3 Tips to Make Your Negotiations Better

Sometimes you don’t need a long post about how to look deep inside yourself and find your inner negotiation ninja.

Sometimes you just need to know what to do to get what you want.

Here are my top three tips to make your negotiations better.

Negotiate Toward What You Want, Not Against Their Last Offer

By Leo Reynolds via Flickr.com

By Leo Reynolds via Flickr.com

Too many people think of negotiations purely based on the last move that was made. They spend all of their time negotiating by reacting to what the other guy just did.

That’s not negotiation, though, that’s reaction.

Take the time to figure out what you want and why you want it before you start negotiating. That way, as offers come in you can compare them to how they bring you closer to what you want, instead of trying to do the mental gymnastics to figure out if the deal you were offered is any good.

Let me guess: you’re smart and those gymnastics aren’t hard for you. You’re fine without a plan.

OK, so if you bid a freelance gig at $125/hour and they come back at $100/hour, what’s the best response?

If you just thought, “$115/hour, obvs,” you’re fired; I fire you.


Because without any other context money doesn’t mean a damn thing!

Is the deadline tomorrow or next month?

Is it a project the client highly values, even if it might be easy for you?

How much time do you have for the work right now?

Is it work you know how to do or will you have to learn it along the way?

Knowing the answers to these questions, knowing what is important to you, will allow you to evaluate offers based on how well they meet your needs, instead of how different they are from what you last offered.

By Leo Reynolds via Flickr.com

By Leo Reynolds via Flickr.com

Laser-like Focus Will Leave You Blind

If only one thing in a negotiation is important to you, money, time, prestige, you will miss out on equally thrilling opportunities that don’t fit into your narrow focus.

Listen, if you aren’t negotiating over the release of hostages, there are many many many ways in which a deal can be made.

But if you only focus on one thing, you won’t be able to see those options.

My mother recently got me watching Shark Tank and I see this particular flub on grand display every time I watch an episode.

There are people for whom making a deal, any deal, is their one and only focus.

They’ve concocted a TV-friendly and producer approved story about why making a deal will either save or sink their business.

They’ve told friends and family that they’re going on the show to make a deal.

They realize as the cameras roll that millions of people are paying attention to whether or not they can make a deal.

Their focus is so trained on making a deal that they don’t pay attention to the deal they’re making. They sell too much of the company or accept too small an investment. They’ll even make a deal with an investor who has no experience in their industry with no connections to helpful partners because that particular investor was the last one standing and agreed to say “yes.”

It’s easy to make fun of these people when they’re on television and you’re comfy on your couch. But it happens to all of us. We get so excited about one particular thing that we forget to pay attention to the rest of the deal.

Laser-like focus is usually touted as a beneficial thing. In negotiations it’s not. Drop it and broaden your view.

Shut Up and Listen

By MonkeyBoy69 via Flickr.com

By MonkeyBoy69 via Flickr.com

If you can only do one thing to improve your negotiations, do this: shut up and listen.

Cut the amount of time you spend talking in half and listen to what the other side is saying.

When they begin to object, instead of rushing to provide more information, listen to where their objection is coming from. Don’t assume you already understand. Listen to what they say. If the objection doesn’t make sense to you, don’t respond by telling them why they’re wrong, ask questions. Then listen some more.

If they are quietly considering your offer, don’t speed up and blurt out every last bit of great information you have about why this is a fantastic deal and they should take it right now, oh my gosh, what’s wrong with you, do you know what you’re missing out on?!

Listen to what they’re doing. Being thoughtful can be a good thing. Ask if they have any questions. Provide information based on what they tell you is important to them, not based on why you think the deal is good.

I think there is a mistaken belief that listening isn’t as active as bargaining or arguing about the deal. When you are listening you have to shut up; at least when you’re arguing, you’re making your case. That has to be a better use of your time, right?

It might sound obvious, but I cannot stress this enough: if you don’t listen to what the other side is saying and doing, you will not know what they want.

If you don’t know what they want, you can’t make offers that they’re likely to accept. If you can’t make offers that they’re likely to accept, you are left in the far less powerful position of only being able to consider offers they make.

Only being able accept or reject offers the other side makes sounds pretty darn passive to me.

By quinn.anya via Flickr.com.

By quinn.anya via Flickr.com.

Good luck negotiating!

Categories: Negotiation Strategy

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