Negotiation Tips

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Become a Professional Whiner

Negotiating is uncomfortable for most of us because it creates tension and potential conflict. Like most other skills, effective negotiating takes preparation, patience, and practice. Reading a list of bullet points wont make you an expert but it can help you prepare. A few pointers are listed below. Login and comment on your experiences and strategies below.

What’s in it for You?

Prepare of list of strings you want to get. Determine your must-haves and delighter (or nice-to-have) features, their value, and which you could concede. Think outside the box. There’s usually more to a deal than price.

When you make an offer or counteroffer, always try to keep some strings in your deal that you can concede. Possibly in a portion or entirely but have something in your back pocket to carry on a good-faith negotiation.

Be creative…beyond a lower price think about quality performance, delivery, freight, attributes, warranty, service levels, and payment terms. Certain characteristics may be worth more than others (i.e. color, style, brand, type of material, software, etc.) The list of potential strings is nearly infinite and varies from deal to deal.


Anticipate the goals of the other party. Try to determine the value of everything you have to offer. Determine the value to the other party and what it cost you to give up.  

Anticipate the pressure the other side is under especially if they are under the pressure of time and you are not (i.e. are they trying to achieve milestone, a bonus, etc.)

Don’t Go First

Let the other party talk. Ask questions to encourage them to keep talking and talking. Observe, take notes, and recite what you think you heard to clear up any potential misunderstanding. Even if they other party is saying things you don’t want to hear, let your calmer head prevail. 

Let the other party make the first offer. As much as you assume your know their position, you could be way off. The only way to find out is to let them start. You may be pleasantly surprised or very disappointed. You’re likely to learn something that you wouldn’t if you were to start.

Determine Your Settlement Point

Determine your settling point or criteria. Aim higher to start to allow room for a good-faith negotiation. Be prepared to support your initial offer or rebuttal.

If your claim is unreasonably high to the point where you can’t support it rationally, it may derail the negotiation all together. Or you could lose credibility personally and the other party may try to get in touch with someone else in your company. If you’re the sole player then you may burn a bridge or be able to play hardball.

Get it in Writing

If there are terms or language you don’t agree with, cross them out before signing or reword and work through the differences. If the terms are more complex it may be worth a review from a legal counsel. 

In the end, make sure to get a copy of anything signed. Any verbal commitments should be written within the the contract.

Negotiating Pitfalls

“Time” Pressure”

Avoid the pressure of time or at least make it appear that you are not under any time constraint. If the other side knows your eager (or excited) to close the deal, you’re probably not going to get their best offer. The pressure of time is the most common tactic is a negotiation but there are several others to be mindful of. Recognize them (whether the other party realizes they are using them) and be prepared to respond or handle them. 

Everything is Negotiable

Don’t take any fee, contract, sticker price at face value. As firm as a “price” may seem you should assume that everything is on the table. However if you ask for something and claim it is a non-negotiable, expect the other party to behave the same.

Strive for Win-Win

Don’t agree to split the difference unless that gets you to your desired outcome or better. However, if this is a relationship that you may be needed in the future, it is best that both parties feel they are getting a win. In other words strive for a win-win rather than beating down the other party.

Fail to Plan is Planning to Fail

As with most things earned in life, you’ll get out of it what you put into it. Prepare your negotiation and part of that process includes anticipating the moves and responses from the other party. Consider other factors such as allowing adequate time, culture differences, and proper introduction and summarizing the outcome at the end of the negotiation to both parties clarity.

Emotion Takeover

Keep the negotiation professional and impersonal. A personal attack will likely push you further apart and perhaps and end all together. Your credibility will be respected as well as your arguments when the other party believes you are prepared, professional, and truthful. Prepare yourself for responses that you don’t want to hear and be ready to absorb the blows to hold in your emotions and a knee-jerk response. A confrontational approach is unlikely to get either party a satisfying outcome. Remain ethical with an mindset of negotiating in good-faith.

Lack of Authority or Decision Makers

If you’re the sole negotiator and decision maker then this piece can be ignored. If you’re representing a company or a group then make sure you have the ability to call shots and if not, ask those that do, to be part of the negotiation. Eventually this will need to happen anyway so don’t start unless you know where you can draw the lines.

Negotiating Stalemate

An impasse not be a bad thing if your both far apart but you have the luxury of time. If this is the case you may be best staying quiet for awhile. If the other party is under a time constraint they may feel the pressure to concede as their deadline approaches. 

Sometimes both parties can benefit from a cooling off period to rethink the current state and brainstorm new approaches to get off of dead center. 

External factors can change over time as well. What was once a talking point or an obstacle may change quickly or eventually. If you suspect these factors could go in your favor you may wait it out…or vice versa. Remember that supply & demand are constantly changing in most situations. 

Don’t burn a bridge. As much as you think you can do without the other party be careful with that assumption. It can be a small world and while it may not happen soon, you may be surprised to cross paths in the future. This applies to the individual(s) and the company(s) involved as the other party.  

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