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Master Negotiators Build Relationships

Keith Stacey
Master Negotiators Build Relationships

In today’s business world, there seems to be little time to build relationships, yet people prefer to deal with those they know and trust. The days of the long lunch, the weekends on the golf course and the after-work drinks are long gone making contemporary negotiators face a dilemma. How do I build a trusting relationship quickly?  

Building trusted relationships is an essential part of your development as a master negotiator. One of the key lessons about relationships, is that you need to build them before you actually need them. Our friends and colleagues have a healthy degree of scepticism about our motives, especially if we only ever contact them when we need something.   

A personal example is: 

“Hi Janet, what are you doing this weekend?” 

Janet thinks you are inviting her to a party. 

She replies, “I had nothing planned.”   

“Great, then you can help me move house?” 

Next time you ring Janet, she will always have something planned. 

On the other hand, if you have recently helped Janet get her driving licence, by lending her your car, she’s much more likely to respond in a positive way.  

In a commercial sense, if the only time you call a customer or client, is when a contract is due for renewal, or where you want to make another sale, their reaction is less positive. Your motive is self-interest, which doesn’t help build trust.  

I found myself wondering the other day, about building new relationships post Covid, particularly when we spend so much time working online.   

These are the tips I came up with: 

  1. Be clear about what you want. Be clear about wanting to establish a long-term relationship, rather than the immediate transaction at hand. Master negotiators are genuinely interested in the other party as an individual as well as the immediate and longer term needs of the business they represent. 
  2. Avoid clichés. Do you need to say, “to be perfectly honest…”?  And the words, ‘as a valued customer’ have now become so overused that they have become almost meaningless. Rather than enhancing your credibility, they diminish it. 
  3. Avoid confirmation bias. If you have already invested time and effort in a particular prospect, then the danger is that all subsequent information is interpreted positively. Venture capitalists use the term fast failure as a virtue and negotiators should be able to sense when the potential of the client does not warrant further effort on your part. On the other hand, if there’s future potential, you need to be patient and maintain contact with the prospect. Try to meet the other person face to face rather than getting bogged down in lengthy correspondence which will only reinforce your initial choice. In negotiating, realise that no deal is sometimes your best option.  
  4. Be realistic. If you have decided to build a relationship, be realistic about what can be achieved in the short term. Use each interaction with the other party to advance the relationship. The first advance may be a meeting to discuss the potential of the relationship. The next advance would be a demonstration or trial. At each stage there is a definite deepening of the relationship 
  5. Keep your healthy sense of scepticism - watch for danger signs. Danger signs include the other person’s reluctance to meet in person, they give vague responses. They talk about their expertise over a wide range of fields. A recent financial swindle exposed on 4 Corners, featured a conman selling worthless shares to potential investors at the local bowling club. The swindler had a convincing manner and online presence but wore an ill-fitting wig. If someone can’t be honest about their own appearance, it should be ‘a red flag.’ The list goes on.  

Master negotiators trust their instincts and don’t invest their time in speculative inquiries where doubts emerge about the other party’s agenda. 

Each of the initial points above in italics are key tips for negotiators. When creating your plan to establish good relationships in your next negotiation, use these points as your starting point. 

If you are looking to further master negotiation skills that will help you achieve win-win outcomes check out our flagship Advancing Negotiation Skills program here. 

Happy negotiating! 

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