‘We negotiate constantly,” says TEC Speaker and negotiations expert Jack Kaine. “Some people—attorneys, diplomats, purchasing agents, union officials –negotiate professionally. However, anytime two or more people exchange information with the intent of changing a relationship, they are negotiating. We negotiate with our employers and employees about priorities and compensation. We negotiate with salespeople and street vendors, and even with children about their curfews. In many ways, life is one big negotiation.”

Following are Jack’s tips for achieving successful negotiations.

24 Tips for Successful Negotiations

1. Negotiate trust first. If people don’t trust you, they probably won’t share information with you. If people share information with you but don’t trust you, anything they say will be designed to deceive or mislead you.

2. Always prepare for the negotiation as if it was the first time you have ever dealt with the other party. Time and economic conditions change everyone.

3. Know your walk-away position in advance. Prepare for an adverse outcome: If you are not able to negotiate successfully with the other party, how else can you address your needs? You must bow all your options before you sit do~ to negotiate. The pa~ with the best walk-away position will always have a pronounced advantage.

4. Always enter the negotiation with an open mind. Look for a better deal for both parties. The best possible outcome for both parties is never apparent at the outset of a negotiation, and it’s always a better outcome than whatever seems possible at the beginning of the negotiation. To find this best outcome you must be flexible and willing to explore opportunities as they are presented.

5. To achieve win-win outcomes, focus on enlarging– not dividing — the pie. Add elements to the negotiation. Do not subtract elements from the negotiation. There are always things that you can do for the other party that won’t cost you very much, but will have a high value to them.

Example: Golf professionals can give customers free range balls for a month instead of cutting the price on a Big Bertha Driver to match the “discounters’ price. The club is going to have to pick up the balls anyway. and the offer makes customers feel better about the purchase and keeps them coming back. The more they practice the better they will become, and the more they will visit the club and the more they will buy.

6. Never allow a negotiation to boil down to one issue if that is an important issue to you. When a negotiation comes down to one issue, it is impossible to avoid a win-lose outcome.

7. Never pre-negotiate with yourself. “Pre-negotiation” is the process of developing a proposal and then reworking it (to lower the price or change the terms) before you present it to the other party. Don’t do it. The problem with pre-negotiating with yourself is that the concessions you make before you reach the negotiating table have no value to you or the other party. All you are doing is giving away your bottom line. The other party will still want concessions. Give yourself room to make them. If the other party has to work for those concessions, they will have more value to you and them.

8. Speak first. The party that speaks first in a negotiation sets the tone for the negotiation. Have your opening remarks scripted and rehearsed. This allows you to establish a positive tone for the negotiation. It is much easier to set a positive tone at the outset than to later overcome the natural tendency toward hostility and distrust that is found in most negotiations.

9. Ask questions. The party that asks the most questions in a negotiation determines the content and the direction of the negotiation. You control a negotiation not by talking, but rather by asking questions.

10. Prepare for the negotiation from the other party’s perspective. People do things for their own reasons. Most negotiators only prepare for their own needs in a negotiation. You are not prepared to negotiate until you can state the other party’s case better than they can. This gives you tremendous understanding and leverage.

II. Never argue, but always question for understanding. No one ever wins an argument. Someone convinced against his or her will isn’t really convinced.

12. The focus of a negotiation needs to be on “what’s right” and not on “who’s right.” “What” questions are fact-oriented. “Why” questions are subjective and emotional. Asking “what” questions gets the facts out on the table. “Why” questions elicit emotions. Good negotiators are hard on problems and soft on people. The end result will be an agreement that works for both parties.

13. Always negotiate with your own team first. There are only advantages to the team approach to negotiations. The Japanese have a wonderful expression: “None of us is as smart as all of us.” When you work as a team there will be fewer blind spots. Furthermore, a team will accept greater risk than will an individual. The party that is willing to take the greatest informed risk will always have an advantage.

14. Make sure the other party understands the items on which you agree. Win-win outcomes are built on agreement, not disagreement. Build a strong foundation for the deal. The more items you agree upon, the harder it will be to walk away from the items that separate you. Significant areas of agreement encourage flexibility when addressing disagreements.

15. You have more power than you think you have. If you did not have something that the other party needed, they would not be negotiating with you.

16. Kill your ego. More negotiations are destroyed by ego than any other factor. Any time negative emotion enters into an exchange, the conversation may continue but communication has stopped. You can always tell when a negotiation has become ego-driven. People say things like, “It’s the principle.’ When people say this they are saying that they are acting emotionally– not rationally.

17. Listen. Listen. Listen. People will tell you what they need. However, most people are so focused on their own agenda that they never hear what the other party is saying.

18. Understand why the other party is saying “no.” It is usually because someone in his or her organization is blocking the deal. Help the other party perform a second negotiation.

19. Learn the right way to make concessions. Never make a concession the minute you know you can make it: use time to add value. A quick concession to a win-lose negotiator is viewed as a sign of weakness. Never make a concession unless you can explain what new information you have gained that has allowed you to change your position. If you appear to simply roll over without using time and explaining what new information has changed your position, you will lose credibility.

20. To make things non-negotiable, put them in writing. People argue with people. They do not argue With printed documents. Once agreements reach written form, they take on a life of their own.

21. List your assumptions about the negotiation and then test them. One of the reasons there is so much conflict in negotiation is that many times we assume that what we want is exactly what the other party wants. We are quick to assume things about the other party’s motivation, thinking and their ethics. Always test your assumptions for validity.

22. Have the courage to set your goals high. People who expect more get more.

23. Don’t stop at the first acceptable outcome. If there is one good outcome there is a second, and if there is a second there is a third. Try to get the best outcome, not a merely acceptable outcome. The mistake that most negotiators make is stopping at the first outcome they find acceptable.

24. Separate the person from the problem. If you see the person as a problem, there will always be a problem. Try not to confuse positions with people. Your problem is not with the person, but with their thinking. Always question for understanding.

In a Nutshell

Much of the work involved in conducting a successful negotiation occurs long before you ever sit down with the other party. A well-prepared negotiator filly understands the goals and objectives of his or her side, and also understands the goals of the other parties in the negotiation. Above all, have the courage to set your own goals high. People who expect more get more.

Our lives and careers are affected by how well we negotiate. Keeping these tips in mind will help you strengthen your negotiating skills, and assist you in reaching an agreement that works for both parties –whether you’re trying to close a major deal or agree on where to spend your next vacation.


Successful Negotiations