Walsh Enterprises Business & Financial Advisors
Huntington Beach, California USA
The ABCs of Negotiating
Reprinted from a blog posted February 2009 at
In order to progress, most business people have to develop negotiating
skills at some point in their career. Negotiation is a learned skill. You’re
not born with it.
Here’s some thoughts from what I’ve learned over the years:
In case you didn’t realize it, you negotiate all the time; at work, at home,
and in public.
My wife can hardly wait to get down to Mexico and dicker with the
shopkeepers. It’s in the blood for many of us. Even if it’s not “in your
blood”, you might have more skill than you know. As you read through
the following tips, think about it.
Many urban myths revolve around this topic – the most prevalent being
that you have to be one of the “chatty beautiful people” to be a success.
We’ve all known them, the “Ken” or Barbie” people who have the flawless
looks and the glib communications style. We’re a “beauty-oriented”
society, so these traits can help speed careers or open doors. But often
these traits can be distractions in a negotiation – especially if they’re
talking too much and not listening.
Some of the most effective negotiators I’ve known are quiet, earnest
people who seldom speak unless they have something meaningful to say.
These people share an almost universal trait; they’re good listeners, while
being circumspect in their speech.
A basic rule of effective negotiation is to keep your position “close to the
vest”. Don’t blab your intentions, or your goals, or your “power cards” to
the other side. Let them make their own assumptions, and then play to
Let them tell you what they think they know about you, and then use their
mistaken perceptions to advantage.
Listen! Listen! Listen!
If you’re talking, you’re divulging information to the other side that you
Let the other side do that. You listen & learn. If you must speak, try to
draw them out – and then shut up. You’d be amazed what some people
will divulge if you just go quiet and give them enough rope to “hang”
themselves. This is especially true if they’re an inexperienced, nervous
negotiator; which covers a lot of folks.
Don’t get emotionally involved. As soon as you do, the other guy has an
Try to convey the aura that you’re a concerned person who cares about
creating a “win-win’ situation – but privately, don’t care that much. If you
get emotionally involved, you won’t be very effective. If you don’t,
negotiating will be a lot more fun; with a better outcome.
Don’t go into the negotiation with a high-brow attitude. If anything, let
them assume you’re a little insecure and/or incompetent. Your posed
posture will encourage them to draw incorrect conclusions, bluster, and
let their guard down. Let them be impressed with you afterward when
they realize the outcome of the negotiation. If they don’t figure it out, and
think they won, all the better for next time.
Never let yourself be intimidated. You may want to give the impression
that you are intimidated to throw the other guy off, but inside you should
remain unruffled. It’s tried all the time, and it will work if you let it. Big
companies like to intimidate small ones, powerful people intimidate the
weak, etc. Just remember that we’re all naked under our clothes. If
someone tries a “take it or leave it” stance with you, immediately throw
out a counter-proposal. There’s something in human nature that virtually
guarantees a counter-proposal in return, and off you go!
Never take No! or “Take-it-or-leave it!” as a final answer. Counter-propose
them to death.
Never reveal your worst-case acceptable negotiating stance. If you must
let the negotiation get to that point, let the other party say it. Always start
with your best possible stance, or higher, and make them work you down.
You’ll probably be pleasantly surprised at the outcome.
Never take it for granted what the other party knows, or wants, or is
willing to live with. Let them tell you; while you keep your knowledge &
stance as private as possible.
Negotiation is as much about the people as the facts, and almost
everything is negotiable.
You probably already know most of the facts going in, so concentrate on
the people during the negotiation process. Humans are funny creatures,
and a little attention to them can reap big rewards. Watch and listen to the
other party. If they’re impatient, drag out time and use it to your
advantage. Most parties enter into negotiations with flawed assumptions
and overblown goals. Use time as a tool to bring the discussion down to
the realm of reality.
Keep in mind that the other party probably won’t shift toward a more
desirable posture until the last second. Be patient.
If you see a situation developing that will inevitably end up in negotiation,
don’t wait – strike while the “iron is hot”.
Gather you facts and act. By taking the initiative, you may well catch the
other party off-guard and gain advantage. Watch the other party, wait for
signs of what makes them “tick” and play to it. You’d be amazed how
shallow some people can be; especially people who are filled with their
own importance. Let them be important. Help them be important. You
concentrate on the negotiation itself.
Many so-called experts will tell you that the goal of all negotiations
should be “win-win”, whatever that is. I say the objective is to come away
with the best possible outcome.
If the other party wants to “give the store away”, let them. Obviously I’m
not promoting the Simon LeGree posture of shafting the disadvantaged.
I’m talking about business negotiations, and in that arena: “all’s fair in
love & war”.
Learn from the other party. If you sense that they’re playing you, protect
yourself and then learn from them. Just being aware that you’re being
played is the best protection.
My final bit of advice – have fun. Negotiation is a creative process that
affords you the opportunity to utilize a wide variety of talents in a fluid
situation. Don’t just go for the status quo – reach for the sky.
These are just a few thoughts on the subject, but they cover a lot of
ground and should provide the basic platform for anyone to become an
Good Luck. Enjoy Yourself. Grow and Prosper with It.