How to Negotiate Like Your Life Depends on It: 7 Tips to Come Out On Top

If you enter a negotiation with only your best interests in mind, you will lose.

You want something. The other person wants something. In a way, it’s a duel, but at the end of this duel, both parties want to walk away having gained something. How do you ensure victory — or the perception of victory — for both sides?


Tough negotiators arrive at the table to make a deal. Once one party agrees to a deal in their head, a savvy negotiator has the skill to come back around to adjust the terms of the deal in their favor.

Here are seven tips to help you close the deal, and come out on top.

Do your homework.

research-your-opponent Come to the table with hard numbers, stats, and other concrete information you can use to fortify your position. Get a feel for the marketplace. When you are able to cite and quote, you don’t just sound credible, you are credible. You know what you’re talking about and it may leave the other person playing catch-up.

And, if possible, research the person you’ll be negotiating with. Don’t be afraid to do a little digging online. Their LinkedIn profile may reveal they’re a skilled salesperson (or the exact opposite), leaving you to prepare accordingly.

Negotiations start with respect.

You don’t go into a negotiation to burn bridges. A negotiation is an opportunity to build or strengthen a relationship with a client, vendor, or industry peer. Yes, you want to work your way to a position that benefits you, but to get there you need to understand the person on the other side of the table. Empathize with their needs and goals.

Listen carefully to what they have to say.

Know what they want to get out of the negotiation. Listen to the specific words they use (or don’t use) and the way they phrase sentences. Watch the person on the other side of the table as they speak. Observe facial cues and listen for vocalizations, such as sighs and changes in inflection (these are especially crucial if you are speaking over the phone). Changes in speech can reveal nervousness, anxiety, frustration, and even a weak argument. Take, for example, the negotiation tactics of Michael Scott (from the hit TV show “The Office”).

When you can better understand their position, you can better strengthen yours. You aren’t going to enter the negotiation knowing all the details. Listen to learn.

Keep your cool.

Just as your opponent is displaying nonverbal cues, so are you. While you can’t eliminate nonverbal cues altogether, you can remain neutral. This doesn’t mean an end to friendly conversation. It’s all about managing your emotions. When you’re hard to read, the other person may start to feel a little intimidated. They want to know what you’re thinking, and it’s harder to get inside your head while they’re struggling to read your nonverbal cues.

Ask the right questions.

The right questions open doors and give you more information to work with. Avoid questions with yes or no answers, which tell you nothing. Start questions with “why” and “how.” When you get the other person to open up, they may inadvertently reveal a critical detail in their own strategy — or it may reveal a perspective you hadn’t previously considered. They may want something outside of the current terms that you can easily provide.

Know when to walk.

know-when-to-walkYou don’t want to end a negotiation with an agreement just for the sake of ending with an agreement. If you can’t arrive at terms, it’s is perfectly okay to walk away and try again later. When the price is too high, benefits aren’t adding up, and there is too much doubt hanging over your head, tell the other person you need to think about it. End the negotiation and move on.

Know what to compromise.

Be prepared to not get everything you want. Prioritize your goals and be willing to adapt to changing terms. Allow for flexibility on the goals you consider the least critical. But, know when to hold your ground and don’t over-compromise. If there is a term you really want met, negotiate around it. If you’re asked to modify or concede a term, ask for something in return. Compromise isn’t about give or take, it’s about balance.

Skilled negotiation takes practice. When you can adeptly negotiate, you and your business stay ahead of the competition, and you get more of what you want.

Have any negotiation tactics you’d like to share? What’s worked for you? What hasn’t? Let us know in the comments below!

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