Product Management | 19 July, 2022

Negotiation 101 For Product Managers

Hellonext, Inc.

Swathy Ravi

When most people think of "negotiation," they picture it as either completely agreeing to what the other person says or trying to make the person agree with what they're saying. In reality, negotiation should be a way of conflict resolution and finding a middle ground! A product manager with no negotiation skills becomes a nightmare to the team!

The ultimate goal of a product manager is to never be the bad guy but to grow the product’s value, avoid friction and create a win-win for the team and the product. Undeniably, negotiation is one of the key skills of a product manager.

We managed to collect some of the finest yet simple hacks for product managers to master the art of negotiation!

Using “Yes, and” instead of “Yes, but”

Just think about the times when you’ve been told a plain “Yes” and how happy that made you. Now think about the times when someone told you “Yes, but”. Do you feel that split second of being puzzled and thinking what comes next?

While the word “Yes” itself pushes so much confidence into a person, when it precedes a “but” it generates a polar opposite feeling! As the Game of Thrones saying goes, “nothing someone says before the word “but” really counts”, a second of pause between the yes and the but becomes an instant disappointment for most team members. Your “Yes” might not create a value here.

Try using “Yes, and” as it fosters positivity. It depicts that you’re observing their ideas and willing to build on them. In the long run, the practice of “Yes, and”ing helps you as a product manager and your team to think alike and constantly reminds your team that their participation matters!

The Sandwich Feedback Method

You cannot possibly expect 100% perfection from your team. But while being objective about what needs to be addressed is important, it could make your team uncomfortable! What makes you a great product manager and your team grow is how you communicate about these imperfections without triggering a conflict.

Some might prefer being direct with constructive or negative criticism and that does help in more concerned situations. But as humans, in casual conversations, we gravitate towards reacting to negative feedback, which is why the trick to sandwich feedback between pats on the back, helps.

We all love a good sandwich! 💚 Why not use the ideology for feedback delivery! It goes like this,

  1. The Top Slice, Positive Feedback — Honestly point out something that’s working well with what they’re doing and its impact. Put in a word of appreciation. It doesn’t hurt!

  2. The Filling, Constructive Criticism — Depersonalize the feedback and thoughtfully convey it. You are going to focus on the work that your team member did and not on who they are.

  3. The Bottom Slice, Positive Note — Pass on a word of reassurance to them. Wrap up the conversation by putting them into a positive mindset and slide confidence into the talk!

How to de-escalate conflicts

Conflicts in a team can be productive, building a healthy competition. Yet at times, conflicts during negotiations can just be negative and induce bitterness. This might be due to overlapping reasons like difference of opinion, lack of communication and so on. These unproductive conflicts need to be de-escalated ASAP before it affects the work your team members put towards your product and here’s where your skills breeze in as a product manager!

Here are a few tips to curb an intense conflict,

  1. Do not react
  2. Listen to them
  3. Adopt an empathetic approach
  4. Establish trust by being a common ground
  5. Find a compromise for the conflict (while making sure the compromise does not actually trade off on product quality)

With the compromise in hand, try to gain an understanding about the root cause without getting directly involved! Well, it might be a tricky one!

  1. Take a step back
  2. Ignore the urge to be defensive
  3. Examine the situation from the team member’s shoes

This fosters an empathetic working relationship, creates more self realization and ultimately avoids possibilities of future conflicts.

How to actively listen

Product managers are positioned in a team to truly understand the product and the team’s needs. They are jack of all trades but nothing is more important in product management than actively listening.

I am sure you’d have been in a conversation where the person on the other end was simply nodding in response to what you were saying.To be honest, we’ve all been that person too. Real listening seldom happens.

A fine example, how often do you listen to your team in meetings instead of contemplating what you’re going to say next? Not just paying attention to the words that come from your team member, but listening widens to a deeper level. “Listening” to the non verbal cues like the tone of voice, expression, minimal eye contact these can reassure the speaker that you’re listening.

All you need to hone your listening skills is by doing these four simple things.

  1. Ask Questions — Showcase your curiosity with sensible and intriguing questions. Don’t just throw how’s and what’s.

  2. Express What You Heard — I’ve experienced first hand how a simple acknowledgement can make a world of a difference. Make the speaker feel heard!

  3. Don’t Problem Solve — Though you primarily problem solve, pause it for the conversation and just focus on the person speaking. Instead of problem solving, guide them to the solution (without patronizing them).

  4. Don’t Plan What to Say Next — You cannot actively listen and think what to say next! You’d eventually not be saying the right thing.

Each job comes with its own set of tricks and techniques. Being a product manager needs you to master the art of balancing and no two workdays are the same. A product manager’s view is always towards the big picture for the product, maintaining a good culture in your team. 🙌🏼

While there is no predefined way to do product management these negotiation hacks could easily help you crack a 1-1, a team meeting, a feature discussion or a brainstorming session!

Negotiation takes a lot of time, patience and effort to master but it is not impossible! All you would have to do is tailor these hacks based on the person or team you’re working with and you’re all set to soar! You got this! 🚀


For more productive hacks and ideas like these checkout our blog! Don’t forget to try Hellonext and sign up for a 14 day trial to start exploring all cool new features! 🚀⚡️✨

Until next time fellas! Adios! 😃👋🏼

Last updated: December 6th, 2022 at 10:08:37 AM GMT+0

Hellonext Blogpost Author Profile

Swathy Ravi

Swathy handles customer delight at Hellonext. She writes about how to approach customer feedback in real-time, how to communicate feedback to your team and so much more. She loves cats.

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