5 Ways to Improve Your Negotiating Skills

BBF - NegotiateWe all negotiate at one time or another. Whether we are trying to buy a business, or buy a used lamp at a yard sale, negotiation is a key skill that everyone should learn.

Secrets of Power Negotiating, by Roger Dawson, is a great introduction to the fine art of negotiation. The book combines strategy, tactics and behavioral psychology to give you the tools to become a master negotiator. Or at least a better negotiator than you are today.

With that said, here are Five Ways to Improve your Negotiating Skills. The book itself probably contains 50 ways to improve, but here’s five to get you started:

  1. Ask for more than you expect to get. “Effectiveness at the conference table depends upon overstating one’s demands.” Henry Kissinger.
  2. Wince at proposals. React with shock and surprise at the other side’s offer. A concession often follows the wince.
  3. Use the Vise Technique. Use this key phrase: “I’m sorry, you’ll have to do better than that”. Then watch as they negotiate against themselves. It works in writing (scrawling it along a proposal) or by verbally announcing it during a negotiation.
  4. Make the offer, and shut up. Talking bad. Staring silently good. Negotiate like a cave man. It’s un-nerving. It’s effective.
  5. Never split the difference. I talk about this in the Theory of the Spoons. The spoons start a certain distance apart, and always meet in the middle to reach an agreement. You say $100, I say $200, we agree on $150. Dawson argues that this is a mistake. His position: never offer to split the difference but allow the other side to do so. Continuing the previous example, the other side says let’s meet in the middle, $150. You say, I don’t think it will work. You’re willing to do $150, how about we meet at $175? The other side has already conceded their ‘low’ point is $150, nowhere to go but up from there.

Bonus tactic: Be the Angry man. This isn’t sanctioned by Dawson’s book, but it is effective. I had a friend who used to walk around the office acting angry and pissed off all the time. People gave him distance, and wondered what the problem was. Before long, the managers started to notice, and eventually the boss was alerted. My friend got a raise, his own parking spot, and a better work schedule. Consider being the Angry Man. People like to please other people, it’s human nature. Sometimes acting angry can save you millions.

Negotiation is a core skill to learn. Read Dawson’s book, apply the lessons, and share what you learn. Maybe you’ll get your own parking spot (or save millions), too.