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Negotiation Is A Hard Skill, Not A Soft Skill

I was thinking about something interesting this week…

I’ve been teaching corporate businesspeople to negotiate for the past 18 years, 12,000 + students, 65 countries, 4,000 + 1 on 1 negotiation simulations & debriefings, thousands of hours of Q&A.

One question has always fascinated me:

Why do most people in the business world regard negotiation ability as a ‘soft skill’ and, for example, an engineering degree as a ‘hard skill’? Who ever decided that because something is supposedly measurable (by varying standards) it translates into being a ‘hard skill’? Even if you only have to typically know 60% of the subject matter to obtain a pass, you are deemed to have demonstrated your competence in a ‘hard skills’ area. Then, by contrast, there typically is no specific measurement criteria associated with the ‘soft skills’ areas.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s important to qualify yourself quantitatively so that you are able to do the work and add to the body of knowledge but this is far from the only requirement for you to be successful in the business world.

Your ability to relate to people in the workplace and to negotiate is a ‘hard skill’, not a ‘soft skill’. You can be the most learned person in the country, if you are unable to communicate your ideas, perspectives, and vision to others, you will get nowhere. Success is a team game 100% of the time. Opportunity comes from people, money comes from people, objections and obstacles come from people. Even with the best academic qualifications in the world, if you are not able to engage with and relate to people you will get nowhere and you will go there alone.

It is time for all of us to stop thinking of negotiation skills (by original definition of the word – ‘business skills’) as a ‘soft skill’. It is probably the ‘hardest skill’ that you can possess!

Contrary to popular belief, big deal negotiation is not magic – it is cause and effect. You can easily get laser focused on the simple deal making actions that create big reactions. Success always has ingredients and over the past 18 years we’ve learned that there are four simple ingredients to business negotiation success:

1. Proven Process

You can follow practical step- by-step instructions that are proven to work and track your progress using reliable frameworks and check lists.

2. Extreme Personal Awareness

You should get to know your deal making strengths and weaknesses in detail. Learn what motivates you and your counterparts so that you can maintain momentum towards agreement even when the facts don't look like they will fall into place.

3. Expert Mentorship

No matter how good your skills are, you'll always have questions. You should make sure that you have access to world class mega deal, professional negotiation experts to get your questions answered. You should participate in regular one-on-one negotiations with both peers and experts & get detailed, personalized feedback.

4. Business Specific Application & Constant Improvement

Lastly, you should tap into a methodology that is specifically and exclusively designed for high ticket business negotiations (not conflict resolution or FBI hostage negotiations). Ensure that contents and methods are constantly updated so you will find no outdated approaches that are no longer valid in a technology driven marketplace.

We have learned that contrary to popular belief, there is no guesswork required to implement consistent actions to both protect and grow your bottom line through hard negotiation skills.

Return On Investment

We’ve created a couple of pretty basic ROI calculators to easily demonstrate the point that your and your organization’s negotiation capability is a hard skill. An improvement of even 1% in your individual or organizational negotiation capability can have a meaningful and significant impact on your bottom line.

Probably a much more significant impact than becoming more quantitatively qualified in any professional discipline.

Go see for yourself:

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