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Become a Better Negotiator With an MBA

Negotiation is part of life. Trying to get a better price on a car is a familiar example. Negotiation skills are also essential in management roles, whether resolving conflicts on a team project or facilitating a deal with another company.

A Master of Business Administration (MBA) program can support students in acquiring the skills to successfully negotiate whatever comes their way. Students enrolled in the innovative online MBA program at Northern Kentucky University (NKU), for example, have opportunities in their coursework to develop strategies and tactics for skillful negotiation.

What Is Negotiation?

First, it is important to understand what negotiation is and what it is not. By definition, negotiation is not about winning and losing. There is no ultimatum or “take it or leave it.” Rather, the key to effective negotiation is finding an acceptable compromise — a solution that is a win for all parties. That means being willing to consider what the other side wants and where compromise can happen.

Whatever the agenda, successful negotiation begins with a thorough understanding of what is being negotiated. Take the example of purchasing a car. The buyer wants the best car at the lowest possible price. The dealer probably wants the highest possible purchase price. Profitability, after all, is a common business goal.

Going into the negotiation with the necessary knowledge can help the buyer get the best price. This might include researching:

  • The vehicle’s price at multiple dealers
  • The current market value (if it’s a used car)
  • The value of a trade-in
  • Financing options and monthly payments
  • Incentives and dealer fees that may be negotiable

In any negotiation, the better prepared each party is, the easier it is to focus on coming to an agreement that makes everyone happy (or at least one that everyone can live with). But there is much more to a negotiation than doing the research.

How Can an MBA Sharpen Negotiation Skills?

Effective negotiation requires an analytical, strategic mindset and effective decision-making. It also requires strong communication skills, including the ability to listen. In fact, according to a 2023 Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) survey of corporate recruiters, employers maintain that skills like communication, interpersonal skills, strategic thinking, analysis and decision-making are the most important skills for new hires. Communication, interpersonal and strategic thinking are all essential skills when influencing or persuading others.

MBA programs are one way to develop negotiation skills. Many MBA programs include courses in the practice of negotiation to help students develop skills for success in managerial positions. Students in NKU’s MBA program, for example, select areas of emphasis from several “stacks,” including one with a leadership focus. Within the leadership stack, a course on negotiation and conflict resolution covers topics such as:

  • Research and framing of issues
  • Bargaining strategies
  • Successful tactics
  • Methods of reaching a settlement

Negotiation is a necessary part of doing business — whether in the everyday work of an organization or in interactions with clients and other organizations. For MBA grads who want to practice their newly enhanced negotiation skills, a job offer is a great place to start.

As with that car purchase, preparation is a must. What are different industries paying? How do wages vary by geographic area? The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics is a comprehensive resource for such information, offering wage estimates for well over 800 occupational categories, including various management occupations.

Finally, as NKU’s MBA course in negotiation and conflict resolution shows, being a better negotiator is about more than research. Learning the strategies and tactics of negotiation can help each party achieve a satisfactory outcome.

Learn more about NKU’s online MBA program.

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