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Negotiating in English – tips and phrases (for beginners)

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Working within a central purchasing and logistics business unit, NEGOTIATION is a word that one cannot escape. Most of my participants have dealings with suppliers within Germany, though some negotiate with suppliers worldwide. Negotiation skills are a key part of the on-the-job training and support that I deliver. In this post, I’ve collected some basic negotiating “musts” that I use in my training.

The big (free) eBook of negotiations language

Prepare

Preparation is the first key factor for all negotiations. In order for you negotiation meeting to be a success you must have clear goals in mind, acceptable alternatives and possible solutions, what you’re willing to trade, and finally what your bottom line is- where you are not prepared to budge. In “negotiations-speak”: You need to know your BATNA.

Start positive

Highlight all the positive goals both parties want to achieve for the day to reduce any tense atmosphere and break the ice with some healthy small talk.

  • Our aim today is to agree on a fair price that suits both parties.
  • I’d like to outline our aims and objectives…
  • How do our objectives compare to yours?

Effective questioning

Ask open ended questions in order to establish what the other party wants. Use questions to dig deeper, to uncover needs, to reveal alternative options, etc.

  • Could you be more specific?
  • How far are you willing to compromise?
  • Where does your information come from?

Agreeing

When your counterpart makes an acceptable suggestion or proposal you can agree to show enthusiasm and highlight how you are mutually benefiting from something. Revealing your stance will also help come to a favourable negotiation.

  • That seems like a fair suggestion.
  • I couldn’t agree more.
  • I’m happy with that.

Disagreeing

Disagreements are a normal and positive part of building a relationship and coming to an agreement, they show transparency. It is always a good idea to anticipate possible disagreements before going into a negotiation meeting.  However, disagreements should not come across threatening but instead should be mitigated and polite.

  • I take your point, however…
  • I’m afraid we have some reservation on that point…
  • I would prefer …

Clarifying

In order to avoid any misunderstandings especially in an environment where English is the lingua franca, it is fundamental to be clear about your goals but also ask for clarification when something isn’t clear to you.

  • If I understand correctly, what you’re saying is …
  • I’m not sure I understand your position on…
  • What do you mean by … ?

Compromising

Compromising is often required at times during a negotiation, and the way you do it is often an indicator of the importance of some of the negotiation terms. Remember, when you do compromise consider getting something for giving.

  • In exchange for….would you agree on..?
  • We might be able to work on…
  • We are ready to accept your offer; however, there would be one condition.

Bargaining

This is the moment to debate price, conditions or a transaction where one must be firm, ambitious and ready to justify their offers.  In this stage you can employ hard ball tactics or a softly softly approach, either way being prepared with a strategy will take you to the winning road.

  • I’m afraid we can only go as low as…
  • From where we stand an acceptable price would be…
  • Our absolute bottom line is …

Summarising

There are key moments when summarising will take place during a negotiation; concluding discussion points, rounds of bargaining and the final commitment.  This stage is also the moment of agreeing on the next steps and it is vital not to leave anything unsaid.

  • Let’s look at the points we agree on…
  • Shall we sum up the main points?
  • This is where we currently stand …

Of course…

There’s a lot more to negotiating. Sometimes not saying anything is a valuable approach, while creating and claiming value is also a must. Feel free to contact us if you’re interested in learning more about what we can do for you/your team. Or keep an eye on this blog, for more negotiation tips and phrases.

I’ll leave you with another great piece of free content: 1001 Meetings phrases.

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