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As FBI hostage negotiator Chris Voss says in his viral masterclass on negotiation, all of us negotiate in some way every single day. Negotiation is the way by which we work with others, find win-wins and get things done, which can apply to everything from landing a reservation at a restaurant at the last minute to successfully closing a multi-million dollar deal within just a few meetings. There are many popular books on negotiation from which you can learn exactly what to do, but those strategies weaken when you also succumb to negotiation “don’ts.” These sneaky mistakes happen to the best of us, but must be avoided in order to have a successful negotiation and to get what you want out of the situation.
This can apply to negotiating salary, coming to terms for a business deal or partnership, hiring a contractor or any of your other business or financial needs. Everything is a negotiation. In fact, 70% of managers see an offer of a salary and benefits as a starting point that’s up for negotiation. Price and features are all relative, and others are more open to negotiation than you may believe. Avoid these mistakes to get more of what you want from a conversation.
Mistake #1: Rushing to reach a conclusion
The best negotiations take time. Unless you’re going to forfeit and settle up front just to arrive at an outcome more quickly, you better settle in and get comfortable in the back and forth process. As Erin Egan, the former Director of Strategy and Business Development at Microsoft, shared with Harvard Business School that negotiations are “not a sprint, and if you’re not prepared for the marathon, you’re probably not going to finish it very well.”
It’s often been said that the one who is willing to wait longer is the one who has the power. When you’re in a rush, you’re more likely to concede. Decide that you’re willing to give up a speedy process in order to get what you want.
Mistake #2: Saying anything that doesn’t ultimately benefit you
Some negotiators believe that befriending the person they’re negotiating with will get them to the next level and build trust. To do this, some make the mistake of cracking self-critical jokes or letting down their defenses in the interest of building a friendship through vulnerability. Never do this. Scott Turman is the author of Stop Getting F*cked by Technical Recruiters, which helps those in the technical field have a leg up in job and salary negotiations, and he advises to never tell a recruiter anything that does not benefit you.
This specifically gets tricky if the recruiter (or, the person on the other end of the negotiation) is asking questions that are compromising. Turman says that you can always refuse to answer a question. Make sure you’re the one in charge of the narrative, and that you never say anything that can be used against you.
Mistake #3: Not planning ahead of time
Sure, everyone goes into a negotiation with a rough idea on what they want. But the more detailed you can be in your approach, the better. It’s not enough to, for example, have a general range of a rate in mind for a negotiation with a brand for advertising space. Ideally, you should have an exact number with a few backup contingencies, as well as research or statistics to back it up. Whoever is more prepared is more likely to win the negotiation.
Mistake #4: Not viewing your negotiation’s terms from the other side
Of course, you’re coming at the negotiation from the standpoint of what you want, which seems fair and right to you. But, what does the negotiation you’re proposing give the other party? The more you can be empathetic and stand in the other side’s shoes, the more you’ll be able to identify with them and persuade them. Make the negotiation a clear win-win for both sides.
Making it seem like the decision solely benefits the other side will always seem fishy (no one likes to agree to something that feels too good to be true), but only thinking about what you’ll get will also result in a dead-end. Seek to find the best-case scenario for all involved instead of a best-case scenario just for you.
Mistake #5: Showing desperation
There are many reasons that you may feel desperate in a negotiation. Maybe you really need the job or the client, maybe the deal has high stakes, or maybe you could just really use a win. Whatever ounce of desperation you have must be hidden. In fact, get into as neutral a place as possible before going into deliberations. Desperation shows that you’re more likely to concede.
Think about it this way: Let’s say you’re hoping to sign a client and your proposed rate is $10,000. If you really need the money, you’ll find yourself feeling okay with $7,500, because in your mind, $7,500 is better than nothing. But what’s better than $7,500? Ten thousand dollars. When you’re desperate, you’re more likely to come to a conclusion that benefits the other side more than it benefits you because you’re scared of losing the deal. A lack of desperation will also help you to slow down the process so you don’t rush the negotiation and ultimately concede.
Negotiation is an art as much as it is a science, and practice makes perfect. Go in neutral, prepare, and appease the other side. You can only get better the more you negotiate.