Principled Negotiation for Product Managers: 5 Things You Need to Know

Milena Gallo


As a product manager, the scope of your job description goes beyond the success of a product. You are also responsible for leading and negotiating with a cross-functional team of experts. Principled negotiation is a core skill for successful product management.

Principled negotiation was first coined by Bill Ury in his book, “Getting to Yes.” The goal of principled negotiation is to come to a mutually shared outcome or a win-win deal for both sides. Open enrollment seminars such as the NYC sales negotiation training course help product managers master the core concepts of principled negotiation.

There are five core concepts in principled negotiation that a product manager can use to get better results and increase the team’s effectiveness.

Separating People From the Problem

Product managers have to collaborate with a team of professionals from different fields who may possess different temperaments. During negotiations, emotions can run high with each colleague feeling their interests are most important.

Miscommunication and perception problems also throw a spanner in the works leading to issues getting clouded and, ultimately, negotiations can fall apart. Being kind to people and tough on the issues makes it possible for the team to be more cooperative and willing to persevere towards the outcome.

A principled negotiation workshop teaches productive conversational skills that allow colleagues to listen to and understand the other side of a viewpoint without blaming or judging. Listening validates the other team member’s problems or aspirations and demonstrates that you are invested in coming up with a satisfactory solution.

Prioritize Interests Over Positions

A position is something that a team member wants, while interests are the needs that drive or motivate the position. A product manager may find a colleague wants to leave one team and join another. Focusing on the reason behind the team member’s intention to move on can help resolve the issue and add value to the team.

Prioritizing interests makes everyone on the team more receptive and less resistant to solutions. Discussions centered around interests should end with concrete solutions. A product manager can ask what problems need to be solved and check outcomes rather than outputs. Results are a more definitive measure of work done.

Generating Options

A negotiation training course helps a product manager understand the importance of exploring solutions. Often, one side will have a critical option that is not as significant to the other. For instance, a designer might want more time to work on the product’s aesthetics while the engineer prefers to start working on the product immediately. Ultimately, the whole team is affected.

However, by taking some time to brainstorm and come up with creative options for each side, both teams can settle on the best outcome that is favorable to everyone on the team. Focus broadly on generating ideas rather than judging them during the brainstorming phase.

A product manager can help the team by scheduling morning sessions when everyone is fresh. Find out the position each side has taken and the interests driving the position and break down the solutions into smaller, reasonable and easily achievable components.

Defining Objective Criteria

Once solutions are identified, it is essential to have both sides agree on the ideal outcome. A product manager who has gone through a negotiation course can use objective criteria to choose a starting position that is fair to both sides. Robust, accurate specifications can reduce opposition by presenting valid information that the team can agree to.

Take for example a product manager negotiating a salary with a candidate. The candidate may aspire to earn $40,000, but the budget may only allow the product manager to agree $35,000. Rather than competing with and possibly upsetting the candidate, the product manager can instead bring data showing the industry average for the role. If the standard is $32,000, this information can be presented to the candidate, along with an offer of $32,000 as a starting salary.

A product manager can use objective criteria by ensuring the goals are clear, and results are published. Remember to be flexible and open to changing goals as new developments emerge, and further information is presented.

Finalizing Negotiations

Once the expected outcome is understood and creative solutions have been found, work together to implement the decisions. Product managers negotiate quarterly roadmaps, annual strategies and other product management contracts.

Principled negotiation training helps many product managers master the complexities of negotiations, which should result in faster, more cohesive and lower conflict collaborations.

A product manager who has mastered principled negotiation is likely to be more successful as a result of a deeper understanding of behavioral fundamentals that are the basis of most negotiations. Principled negotiation helps product managers meet both side’s interests and achieve outcomes in a civil process.

Written by
Milena Gallo
She is a talented marketing advisor, with a specialization in digital marketing. Milena delights in the opportunity to create and carry out strategic marketing plans and is skilled in tailoring messaging to effectively reach target audiences. She has a business degree and experience working on portfolios for several major companies. When she’s not at the office, Milena loves to do yoga, pick veggies from her garden and visit local museums.

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