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How to Negotiate: 7 Effective Strategies to Land a Better Deal

A tactical approach to asking for what you want and then some

Admin Nas Academy

30 Sep · 7 mins read

Going into a negotiation with someone who holds more power than you do can be daunting. Whether you’re asking your boss for a raise or attempting to land a major business deal with a client, it’s crucial to know how to negotiate, since the negotiation process can dramatically affect your chances of success

How can you make the best case for what you want and leave with an offer that satisfies all the parties involved? Less experienced negotiators may look at trying to outsmart the opposite party with amateur tactics, or focus on claiming a solution rather than solving a problem. But these tactics rarely generate the outcome people hope for. 

Successful negotiators, on the other hand, know that the key to walking away with a better deal is to master the basics of negotiation skills first and to prepare ahead of time. This helps them to thoroughly understand their opposition, and focus on developing a strong rapport.

Today, knowing how to negotiate is as hard or as easy as you want it to be. Most of us see a price and are expected to pay it upfront. In fact, even if we’re outraged by a price, we try to hide it with a smile on our face rather than call it out. But to get what you want without disrespecting anybody in the process is a necessary skill, especially in the business world. 

Keeping in mind how important it is to ensure all the parties involved amicably agree to the outcome of a negotiation in a business deal, here are 7 effective strategies to land a better deal than you imagined.

Infographic on how to negotiate effectively

1. Be Prepared and Know Exactly What You Want

Every sound negotiation guide emphasizes the importance of being prepared when presenting your proposal. However, this is easier said than done because it’s impossible to imagine every possible outcome and employ the right negotiation strategies in the moment – especially when learning how to negotiate a business deal.

In order to best prepare without getting overwhelmed, here’s a handy to-do list to follow:

  • Define mini goals rather than the final outcome. Rather than focusing on the terms you think the other party will accept, identify the parameters that would work for you so you don’t set the bar too low.
  • Define your walk-away point. Some trade-offs will simply be unacceptable to you or your organization, and these should be made clear (at least to yourself) ahead of time.
  • Define the interests of yourself or your organization. Know your top priorities when entering a negotiation, and what and how much you are willing to trade off to achieve them.

It’s best to identify specific success metrics beforehand.

Of course, if you were to consider every negotiable term in a complex negotiation, you might end up dealing with millions of possible outcomes. So don’t worry about those and focus instead on the top items on your list and what you ultimately want to get out of the negotiation. This will help minimize negotiation stress and help rationalize the decisions for both sides, increasing the likelihood of acceptance.

2. Don’t Be Afraid to be Vulnerable

Experienced negotiators will tell you that there is often strength in weakness. Having power typically reduces a person’s ability to understand how others think, see, and feel, so being in the less powerful position actually gives you the opportunity to accurately assess what the other party wants and how you can best deliver it. If you do your homework and are well prepared, you’ll often find you’ve underestimated your own power and overestimated the opposition’s. 

On the other hand, while being vulnerable is an advantage, ensure you don’t come across as desperate. When understanding how to negotiate, remember that successful negotiators are assertive and ask a lot of questions because they know that everything is negotiable and they do not take things at face value.

Man and woman negotiating

Being assertive means asking for what you want respectfully without coming across as stubborn. Practice expressing your feelings without anxiety or anger. Let people know what you want in a non-threatening way.

Practice “I” statements. For example, instead of saying, “You shouldn’t do that,” try substituting it with, “I don’t feel comfortable when you do that.” Notice that there is a difference between being assertive and being aggressive. You are assertive when you take care of your own interests while maintaining respect for the interests of others. When you look at only your interests with a lack of regard for other people’s interests, you are being aggressive. 

3. Collaborate Using the Win-Win Strategy

Knowing how to negotiate successfully will ensure both sides leave the bargaining table feeling like they got a win. In that sense, effective negotiators view their work as problem solving rather than just a problem. This is known as the “win-win strategy.”

Ask yourself: What do I want, and what does my negotiating partner want, that neither of us have right now? Tally both sides and propose a deal that addresses both of your needs to produce a better outcome. You can do this by asking open-ended questions. By simply asking “what if?” and “would you consider?” questions, you can better understand the position of the other party and build a stronger agreement from there.

However, don’t rush to ask all your questions at once. Listen to how the opposite party answers your first question because it’s possible they might offer you a better deal than what you had in mind. 

When both negotiators are fully dedicated to finding a common ground, they can use the win-win negotiation strategy to find a mutually beneficial arrangement for all involved. For example, if you can’t get a higher price, perhaps you can convince your counterpart to change the scope of work. On the other hand, if you can’t convince the other party to offer you a better cost, maybe you can obtain better payment terms or additional services for the same price. Either way, tradeoffs are what you should aim for and every successful negotiator will tell you that.

4. Understand Your Goals and Theirs

Before you employ the win-win strategy to any negotiation, make a list of what you want from the negotiation and why. This exercise will help you determine what would cause you to walk away, so you can build your strategy with an acceptable end result in mind. It is also equally important to understand what’s important to the other side.

By studying your counterpart’s motivations, obstacles, and goals, you can approach the bargaining table with solutions to problems they may be facing. This will help the opposite party feel empowered since they won’t see the negotiation as something they have to give up, but rather as something they will achieve in return. 

Remember that employing effective negotiating strategies, as opposed to bargaining or haggling, can create new value rather than just distributing it. New value is created by trade-offs (asking for something you want and giving something in return). Offering several negotiation trade-offs by understanding your negotiator’s goals will ensure you enlarge the negotiation pie rather than cutting even thinner slices of it during the process.

Usually, when negotiating, we tend to focus on our own pressure and on the reasons why we need to make a deal. This can work against us because the other side will always appear more powerful. When you focus on your own limitations, you miss the big picture.

Two women shaking hands

Instead, successful negotiators ask, “What is the pressure on the other side of this negotiation?” You will feel more powerful when you recognize the possible reasons that the other side could give in and accept your offer. In fact, your negotiation power is derived, in part, from the pressures on the other person. Even if they appear nonchalant, they inevitably have worries and concerns. It’s your job to do your homework and prepare (read point 1). If you discover that they are under pressure, which they surely are, look for ways to use that pressure to your advantage and achieve a better result for yourself.

5. Establish Trust and Openness

At the beginning of every negotiation, it is always best practice to reveal your priorities (not end goals) and ask the other side to be open about theirs. This may sound counterintuitive because many people don’t want to share that information for fear that the other party might abuse it. However, in some cases, total transparency can lead to better negotiation tactics. Revealing your interests can signal cooperation and elicit reciprocity.

If the other party offers information too, you should feel empowered to share more. Your counterpart’s priorities might give you important information that you probably didn’t come across during preparation, and can lead to the discovery of potential trade-offs. This is often overlooked in negotiations because both sides tend to think they want to get a better price and focus only on that. To generate the optimal outcome, don’t talk about price at the beginning of a negotiation. Leave the toughest item on the agenda for the end.

Establishing openness in a negotiation comes with building a strong rapport with the other party. Trust is absolutely key because it is a genuine human trait and successful negotiators work to establish ground rules regarding openness and try to find mutual gains. If you notice that the negotiation isn’t going how you expected it to go, always look at the situation from the other side’s perspective. If you can figure out their perception of the deal, you’re already way ahead of the game. When you do this, you seek to understand the other negotiator rather than trying to win the negotiation. 

Using effective negotiation skills will help the opposite party feel satisfied and be more inclined to help you satisfy your goals as well. However, this does not mean you should give in to everything that is put on the table. Satisfaction means that their basic interests have been fulfilled, not that their demands have been met. Don’t confuse basic interests with demands. If you’re unsure how to differentiate between the two, remember that their demand is what they say they want, their interest is what they really need to get.

Woman standing in a meeting

6. Listen With the Intent to Understand

When negotiating, begin with intent listening. What does this mean? Let go of any intention to reply at any point in the conversation and only listen, and when responses pop in your head, ignore them. Then when there is a pause in the conversation, and it makes sense to respond, go with it in real time.

Listening with the aim to understand what the opposite party’s needs, problems, and goals are is one of the most powerful strategies you can deploy because listening builds trust. This also requires patience. If you rush through conversations, you are more likely to make mistakes, overlook important details the opposite party might spill, and eventually leave money on the table.

This is also an important negotiation skill because something as simple as listening with patience can be devastating to the opposite party if they are in a hurry because they start to believe that you are not under pressure to conclude the deal. So what do they do? They offer concessions as a means of providing you with an incentive to say “YES!”

Once everything is out in the open and you’ve had time to process all the information at hand, pose questions that encourage the other party to defend their positions. Chances are if they can’t defend it, you’ve shifted the power dynamic in your favor. While it isn’t easy to avoid jumping in between a conversation to ask questions, it is always favorable to wait your turn as it gives you enough time (and ultimately, leverage) to strengthen your position.

7. Employ the Iceberg Theory of Negotiation

Last but not least, negotiate with patience and skill using the Iceberg Theory of Negotiation. As we’ve seen before, creating a goal that is mutually satisfying and working together creates a successful outcome, and the ability to negotiate properly is absolutely critical in business to do that. 

Negotiation is a method through which people settle differences. It’s a process at the end of which an agreement or compromise is reached while avoiding argument and dispute. But the Iceberg Theory of Negotiation states that many critical issues in negotiations remain unidentified, unspoken, and unseen – they lie hidden like the underside of an iceberg. In order to reach a successful negotiation, both parties must understand the issues below the surface, as well as those on the surface.

The iceberg theory

If you’re unaware of these hidden needs and fail to offer satisfactory boons to cover them, it will be much harder to reach an acceptable negotiation. Sometimes these needs have a structure to them, while other times they will come at random. However, here are some constants:

  • People want to be perceived as competent;
  • They want to be heard;
  • They want to be free to choose; and
  • They want to be dealt with honorably.

While these strategies can help you understand how to negotiate successfully, learning the art of negotiation comes with practice and consistency.

Want to Learn the Art of Sales & Negotiation From Patrick Dang?

If you’re ready to stop leaving money on the table and learn how to negotiate as a creator, check out Patrick Dang’s The Art of Sales & Negotiation For Creators

In this live class, Patrick Dang will share his top trade secrets on how to sell anything to anyone, without being salesy, and walk you through landing meetings with your dream clients even if nobody knows who you are – so that you can get paid what you’re worth. Learn more

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