Negotiation Training – Improving a Common Activity

People negotiate every day. Whether it is a banker over the terms of a loan, a computer sales person about the delivery time, an advertisement buyer over the Cost Per Thousand, or a government official about the compliance of specific regulations. It is a common and essential activity that cannot be avoided.

While many believe great negotiators are born as such, there is significant evidence that training can drastically improve one’s abilities. It is also commonly believed that successful negotiators are good talkers, when in fact, it is just the opposite, successful negotiators are good listeners.

Negotiation training should involve a significant focus on preparation. Preparation is the only aspect of a negotiation which one can completely control. Proper preparation includes understanding both side’s precedents, alternatives, interests, and deadlines before sitting at the “negotiation table.” Negotiation training should also include probing and listening. Asking the right questions and actively listening are critical factors in understanding the other side’s interests and what they really want. Finally, all negotiation training should discuss the art of proposing. This portion of the negotiation process is only as good as the previous two, preparation and probing, but it receives most of the attention. Against common belief, one should allow the other side to make the first offer, and always aim high when eventually forced to make a proposal.

Negotiation training can use different instructional methods to cover the skills above. Live front-of-the-room negotiation training is the most common method. It allows an instructor to lead a classroom setting through the material, giving participants the ability to instantly ask questions to, and receive feedback from, the instructor. This method also facilitates interaction amongst participants. This method often involves the most cost as it requires classroom space, an uninterrupted block of time, and potentially, travel costs.

As a result of technology’s dramatic improvements, negotiation training can also be conducted online. Within this medium, there are several sub-methods. The first is internet-based asynchronous training done through platforms that allow users to navigate through a course on their own time. The information is very easy to access – this method is by far the most convenient. The second is through live internet-based platforms that require an instructor to lead the negotiation training, but in using simple quasi-interactive technology. The third and final sub-method is to use 3D virtual platforms that allow participants to use computer generated characters known as avatars. Using this method, the live front-of-the-room can almost fully be recreated. Avatars can attend the negotiation training, participate in group exercises, and collaborate with one another.

In conclusion, the instructional method should be chosen based on the needs of the people participating in the negotiation training. However, regardless of the method, negotiation training is an effective way to improve a common activity.