Negotiating With Sharks

Looking for an easy, low-stress, low-commitment, low-effort way to improve your negotiation skills that you can do while eating popcorn?

Come over to my house and watch me yell at the screen the next time Shark Tank is on.

In addition to being a fun way to discover new products and learn the basics of business valuation, Shark Tank is a great show to watch if you want to learn how not to negotiate.

By Ken Bondy via

By Ken Bondy via

That’s right, how not to negotiate.

There are some exceptions, but most presenters (and on occasion even some of the Sharks) don’t have their ducks in a row when it comes time to strike a deal.

And where they really tank  is in making counter offers.

Many of the mistakes they make are absolutely, 100% normal if you don’t negotiate very often. Which means many of the mistakes they make are mistakes you are potentially making in your negotiations with clients and collaborators.

Lucky for you, you read this blog and I’m going to teach you how to make a counter offer like a boss.

Don’t ask the other person if it’s OK if you negotiate with them.

Often when a Shark makes an offer to a presenter, the presenter responds by saying, “Can I make a counter offer?” or “Is it OK if I respond to that?”

When this happens I want you to imagine me crying.

By Alfonso González via

By Alfonso González via

I’m crying because the presenter has just said, in no uncertain terms, “You, Mr or Ms Shark, have all the power in this relationship and I have none. If you push me, I will agree to just about anything to get a deal.”

It is always OK for you to negotiate. You don’t need anyone’s permission. Ever.

I get what’s happening here. The presenter doesn’t want to come off as rude or aggressive, and so they are trying to be polite. Unfortunately, the way they’ve tried to be polite is undermining their ability to negotiate a good deal.

So how do you politely make a counter offer without conceding your first-born child?

Instead of saying “can I” or “is it OK” before presenting your counter offer, say “thank you.”

“Mark, I appreciate the offer. I disagree with how you’ve valued the company; we have significant growth potential. I’m willing to negotiate but I  can’t accept less than $50,000 for 7% of the company.”

That formula if you missed it:

[Thank you/Appreciation] + [Brief explanation of why you deserve more than was offered] + [Counter Offer]

You can use that basic formula to respond to clients, collaborators and anyone else you might be negotiating with. The formula honors the relationship, highlights why your services or products are great, and then makes a counter offer that takes that greatness into account.

Here’s how it might look if you’re a web designer talking with a client who wants more than he can afford:

“Jack, I’m excited about working with you. Unfortunately, the amount of work required to build the site you’ve described would bust your budget. Let me show you what we can do within your budget and what we’d be able to do with a bit more money.”

Following this basic structure for making a counter offer can help you effectively (and confidently!) negotiate with just about anyone.

Added bonus: you won’t make me cry.

By Ryan Espanto via

By Ryan Espanto via

What do you do when you make counter offers in negotiations? What’s been successful for you?

Categories: Negotiation Strategy


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2 responses to “Negotiating With Sharks”

  1. Nice, simple, formulaic and polite! I like it. Thank you!

  2. […] of successful projects. Without that portfolio you won’t be able to get bigger clients or raise your prices in the […]

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