So you don’t think you have anything to do with negotiations? You think that’s a sales role, or something for a business development manager? Of course, you’re the project manager, so your job is to make things happen, not get involved with negotiating… right?
If you think about it, absolutely everything you do is about negotiations. You negotiate with your team when you plan who is doing what, particularly if someone is not keen on the role they have been given. You negotiate with contractors on delivery dates, costs and all manner of other issues. You have probably had to negotiate for additional budget, shifts in delivery dates and for extra staff hours during your time as a project manager too, so do you still think you don’t have anything to do with negotiations?
Negotiations for project managers
Most of the time, project managers don’t do what many people would think of as negotiations. There are no six figure sums involved most of the time, and it usually doesn’t involve arguing your case. You hope. But in simple terms there is a good deal of negotiation to be done in your day to day working life, often something as simple as a two person dialogue, but sometimes a little more complex.
Some of the best tips for conducting successful negotiations include:
- Listen more than you talk
- Be prepared for give and take. If you can identify something the other person wants, and have the means to give it to them, then a win win situation is afoot
- Be real. Be human. Don’t try to outsmart the other person, as this will only put them on the defensive and increase the likelihood of a negative outcome for you
- Don’t be in a rush. The other person may need time to think it over, and won’t appreciate feeling pressured into a decision. Even if you are up against it time-wise, don’t let it show
- Think outside of the box – there’s usually more than one way to skin a cat (or to get what you both want from the situation)
Whether you are asking a team member to work some extra shifts to meet a deadline, requesting some additional resources from the administrative support team or negotiating a purchase of some expensive software for your project, the golden rule is to prepare for your negotiations well. Consider what you may have available to ‘trade’ the other person, and be realistic about your ask. Remember, sometimes a small agreement can be reached which partly solves your problem.
Where the APMP fits in
The APMP is the highly popular project management training framework from the APM, and with a strong focus on negotiation skills, this could be just the PM course to take if you feel yours could be improved. Negotiations are often dependent on your soft skills, such as your ability to communicate, to empathise, to relate and to build relationships, as much as they are on your ability to construct a well-reasoned case to support your requirement.
The APMP is one of only a few project management qualifications to put a strong emphasis on soft skills, as well as teaching a range of techniques and strategies to help you achieve excellence in project management.