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Confidence Matters

Brian Buck
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In our annual Buyer/Seller Survey, we ask how confident people are in their negotiating skills. More than 44% of our respondents lack a high degree of confidence in their negotiating skills, and in this regard, there’s no discernible difference between buyers and sellers. Confidence, or lack thereof, impacts all types of negotiators.

We find that those who are confident in their abilities seem to have more control at the negotiating table, allowing them to negotiate better outcomes. When a negotiator lacks confidence, they have a tendency to panic or make rash decisions, thereby compromising their ability to stay in control of the conversation. 

On a side note, there’s a huge difference between confidence and arrogance in terms of one’s negotiating abilities. Hubris can lead to the same pitfalls as lack of confidence. If a negotiator is arrogant, they tend to overestimate their own power and are susceptible to emotionally driven decisions, which also makes it difficult for them to stay in control of the negotiation.

Setting aside arrogance and focusing solely on confidence, here are some signs that may indicate a negotiator lacks confidence.

  1. They delay or procrastinate. A negotiator who lacks confidence may postpone negotiating as they work through their gaps or try to avoid the negotiation altogether. Confident negotiators are prepared and ready to deal.
  2. They acquiesce a lot. Confident negotiators drive a conversation. They look for input from the other side and adjust accordingly, but they stay in control. When negotiators lack confidence, they tend to defer to the other side for direction, solutions, or even proposals, thereby relinquishing control.
  3. They accept what’s offered. Lack of confidence usually causes a negotiator to accept the first offer put forth or readily give in to demands. Confident negotiators ask questions, make productive counterproposals, and effectively deal with demands.
  4. They lack creativity. Skilled negotiators have options — e.g., the diversity of their questions, the variables they bring to the table, the strategies they’re ready to deploy. Those who lack confidence, however, tend to have only a single path forward and can’t seem to see the options before them.
  5. They’re overly emotional. In a negotiation, emotion is normal and acceptable. Confident negotiators know how to channel and control it. However, when emotion turns into panic, anger, or despair, it can be a sign that a negotiator doesn’t have confidence in their next move or abilities.

If you manage people who exhibit some of these behaviors, or if you’re one of these people, here are some things you can do to boost confidence.

  • Skills training: Negotiating is a skill that can be learned and developed. Even seasoned veterans can expand their toolbox and be more proficient and confident with the unfamiliar situations in which they find themselves from time to time. Regardless, investing in skills pays lasting dividends to all deals.
  • Coaching: Working with an experienced negotiator can provide insight into how skills can be applied or how to deal with unique situations — and it can help develop confidence faster than going it alone. A good mentor or coach can be an invaluable resource to any negotiator.
  • Encouragement: When things don’t work out, we tend to focus on what went wrong. In order to develop confidence, we should also focus on what went right. In fact, we probably need more encouragement and celebration of what went right in the early going of a negotiation. Some words of encouragement go a long way.

As Michelle Obama once said, “Your success will be determined by your own confidence and fortitude.” Therefore, I say to you, have the fortitude to build your negotiating confidence. Your dealmaking success will follow.

We Can Help Boost Confidence at the Negotiating Table
Are you noticing that your dealmakers have a tendency to panic or make rash decisions at the negotiating table, thereby compromising their ability to stay in control of the conversation? They likely lack confidence in their negotiating skills, which diminishes the value of their deals. We can help! Drawing on nearly 50 years of real-world negotiating experience, we’ll assist you with getting better deals, saving time, and creating value for all involved — not to mention preserving and even strengthening relationships. Let us partner you with one of our advisers, ensuring that you’ve got the broadest view of your deal.

Talk to one of our experts today.

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