


About the author

Denise Jeffrey is an executive and leadership coach. 


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