How to negotiate better? First, figure out what you mean by negotiation.
Now make no mistake. Negotiation isn’t just about getting a better deal or upselling useless junk to an unassuming customer. There’s much more to it than that.
Being a highly effective negotiator is about making the other person change their mind into giving you what you want.
Again, it doesn’t have to be all professional.
Being a good negotiator will help you solve conflicts in all areas of your life. Be it negotiating with:
🔹 your spouse to spend less on her dresses,
💠 kids to go to bed earlier,
🔹 or your neighbor to stop using your parking space unannounced.
And you can’t do it all by asserting your dominance or (just) by being confident. Why so? It’s because every person you meet has their own perceptions, interests, and, most importantly, impulses.
And whenever you talk to them, you are, in fact, engaging in a negotiation. Push too hard, and you will come across as an a-hole. Be submissive, and people will walk all over you.
It’s not something you can solve with quick-fix self-help junk. If you want to get it right, you will need a much more holistic approach.
Here’s what you need to do.
1. Prepare for All Outcomes
Know. Don’t assume.
Initiating a negotiation without knowing what you or the other party want is like walking into a minefield with duct tape over your eyes.
You need clarity. You need a definitive idea about
1⃣ what is the best possible outcome you want
2⃣ what would be your walkaway point
3⃣ your priorities and how much you can trade-off
4⃣ whom you are negotiating with
I have literally bargained my way into a $500 per 5 blog content per month contract from a guy who thought I wasn’t worth more than $5 an article just by my skin tone.
Had I assumed a hostility or prejudice behind their remarks, I would lose a long-term, valuable client. Instead, I chose to…
2. Listen Beyond Their Words
Did I feel offended? Yes. To an extent, I did.
But being professional, I wondered why the man was saying what he was saying. So I listened. And I listened carefully.
Here’s what happened.
The client here had previously hired quite a few Indian & Pakistani freelance ‘writers’ at lower rates.
However, the original content they would provide him with would always fail to be, well, that original — or make any sense, for that matter.
And it led him to mistake me for one of those scammy writers.
Now, I understood where the other person was coming from. Now, I understood his problem. And that was all the opening I needed.
And all I had to is listen to what he was saying and why he was saying it.
I learned this from the book Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss, a former FBI hostage negotiator.
On one occasion, he went on to casually outclass Harvard students who knew every cutting-edge negotiation technique.
What do I mean by outclassing?
I mean, he managed to get them to give him their entire budget.
How did he do it?
By using a secret weapon.
He calls it tactical empathy. In his own words:
Tactical empathy is understanding the feelings and mindset of another in the moment and also hearing what is behind those feelings so you increase your influence in all the moments that follow.
Now being an active listener is essential as it allows you to…
3. Appeal to Their Emotions
Another simple rule is, when you are verbally assaulted, do not counterattack. Instead, disarm your counterpart by asking a calibrated question.― Chris Voss, Never Split the Difference: Negotiating as if Your Life Depended on It
Despite being highly intelligent, we humans rarely make decisions from a strictly logical standpoint. It’s always more about how you feel than what you know.
So if you manage to appeal to their emotions, you can bypass their critical scrutiny and make them lower their guard. And it’s not that hard.
That’s exactly what I did.
I said, “It seems like you have had a string of bad experiences with cheap freelance writers. So it’s understandable that you don’t want to pay higher to hire another non-native writer.”
All I did was summarize what he had told me and empathize with his situation. And it worked.
He replied, “That’s right.”
And ass Voss mentioned:
Reaching “that’s right” in a negotiation creates breakthroughs.
When you hear your counterpart say these words, you have successfully made them feel heard. Now, they will be much more open to what you have to say. And that’s when you…
4. Make Your Offer
The best negotiators do this by setting the initial terms of a negotiation. If they’re selling an item, they set a high value on it and leave it to the other person to propose a lower price.— MasterClass
That’s how you seize control of a negotiation. According to research, when the seller sets the opening offer the final price tends to be higher. Likewise, it tends to be lower when the buyer offers first.
In my case, though the client had already made his first offer ($5 an article), he quickly realized how ridiculous his offer was once he saw the content published under my name and the materials I was producing for other clients.
Now, it was time for the next part — negotiating the numbers. And here, I recommend using solid numbers than a ballpark.
For example, if you are trying to get between $300 and $600, don’t state it out loud. Go with $600 first. Otherwise, you will give away your lowest price, and the other guy will try to lower it even further.
5. Don’t Finish Too Quick
You don’t always have to close a deal on your first call. It’s okay to let it breathe.
If you show them substantial value, the other party is not likely to fall off. If they do, it will be because they don’t have the buying power yet. So it’s a win-win for you, no matter what.
On the other hand, if you try to push it too hard, you will come across as desperate. It will make the other guy defensive, and he will try to escape the negotiation.
Not losing your nerve and nerfing yourself in the process can be the biggest challenge. Trust your value, be fair, and let the best things come to you.
The thing about negotiation is that most people suck at it. They will get emotional, talk too much, give away their problems, and expose their needs.
That’s where you strike. That’s how negotiate better than most people.
Always remember, you can’t change their minds. Only they can. All you need to do is show them what you are providing is the best possible outcome for them.