Project management is nothing without negotiation. The client wants one thing, you understand your team can do another, and your role is to make sure everyone is happy.
Sounds pretty challenging, right?
And that’s exactly what project managers do.
As PM, you are the main intermediary between your team and the company. This means you’ll be involved in negotiating budgets, deadlines, projects, rewards, and more.
Even more, the job of the PM is never over as they have to mitigate conflicts, find solutions that will keep everyone happy, and make sure the team maintains its motivation and productivity. The PM is constantly juggling several hats, each with their own specific skill requirement, but the power of negotiation can be the ultimate ace up your sleeve.
In this article, we discuss the most important negotiation skills for project managers. Even more, we talked to leader project managers in different spheres to hear their opinion on this topic. Read on to learn more about crucial negotiation skills for project managers and what you can do to actually improve them.
Learning Never Stops
Negotiation includes elements from a wide array of fields such as human behavior, psychology, culture, communication, body language, and more. As a result, it is an ever-evolving art that requires constant nurturing with high-quality resources.
Luckily, in today’s technologically advanced world, you have the opportunity to access all sorts of resources. For instance, some people prefer the compressed version of online courses while others enjoy browsing a really good book on the topic.
Of course, as a PM, you already understand the need to be up to date with the latest developments in the field. But, to stay on top of things, you also need to continue improving your skills as a leader and negotiator.
Be Prepared to Go Up or Down
It’s a negotiation, right? Even though you know what you want, it doesn’t mean you are going to get exactly that. In fact, many specialists advise setting higher expectations so you can negotiate down from there.
However, you may have the opportunity to get a better result than you initially provisioned. The secret is to make sure you are not as set in your ways that you won’t accept better.
According to Peter Mead, the head of marketing at Bitcoin “Compromise is crucial. Negotiations are always about “give and take”. If you go in demanding and not budging your end, it can shut a deal down with a potential client, or if it’s with an internal team you will come off as autocratic. Autocratic managers are outdated and will fall by the wayside very quickly by losing the respect and buy-in of your team very very quickly.”
In conclusion, a PM should know when to give up and when to stand firm. And this is valid for any type of negotiation, whether you’re discussing budgets with the big executives or talking salary increases with your team members.
Create a Positive Environment
The same goes with negotiation too. Happier people are more willing to compromise because they will mirror your state of positivity. In addition, a happy brain is more likely to find alternate solutions that will satisfy all the parties involved, which can lead the negotiations on.
This opens the door for a different negotiation approach, one that isn’t competitive, but inclusive. In this new scenario, all the parties have something to win, thus creating a positive and pleasant environment. In addition, this approach creates value and strengthens the bonds between participants.
Be Clear About Your Expectations
Adam Hempenstall, founder and CEO of Better Proposals, told us that “As a project manager, one of the most important negotiation skills you need to master is called anchoring. Simply put, anchoring is establishing your expectations early on in the negotiation process, i.e. telling everyone involved exactly what you want done and how. The idea is that if you anchor early on in the process, you set expectations for how things will take turn later on and essentially, your guidelines will be the starting point for the rest of the negotiation. If you use it wisely, you can lead the entire negotiation process in the way you want to.”
By setting clear expectations from the start, you’re showing everyone involved in the negotiation that you understand the process and possibly share their views on the matter. Now, there may be disagreements (it’s a negotiation after all), but you start from a position of power, which is important.
This technique is useful when you’re discussing the terms of a budget or you want to make sure your team is on the right track with the project. If you get to state your expectations first, the entire discussion will be built around the path you set.
Learn to Listen
Negotiation is a dance. While you may be in the lead (by setting clear expectations), you still need to listen to your partners and understand their needs.
As Andres Lares from the Shapiro Negotiations Institute told us, one important skill is “Listening. A deep discovery of the wants and needs of the other parties is critical in getting to an optimal solution.”
If each participant would push for their own agenda, without listening and understanding the others’ point of view, the discussions would never end and everyone would come out incredibly frustrated. Sure, there will be moments when you feel you’re not being heard, but this is why listening is crucial.
“You shouldn’t make assumptions about the other party and make sure to give your feedback on their decision.” – Adeel Shabir, Content Marketing Executive at Gigworker. When you make assumptions without knowing the facts, you risk losing the entire negotiation because people will feel you’re not listening to them.
As you see, negotiation is quite similar to being in a long-term relationship. If you want things to move along, you must be prepared to compromise but you also need to know how to protect your boundaries. In addition, if you learn to listen and create a positive environment, you only stand to gain value.
Lastly, in both relationships and business, learning never stops. You always learn from the best and apply the lessons to your situation.