8 Essential Steps for a Successful Negotiation Strategy in Architecture

To be a successful negotiator, it is essential to come into it from a position of strength. You don't have to be the most charismatic extroverted person in the room. Being a good negotiator requires an understanding of several different skills. Many of my clients express lacking confidence when negotiating, stating they wish they were more extroverted and confident. I'm here to show you that you can be a successful negotiator even if you're shy, introverted, and English is your second language. Being an architect requires negotiation skills for a variety of situations:

  • Communicating with clients, contractors, colleagues, Council, consultants

  • Negotiating salary with an employer

  • Negotiating design intents

  • Negotiating fees with a client


Across cultures, negotiations can be complex. It's vital to be aware of how different cultures approach negotiations differently. Be aware that other cultures might have different preferences for negotiation style, approach or technique than what is typical in your culture. I address some of these challenges in this blog post about Cultural differences. As individuals, we also have different preferences for the way we negotiate.


👉 In this blog post, we’ll offer you 8 tips for negotiating successfully in a variety of situations:


Tip #01: Be prepared and know your why.

Simon Sinek says it's important to know your why for a good reason. In any negotiation, it's essential to have a thorough understanding of why. Why do you do what you do? What do you do? What values do you stand for in your work? What do others do? Have you asked others for their opinions? Understanding why you do what you do will help guide your decision-making process.

A good strategy is to create a plan ahead of time so that everyone knows what they're going to discuss during the negotiations.

Before entering into any negotiation, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I have a solid understanding of why and what I believe?

  • What does my fellow negotiator need to know?

  • What are some possible pushback and solutions for pushback?

  • What is the outcome I'm hoping to achieve?

  • What is the minimum I will accept or be okay with, and what is my limit?

Tip #02: Have a solid argument and remove the emotion

Once you have answered all the above questions, you should have a solid argument. Sometimes it helps to rationalise this argument by writing it all out before the conversation. This helps to remove the emotional pressure that can overcome us during a negotiation.

Emotions are very powerful and can take hold of us when we're in a negotiation, which is why it's important not to let them control you. This doesn't mean that they should be ignored either, but recognising what emotion you're feeling will help you become more confident. The more prepared we are for the situation, the better equipped we'll be to negotiate successfully. It also helps us feel calmer.

Tip #03: Aim for your worth

Go into any negotiation with your best intention in mind. Go into every conversation hoping for the best possible outcome regardless of how challenging it might be.

Suppose you're negotiating salary - aim high. Starting high increases the perceived value of your work. If you start too low, it will be harder to convince someone to increase.

Tip #04: Be polite but firm


This might seem contradictory- after all, we want to win or be right by being firm! You don't want to be pushy or aggressive and risk scaring them away from you. Remember that this is your opportunity - so if they are not interested at first, be polite yet firm about reminding them what else you have on offer or what you could achieve. Constantly bringing someone back to answering the two most important questions:

What is it like now?

How can what I'm proposing to do make things better?

Tip #05: Know what your limits are

There is no point in continuing if you've reached your limit - the only thing this will do is cause frustration on both sides and prolong the negotiation unnecessarily. It might also result in an agreement that isn't what you hoped for.

Sometimes you might need to walk away and come back to it with fresh eyes and a different perspective. There are times when walking away may be the best solution.

Tip #06: Figure out what the other negotiator needs

Architects are often not just designers but, in fact, negotiators. They have to talk about how the building will work for their clients and what they need out of it- there needs to be a balance between talking about your design vision and listening to their goals. As I mentioned above, having an appreciation for individuals and different cultures will approach negotiations differently. Hence, it's important to look out for the signs and focus on listening and asking questions.

Tip #07 Use mirroring

Mirroring is when you repeat back to somebody the important keywords of what they said in a sentence. Now in sales, this is critical because you're hearing information all the time. You hear words, and you hear phrases that may not be new to you. But these words and phrases can mean a lot of different things to different people that share them.


For example, if someone said:

"I don't think this will work for me."

Those are keywords that you can mirror back. So you can say,

“You don't think this could work for you, could you tell me what about it won't work?
"I just don't think there will be enough space here."

You could further add to this by saying


"I think if I show you this it could possibly really help you see there will be enough space. What are your thoughts at this point?”

Using this technique really helps get to the true challenges or the true feelings of the situation because sometimes people don't necessarily say exactly what they truly mean.

Tip #08: Be patient and stop talking

When we're negotiating, it can be tempting to jump in and try to fill the silence with our own opinions- but this is a mistake. You want them talking because that's when you'll know what their goals and needs are- so let them speak until they permit you to talk again.

Silence is an important part of any negotiation, and when used to full effect, it can help you get what you want far more easily than anything you might say.

When you quote your price, rather than rambling on offering reasons for how you came to the figure and almost apologetically talking yourself down to a lower number, try just shutting your mouth and waiting. Talking too much makes you seem nervous and can be a negotiation killer.

It’s also worth staying silent if the client makes you an offer lower than you like. Not responding immediately or saying you’ll need some time to think about it can sometimes spur the client into making a higher offer without any further prompting from you.

Final thoughts

Negotiations are not always easy, especially if English is your second language and you need to understand the subtleties of the language. Negotiation takes practice and building up your awareness. Even the most skilled negotiators have had years of practice, but the one thing they would say is that learning takes years of observing and learning from mistakes.

👉 Looking for an easier way to understand negotiations and some of the strategies you can implement to make things easier for you?


Find out more about my coaching programs to help you take your English for architecture skills to the next level.

13 views0 comments