Persuading, influencing and negotiating skills

Persuading involves being able to convince others to take appropriate action. Negotiating involves being able to discuss and reach a mutually satisfactory agreement. Influencing encompasses both of these.

These skills are important in many jobs, especially areas such as marketing, sales, advertising and buying, but are also valuable in everyday life. You will often find competency-based questions on these skills on application forms and at interview, where you will be required to give evidence that you have developed these skills.


  • Focus on the needs of the other party. Take time to listen to them carefully and find out about their interests and expectations. This shows that you are really interested in them and they are then more likely to trust and respect you.
  • It will also make it easier for you to outline the benefits of your proposal in terms they understand.
  • Argue your case with logic. Do careful research on your ideas and those of your competitors (if there are any) and make sure that any claims you make can be verified.
  • Use positive rather than negative language: instead of saying "You're wrong about this", say "That's true, however ...""That's an excellent idea, but if we look more deeply ....." or "I agree with what you say but have you considered ....".
  • Subtly compliment the other party. "I see that you've done some really excellent research into this". Even though they may realise this is being done, evidence shows that they will still warm to you and be more open to your proposals.
  • Mirroring the other person's mannerisms (e.g. hand and body movements). People you mirror subconsciously feel more empathy with you.
  • Try to remember the names of everyone you meet. It shows that you are treating them as an individual.

A strategy for successful negotiations

  1. Listen carefully to the arguments of the other party and assess the logic of their reasoning.
  2. Clarify issues you are not clear about by asking how, why, where, when and what questions.
  3. List all the issues which are important to both sides and identify the key issues. Identify any personal agendas. Question generalisations and challenge assumptions. Identify any areas of common ground.
  4. Understand any outside forces that may be affecting the problem.
  5. Keep calm and use assertive, rather than aggressive behaviour. Use tact and diplomacy to diffuse tensions. Remember: no is a little word with big power!
  6. Use both verbal and non-verbal persuasion skills. Use open, encouraging body language such as mirroring, not defensive or closed.
  7. Know when to compromise. Offer concessions where necessary, but minor ones at first. Allow the other party to save face if necessary via small concessions.
  8. Make sure there is an agreed deadline for resolution
  9. Decide on a course of action and come to an agreement.
  10. The final agreement needs to be summarised and written down at the conclusion of the negotiations. Plan for alternative outcomes if you can't reach agreement.

What not to do: Negotiating to win

  • This involves pursuing your own interests to the exclusion of others. “I win: you lose!”
  • Persuading someone to do what you want them to do and ignoring their interests: "keeping your cards hidden".
  • Whilst you might get short term gain, you will build up long term resentment which can be very disruptive if you ever need to work with these people again.

Negotiating jointly

  • This involves coming to an agreement where everyone gets what they want,
    reaching a mutually satisfactory agreement: win-win.
  • You need to establish mutual trust, so it requires honesty and integrity from both parties.
  • Both sides work together to come up with a compromise solution to suit everyone's best interests.
  • Each party tries to see things from the other's perspective.

Negotiating Skills

Basic skills:
Use ideas persuasively

  • Keep the attention of others.
  • Explain the benefits of your argument.
  • Develop a line of reasoned argument.
  • Put your points across clearly and concisely.
  • Understand the concerns and needs of the person you are dealing with.

Intermediate skills:
Gain support

  • Emphasise how costs and problems can be minimised.
  • Handle objections.
  • Challenge the points of view expressed by others.
  • Get other people to support your views.

High level skills:
Develop strategies

  • Use a range of approaches and strategies to gain support for ideas.
  • Give an example of when your idea has been used successfully in some other context.
  • Make concessions when required to reach agreement: work for a win-win situation.
  • Form long term relationships.

Negative strategies!

  • Negotiating to win.
  • Gain power by undermining the position of others.
  • Don't show respect for others views. Put down their ideas.
  • Impose your own views rather than reasoning with others.

Example answers for persuading and negotiating questions on application forms and at interviews

Describe a situation where you have had to negotiate a solution to a challenging situation...

On arrival in Spain, I was confronted with a completely different organisational structure. I was the first person to go to Valencia from my university, and my role there was to test a new exchange programme and to negotiate the terms for future exchanges. I found that the structure of the courses were to the disadvantage of the Kent students and would affect the overall result of the degree. As the spokesperson for the students, I had to influence both sides on reaching a new agreement.

I explained the situation to the academic staff at Kent, and negotiated new terms for the exchange programme. I successfully persuaded the administration in Seville to accept these conditions during this period. I learned that it can take a lot of time, effort and patience to achieve common agreements, especially when two different cultural backgrounds are involved.

How have you used your communication skills to persuade others to follow your lead?

As a camp counsellor, I was responsible for a hut housing a group of ten children, helping the children settle in to the camp and encouraging them to join in activities. The hardest part was getting the children to keep the hut tidy and to join in the daily 'household chores' session - a problem which I found was shared by other counsellors.

We decided to motivate the children by turning this session into an inter-hut competition, and arranged for the Camp Director to carry out daily inspections. I produced a wall chart to show the points awarded to each hut and explained to the children how the points would be won and lost.

The competitive spirit transformed the children's attitude to tidying up as each hut worked as a team to keep their surroundings clean and tidy. There were no more problems with children disappearing at clear-up time and parents were amazed to hear how involved their children had become in this activity.

Please describe a situation where you had to persuade someone to do something. How did you go about it? Were you successful?

Last year I was living off-campus in a student house with friends. The place was quite old and did not have a functional TV aerial. I was in charge of liaising with our landlord. I called him up to ask if he could fix it for us.

He was reluctant to do so unless we paid but I persuaded him finally by saying that it would be beneficial for him as it would be easier to rent the house out for next year. Also, it would be unfair on us to pay for an aerial that we would only use for about nine months.

I was successful with my persuasion and reason. The aerial was fixed at no cost to us.

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