Effective Negotiation Skills

Phases of Negotiation

There are a number of ways to describe the various procedures followed by negotiators; however, we believe that most negotiations can be seen as a loosely ordered sequence of five distinct stages or phases which can be presented in the following simple format:

  1. Background Preparation: In which the negotiators identify the issues and range of objectives for each issue.
  2. Developing a strategy: In which each party decides what strategy and style to adopt.
  3. Getting started: In which each side presents their initial demand or case.
  4. Bargaining: In which each party tries to get concessions.
  5. Closing: In which final agreement is reached or the negotiations are terminated short of an agreement.

Some of these stages are more relevant to formal negotiations between teams or organizations than to informal discussions between individual managers. However, even in a more informal situation, the five phases provide a simple and practical framework for managing your negotiations, and identify the skills and strategies involved in this process. We recommend you use this five-phase approach in all your negotiations, as, whilst it is not a guarantee for success, it will help you to assess the situation accurately, select the best means of persuasion and implement your strategy effectively. It will also protect you from making some of the most common and costly mistakes mentioned earlier, and help you set objectives and time limits that work for, not against, you.



Next sections deal in some detail with the skills and activities associated with each stage of this approach (such as assessing relative strengths and weaknesses, setting the agenda, and getting and making concessions) and provide hints for improving your performance as a negotiator in each stage.