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13 Negotiating Techniques That Never Fail

Here are negotiation techniques that have led to several multimillion-dollar deals.

By John Rampton

You’re sitting in a conference staring at the face of the other party. You want one thing. They want something entirely different. And as you’re both on the verge of flipping over the table, it occurs to you that neither party is going to get what they want.

Here’s the thing. Negotiating isn’t about getting what you want OR giving in to what the other party wants. It’s not an “either/or situation.” It’s about having both parties walk away satisfied. Over the years in both business and life I’ve had to learn this hard lesson.

To allow for this progress to happen, here are 13 negotiation techniques that have helped me get the majority of what I want. Best part, they will never fail.

1. Do your homework.

Never come to the table unprepared. Research your counterpart in advance so that you can identify exactly what you want and have the data to back-it-up. For example, when appealing for a new programming gig, research the industry and the company that you’re interviewing with so that you know the average salary. After that, you can begin negotiating on your ideal salary.

2. Label your feelings.

By giving your feelings a name you’re identifying how you feel. Michael McMains and Wayman C. Mullins write in Crisis Negotiations, Fourth Edition: Managing Critical Incidents and Hostage Situations in Law Enforcement and Corrections:

A good use of emotional labeling would be “You sound pretty hurt about being left. It doesn’t seem fair,” because it recognizes the feelings without judging them. It is a good Additive Empathetic response because it identifies the hurt that underlies the anger the woman feels and adds the idea of justice to the actor’s message, an idea that can lead to other ways of getting justice.

A poor response would be “You don’t need to feel that way. If he was messing around on you, he was not worth the energy.” It is judgmental. It tells the subject how not to feel. It minimizes the subject’s feelings, which are a major part of who she is. It is Subtractive Empathy.

3. Implement a number scale.

Want to know how strongly you or your counterpart wants something? Put a number on it. A number 1, for example is neutral, and 10 would be something you can’t live without. Hopefully this will lead to both parties eventually comprising or coming up with an alternative. This has allowed me in the past to be very direct with the other party in letting them know what I’m not willing to leave on the table.

4. Don’t focus just on “winning.”

“Negotiation is not a competition,” says Stuart Diamond, a Harvard Law School graduate who teaches negotiation tactics and strategies to students and Fortune 500 executives at The Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, “it’s a collaboration.”

“If you think of it as ‘winning,’ you will think about beating them,” he adds. “And if you do that, you will not collaborate as much.”

Ultimately, you have to define your goals and then take the proper actions and reactions to reach those goals.

5. Ask open-ended questions.

You don’t want to receive simple “yes” or “no” responses. You want the other party to open-up. I typically do this by starting off negotiations with open questions like;

-why are you specifically looking to work with us?

-what does a perfect deal look like to you?

-how do you see this deal being finalized?

These are open questions that gain trust and don’t make the other party feel like you’re trying to pressure them into quick answers. Gain their trust and you’ll get quicker to a deal.

6. Be prepared to give something up.

You’re not going to get everything that you want. Make sure that you identify the areas where you’re willing to be flexible and where you’re not. For example, if dealing with a vendor, you may be willing to pay them a higher rate for their goods because they offer the best payment terms for your business.

7. Share information.

“We often approach negotiation by being very guarded and wary of showing our cards.” writes Kristi Hedges in Forbes. However, studies have found revealing at least a little information can help increase the outcome.

Hedges adds, “Simply putting something of yourself out there – your hobbies, personal concerns, or hopes – can set a positive tone that’s conducive to gaining agreement.”

8. Go for a walk.

No. This doesn’t mean that you walk out of the room and call off the meeting. It means that sometimes we need to take a breather and change the scenery when we’re at a stalemate. Besides, walking gives us a chance to gain a different perspective, gets the creative juices flowing, and elevates your mood. I like to do this daily to keep my mind active!

9. Make the first move.

When you make the first move you’re giving yourself home field advantage. Think about this when purchasing a new home. If you make the first offer that is below the asking price the realtor has to rebuttal with a price that’s more in your favor.

Its the same in the negotiation, I’ve always found the person that makes the first move has the most power. What have you got to lose?

10. Clarify any misconceptions.

During the negotiation process it’s common for misconceptions to occur since both parties assume what the other person is saying or thinking. This can lead to conflicts or disagreements.

Anytime there is a disagreement or you see a confused look on the other parties face, ask them to repeat the deal how they see it. This will allow you to see it from their perspective. Almost every time I’ve done this I can figure out how something didn’t come across from my side the way I wanted.

11. Pause.

A pause can be your secret weapon since it encourages the other party to speak-up or cool down when things get heated. Gary Noesner, author of Stalling for Time: My Life as an FBI Hostage Negotiator, writes;

Eventually, even the most emotionally overwrought subjects will find it difficult to sustain a one-sided argument, and they again will return to meaningful dialogue with negotiators. Thus, by remaining silent at the right times, negotiators actually can move the overall negotiation process forward.

12. Use your emotional intelligence.

Having emotional intelligence allows you to manage your emotions, show empathy, and prevent you from getting distracted. It also helps you solve problems and be a more likable person.

13. Keep your statements brief.

Keeping your statement brief is a part of actively listening and illustrates that you’re not only paying attention, but also giving them the floor. Noesner adds,

Even relatively simple phrases, such as “yes,” “O.K.,” or “I see,” effectively convey that a negotiator is paying attention to the subject. These responses will encourage the subject to continue talking and gradually relinquish more control of the situation to the negotiator.

Final Tip Though we always want to be right and make a deal, I’ve found that if I’m willing to walk from a deal, I have the power. This has lead me to several multi-million dollar sales, business and life deals.

Here’s to becoming a much better negotiator and closing every deal.


This piece was originally published by Inc.


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