How do Product Managers negotiate with stakeholders?

Negotiation is an art and product managers negotiate with stakeholders on a regular basis.

Apart from the day to day responsibilities you fulfill as a product manager, all product managers are expected to master the skill of negotiation. In your career, there will be several chances where you will have to partner with stakeholders and negotiate with them in order to make sure that they are on board with the product vision and delivery plan.

Given below are certain tips that you can make use of while negotiating with stakeholders.

Identify your stakeholders:

The first step in negotiation is to identify who actually your stakeholders are. There might be a lot of people who have their own opinions and comments about your project. But that doesn’t mean that they are the stakeholders.

Stakeholders should be understood as a person or group of people who have a direct or indirect interest in your organization or product. Either they have invested money in your project or organization or they might be associated with the output. So it’s necessary to identify stakeholders based on their power, intention, needs, etc. It usually comes handy when product managers negotiate with stakeholders.

Have a clear vision:

If you don’t know in which direction you are moving then actually there is no use of moving forward. Before you plan to make a negotiation be sure you have a clear vision regarding the problem you are trying to solve, for whom are you trying to solve it and what outcome do you expect to meet. You cannot even think of negotiating with a stake holder without a proper idea regarding your project.

In order to maintain a clear vision first of all you should be thorough about the outcomes you aim to achieve. Only if you have a clear vision of the outcomes you will be able to shoot down any ideas or suggestions that are against your vision.

Justify your Ideas:

Whenever you support or refute an idea give valid reasons for doing so. You cannot just say that you felt that an idea will work and so you thought of including it in your project. This doesn’t work. There should be valid reasons for including a particular idea in your project and you will have to make the reasons clear to your stake holder.

Similarly, if you are against an idea introduced you should have the answer to the question of why the idea should not be included. So always have some kind of reason backed up with data. Work with various teams to get ideas.

Be prepared:

You can’t go into a negotiation thinking that the stakeholders will agree to all that you say. It’s necessary that you anticipate your stakeholders’ concerns, doubts, etc. Take up each of their concerns and explain how it will affect the project’s scope, budget, etc. There might be concerns regarding the money that they invest.

So be ready to explain everything in detail. Along with this make sure that the stakeholders also take part in the discussion. The discussion should never be one-sided. You can understand their concerns and doubts by asking them open questions like ‘What is going on in your mind?’, ‘How are we doing?’, ‘What do you think about the idea?’ etc.

Listen carefully:

In any negotiation its necessary to understand both the sides. You should allow the stakeholders to bring in their point of view regarding any idea. Whenever necessary ask them to explain their ideas so that you get a complete understanding about what they are actually trying to say.

Also, Add this to your weekly habit as a product manager

After they explain their idea, address the issues on the spot, or if that is not possible promise them that you will research the ideas given by them and address their concerns. Often negotiations go wrong when the stakeholders feel that you are not properly responding to their concerns. So make sure this doesn’t happen.

Negotiating with stakeholders can often become tricky. You will have to make you of your negotiating skills to its maximum in order to make sure that the project moves forward.

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