Successful Negotiations in English – 3 Tips to Be Better Prepared

Business Professional English, How To Develop Skills | 8 comments

This lesson has been updated from its original version written in June 2015.

If you’re like me, you might hate the idea of negotiating – in your language and in English.

With negotiating, we sometimes fear that we won’t win or we won’t get what we want. Maybe we don’t know how to ask for what we want. Or we’re afraid we’ll be asked some challenging questions and we won’t know what to say.

Perhaps the discussion will begin to feel like an argument but we don’t like conflict, so we avoid it.

I totally understand these feelings. The good news is, there are practical steps you can take to help you be confident and successful negotiating in English.

Not sure you really need to negotiate in English? Let me ask you, is it possible that you will:

  • Ask for a raise* at work
  • Request a permanent change in your work schedule
  • Buy or sell a home in an English-speaking country
  • Work with suppliers to decide on the final price and shipping costs of something
  • Ask for an extension on an important work deadline
  • Decide on a benefits package* at the end of a job interview process
  • Reach an agreement with new business partners
  • Agree on terms for a contract with a new client

If you said yes, then you need to be ready to negotiate in English. And I can help you do that.

Today’s lesson is Part 1 in a series on Successful Negotiations in English.

In this lesson, we’ll focus on how to best prepare so when you start the negotiation, you’re ready. You’ll get 3 tips to help you be better prepared + essential vocabulary.


A raise (noun) = a salary increase

A benefits package (noun phrase) = all the potential benefits you’ll receive with your job such as health care benefits, vacation time, reimbursements for travel to and from work, a company car, and so on.

3 Strategies to Prepare for Success in an Negotiation

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Preparing for a negotiation will help to reduce your nervousness when you start the process and it will help you to achieve your aims. You’ll know exactly what you want, you’ll be ready for challenging questions, and you’ll know how to establish trust with the other party* in your negotiation to help you reach a win-win solution.*

One reason negotiations are often difficult is the lack of preparation. This can result in being blindsided* during the negotiation. I want to help you avoid that!

In Part 1 of this series, we’ll focus on how to be best be prepared. In the following lessons, you’ll also get essential language to use during the negotiation process and how to close the deal*.


A party: a person, group, or representative of a business who participates in some action, plan, or discussion

A win-win solution/situation: when both or all sides of a discussion, negotiation, deal, or contract feel they’ve gained something or won; when all sides are satisfied with the final decision or agreement

Blindsided: to attack where someone is vulnerable or where they don’t expect it

To close a deal: to come to an agreement or reach a final decision

Tip 1: Know What You Want from the Negotiation

This may seem like an easy question: what do you want from the negotiation?

Your answer might be simple, for example, “I want a raise” or “I want to sell my house at a good price.”

But are you prepared to say exactly what you want and why you should get it? Are you willing to compromise? Are there alternatives that would be acceptable to you?

For example, maybe you’ve accepted a new job and now you’re negotiating the salary and benefits package with the company. You have a specific salary that you want but maybe the company doesn’t agree. Would you accept a lower salary for a better benefits package?

Use these questions to help you know exactly what you want from the negotiation and to consider how to answer challenging questions. They will reduce your fears before a negotiation, help you communicate effectively, and prepare what you should say and how you should say it.

Consider these questions and – if possible – even write down your answers:

  • What do I / What does my company want from this negotiation? What is the end goal or what is the bottom line*?
  • Why is this goal or result important for me/us?
  • What will happen if I am not successful in reaching my goal?
  • Are there any alternative agreements or compromises I’m willing to accept?
  • Are there any alternative agreements or compromises I’m not willing to accept?

  • What alternatives or compromises can I propose, if necessary?
  • What kind of relationship do I have with the other party? And do I want to keep a good relationship after the negotiation?
  • What are the consequences if I win or lose this negotiation?
  • How do I want everyone to feel when the negotiation is finished?

*Bottom line = the final result

That last question – How do I want everyone to feel when the negotiation is finished? – might seem like a strange question.

But generally, in English-speaking culture, the goal is that everyone feels good about the final agreement. In English we use expressions such as:

a win-win situation (ex.: In the end, it was a win-win situation for everyone.)

mutual success (ex.: Our goal in this negotiation is mutual success.)

Why is this important?

Because you will probably want to or need to do business (or negotiate) with this person or company again in the future. It is best if everyone is happy at the end of the negotiation. It will also help you and your company have a positive reputation in the business world, which is important for new clients and business relationships.

Tip 2: Be Prepared for What the Other Party Wants from the Negotiation

We know now that it’s essential for you to be clear about your goals in the negotiation, but what about the other side?

Knowing what the other side might want can help you consider acceptable alternatives and it can also help you prepare arguments for supporting your goals.

Lastly, it will be easier for you to find common ground* with the other party, which is useful in Tip 3.

To help you prepare, consider these questions from the other side:

  • What does he/she want from this negotiation? What is their goal? What are their needs?
  • Why is this goal or result important for them?
  • What will happen if they are not successful in reaching their goal?
  • What alternatives or compromises might they accept?
  • Is there anything that is definitely off-limits*?

*Common Ground = mutual or shared interest; a shared goal or agreement

*Off-limits = unacceptable

Tip 3: Prepare to Establish Trust & Build a Relationship

And finally, consider strategies to help you establish trust and build a strong relationship with the other party. This will ensure a smooth negotiation and help you reach a win-win solution.

Here are 4 techniques to consider:

Be Sincere

Say what you mean and be honest. An article from Fast Company entitled 7 Key Habits for Building Better Relationships agrees by saying you should “Be Genuine, Confident, Humble, Trustworthy, Positive.” (Note: This article is an Upper-Intermediate to Advanced English level)

Find a Common Connection

Small talk is a great tool to find a common connection with someone. Also, when you have your answers to the questions from Question #2 above, it will be easier for you to find common ground. You’ll have information to help you think of good questions to ask.

Listen Closely

In English-speaking cultures, we show we are listening with the following techniques:

  • Maintain good eye contact
  • Show pleasant or positive body language and facial expressions
  • We make sounds or use small words such as:
  • Mm-hmm, Yes I see, Good point, I agree …  
  • Don’t interrupt. Let the person finish talking before you start to speak.
  • Echo, repeat or summarize what you hear the person saying with phrases such as:
    • “I understand. So what you are saying is …”
    • “What I hear you saying …”
    • “Ok, so you would like …”
    • “So you are telling me that your company would like …”

Show Interest

You can show that you are interested in the person in several ways:

  • Remember his/her name
  • Remember details or information they have shared previously
  • Use successful small talk
  • Use body language in a positive way: sit up straight, lean slightly forward, keep your head up and focus your eyes on the other person

 

It’s Your Turn to Practice

Have you had experience negotiating in English?

If so, I’d love to hear about it! Share your story in the comments below. Tell me what you were negotiating and what has helped you to be successful in English?

After today’s lesson, what was the most useful tip you learned that you can use the next time you have to ask for something you want or negotiation with someone? 

Enjoy your Wednesday and I’ll see you next week!

~ Annemarie

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