Project Negotiation Tips for Project Managers
As a project manager, you are negotiating a lot – way more than you realize sometimes. You negotiate with your client, your team and sometimes even your own management. This post will offer some tips and insight on how to strengthen your negotiating tactics.
Plot Out the Discussion
Whenever I am going into a session where I know I will be trying to gain some value from those that I’m meeting with (i.e. a negotiation) I do my best to predict how the conversation will go. I start with understanding their understanding of the situation. How does the other person perceive the situation and what are they going to try and get out of you based on that perception and understanding? Perhaps you have a contentious scope issue where the meeting is set with project executives (i.e. sponsorship/steering committee). In that instance, try to understand what points the other side of the table will argue on and build up a counter-argument to those. In some cases when it comes to scope negotiation specifically. In a case like this it is critical to understand your contract or statement of work inside and out. Understand the unstated wants or needs of your client that are not on the table and prepare for how you would address those.
Know Your Bend
Another key area of any negotiation is understanding how much you are willing to give. In the case of a cloudy scope negotiation, knowing what your client is asking for is the first step. Understanding how much of what they will ask for you are willing to accommodate is key to coming out of a negotiation in a strong position. Understanding your bottom line is crucial to not losing the negotiation. Set some ‘soft’ bottom lines that can be communicated with the client but internally knowing you can go past those if needed. Set a ‘hard’ bottom line that is you walk-away point in the negotiation and knowing that you cannot go past that and come out in a successful position.
Compromise is Key
Negotiation is rarely a one-way street. It involves both parties coming to the table with what they want and what they are willing to give. Understanding your soft and hard bottom lines and being able to offer concessions up with the right sense of timing is all part of the process. Rarely will you leave a negotiation with everything you walked into it with, but you should not come away empty handed either. In the case of a questionable scope negotiation, perhaps there are elements that you can offer to the client in exchange for agreement that other components of their scope are paid enhancements.
Negotiation is a regular component of project management. We may not always view it as such but part of our regular day-to-day work involves some type of negotiation. Knowing your own areas of compromise as well as what you are not willing to bend on are vital to coming out in a solid position. Negotiations are challenging from a number of fronts but with these tips and a lot of preparation, you will be well equipped to start having those challenging conversations.