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Develop Your Message: Increase Communication Efficiency

February 23, 2011

In any negotiation, communication is key. Good communication between parties is an essential component of a successful deal, as it creates a positive negotiation climate and allows for both parties’ messages to be clearly expressed. It is important to keep in mind that efficient communication is characterized by far more than simply having a way with words. Focus on preparing your message to the other party and on learning how to read the other party’s signals to you. You can do some things that will drastically increase your communication efficiency, allowing you to have better and more constructive negotiations:

1. Find the Purpose of the Message

Before you even begin to negotiate, pause and consider the results that you wish to achieve from the negotiation. Do you wish to influence the other party and change his attitudes, assessments, and needs, or do you wish to provide information and background knowledge to keep the other party informed? Do you wish to explain something? Do you want to create awareness of something? Do you want information from the other party? Keep in mind that your primary purpose is to catch the attention of the other party. Finding the purpose of your message before you begin to negotiate will allow you to capture the interest of the other party immediately and help you to avoid rambling.

2. Outline Your Message

Once you have found the purpose of your message, you must next consider how to effectively convey the message. What do you need to say to accomplish your purpose? Set up a number of columns, an agenda, or headings under which you write the information that belongs in different blocks. Sort out the blocks in the appropriate sequence. The sequence will be governed by the strategy or structure you think the negotiation should take. Once you’ve established a sequence, then you may prioritize. Ask yourself what should be first, second, third, and so on. Logical links running through your presentation allow the other party to follow your thoughts.

3. Limit the Flow of Information

Remember to keep your message simple and concise. The other party can only make use of three or four facts at a time. Expressing oneself in simple terms and being brief but still intelligible is difficult for many people. They speak a lot and know a great deal about the subject, but no one understands what they say, because the information is bogged down by too many facts and complex words.

4. What Does the Other Party Want to Hear?

While it is important to focus on getting your message across, do not forget that negotiation is a two-way street. Be customer-oriented in your presentation. The other party is most receptive to new information that is in keeping with his needs and solves his problems. Put yourself in the other party’s place. What questions might he have?

5.  Activate Several Senses

You occupy a greater share of the attention of the audience if you transmit on several channels at the same time. However powerful your speech may be, we can only listen to information for so long before we grow restless or disinterested. We as humans are better at remembering visual impressions. An extensive and complex message will be more easily received if words and images are combined. How often do you make use of images in your negotiations? If there is no blackboard or whiteboard, you can always use paper and pen. Virtually everything can be expressed and summarized in images: columns of figures, pie charts, timetables, graphics, and so on. By appealing to the other party’s sense of sight, you activate information and experiences stored deep in their long-term memory.

6.  Physical or Intellectual Demonstrations

You should also appeal to your opponent’s other senses in your presentation. A product is demonstrated physically by having the other party try it out. But how do you demonstrate an idea? In an intellectual demonstration you describe the principle by means of an example that is as down-to-earth and simple as possible. When people listen to you, they must be able to see the chain of events. When you have presented the proposal and have caused him to understand the principles, you ask questions like: What happens if you switch to…? In doing so, you force people to grasp your proposal and think about it. You get feedback as to whether they have caught the message, and a reaction concerning their assessment of it.

Ultimately, there is no way to accurately predict the outcome of a negotiation before it even begins. However, you can most certainly increase your chances of a favorable outcome by developing your message. By increasing your communication efficiency, you are giving your team an advantage and ensuring that your message will be conveyed in the most concise and accurate manner.

 This post is excerpted from Keld Jensen’s upcoming book Power Bargaining: Adding Value to Commercial Negotiations to be published mid 2011.

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