By Dean Kaplan, CEO and President, The Kaplan Group

What’s the No. 1 skillset that you need as a cloud professional? 

It might surprise you to hear that, for many, it isn’t cloud computing or deployments or cloud governance, it’s negotiation skills. Today, many people think that negotiation skills are only crucial for those on the sales side of the business or in the c-suite. The truth is that many of the day-to-day aspects of business, from hiring to a cloud storage decision making to improving IT’s morale require negotiation skills. 

We’re all familiar with the stereotype of the genius who sees something no one else does and develops software all on his own, or the coder capable of making magic happen on screen but incapable of talking to other people. 

As a cloud professional, you probably already know those stereotypes are false, but believing in these myths can still prevent you from developing skills that you need. 

Learning Negotiation Skills

Whether you’re an engineer, migration specialist, data scientist or developer, everyone in IT needs negotiation skills. Some of the main negotiation skills tech people need and use every day include the ability to:

  • Ask questions.
  • Listen to, understand and act on someone else’s concerns.
  • Research similar issues and solutions.
  • Effectively offer meaningful solutions and suggestions.
  • Discover and understand not just the objectives, but also the emotions of other people.
  • Present analysis, goals, and solutions using analytical insight compellingly.

In most negotiations, groups of these skills work together. 

For example, if you constantly put forth solutions without asking questions, others will consider you arrogant and that will make negotiations more difficult. However, if you consistently ask questions without ever seeming to have an opinion that can make you look indecisive, which will also make your negotiations challenging. 

You may have great questions and solutions, but if you can’t compellingly present your ideas, your negotiations will stall out. 

Leading By Example

As a cloud professional, thinking about, defining and giving examples of your negotiating skills will help you do your job, hire the right resources, purchase that new cloud framework and apply for promotions and new positions. 

Bringing Negotiations to Life

Here are some real-life examples of situations where cloud professionals need and use negotiation skills.

  • A software engineer at a startup receives a lengthy list of fixes and bugs from multiple people daily. Negotiation skills like asking questions and active listening will help determine which repairs are the most important. Empathy and storytelling may help explain any decisions to others, and problem-solving and research can help develop a method to make the process easier for everyone.
  • A group of developers can’t agree on what software to use in a new product. Negotiation skills will help them determine the right questions to ask to make the decision and help each other feel heard and valued.
  • An IT team has a disagreement about which process to follow to complete a project. The IT director could insist on his process, but instead, he asks the other team member to explain their thinking. By using active listening for heading the explanation, the IT director can answer the team’s concerns, and still carry out the procedure, saving both the process and the working relationship.
  • A CDO wants to change the email system his company uses. He asks a developer to modify the system to work more like a system he used at a different company. However, he doesn’t understand that doing so will mean the email system will no longer integrate with other systems. When the developer tries to explain that his request is impossible, he insists that it is possible because of his experience. Instead of trying to explain the technical difficulties with the request, the developer uses analogies and stories to explain the situation. The developer then asks questions about the specific problems the CMO is encountering. By doing so, the developer can offer a solution that solves the problems, while still allowing the system to integrate with the company’s other systems.

A Natural Negotiator

While many people believe that you’re either a “natural” at negotiation or not, like any skillset negotiation can be taught and learned. Many people who consider themselves “naturals” at negotiation could use some help. 

Teaching negotiation skills can be done in-house or by using outside help. Bringing in an outside organization to train everyone, even supervisors, to gain skills is a nice change of pace for employees. 

Local theater or comedy groups, as well as escape rooms and other organizations, often do formal or informal negotiation and storytelling training. As with any business decision, make sure to fully research any company offering to teach negotiation skills and ask for references and recommendations from others.

Dean Kaplan is president of The Kaplan Group, a commercial collection agency specializing in large claims and international transactions. He is an expert in the technology industry and has 35 years of manufacturing, international business leadership, and customer service experience. Today, he provides business planning, training, and consultation to a variety of global companies.