12 July 2018 Community

What business leaders can learn from the Brexit negotiations

Neil Clothier, senior negotiation strategist at Huthwaite International, talks about what businesses can learn from British negotiations with the EU 27

Brexit has thrown the sheer importance of faultless negotiation into the limelight. Politics aside, Dominic Raab and Theresa May have a web of policies to unpick and unprecedented amounts of regulation to negotiate. It’s one of the most complicated examples of negotiation to be played out on the world stage, and it’s almost a certainty that key lessons can be learned and maximised for those that deal with negotiations day in day out.

The most successful businesses don’t automatically default to cutting costs or raising prices when looking to increase profit, they hone their negotiating prowess. Yet the positive impact this can have on the bottom line remains largely unacknowledged and hence underused.

As economies across the globe shift and change, and services that were once highly differentiated are now seen as commodities, striking the right deals and supplier relationships require ever greater skill. By investing in a qualified and capable team of accomplished negotiators – either through the right training, the right recruitment, or both – the capability becomes far less elusive. And that can lead to greater profit margins, increased efficiencies and a more sustainable business model.

Negotiating is no easy task. There are hundreds of variables. You need to be adaptable to the situation, the current environment, who you’re dealing with and what they need. But you also need to keep your eyes on the prize.

A recent Huthwaite International report highlighted the following points to consider, whether you’re talking about Brexit negotiations or indeed any other business deal:

Power is important, but it doesn’t guarantee success

It’s essential to carefully consider your position and strength from day one. But starting negotiations on the back foot doesn’t automatically lead to an unsuccessful outcome. It all depends on how the negotiator harnesses their power.

 It’s easy to irritate your opponent, and this can lead to failure

Our study also revealed just how easy it is to become irritating when negotiating. It’s important to test understanding, as a means for clarification or in an incredulous way to challenge thinking. But successful negotiators are those who are more likely to ask questions to persuade or influence the other side, as opposed to being overly pushy and forgetting to listen.

Preparing for all circumstances is paramount

As demonstrated by the EU Referendum itself, and indeed the lead up to negotiations, preparing for a curve ball as part of your strategy and tactical approach is essential. Without flexibility and the ability to adapt your approach according to circumstances, you can find yourself in a stalemate situation, or out of the negotiation all together.

Reading behaviour, using the information you have effectively and remaining personable are all core skills required to fully ensure that, despite those unexpected bumps on the road to striking a deal, you have the flexibility, finesse and skills to overcome such challenges.

Despite the uncertainty surrounding Brexit, a deal will have to be made. As a result, businesses will have the opportunity to learn and gain a new level of understanding of what it means to negotiate effectively, be it through the failings or the successes of the deals made in Brussels.

Huthwaite International has range of online resources for those interested in improving their negotiation techniques

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