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Influence to Negotiate (34 Strategies)

        posted by , June 09, 2013

Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.
~ John F. Kennedy
Negotiation is an art. Some people love negotiating, they can't get enough of it. Others intensely dislike negotiating or fear it.

Whatever your feelings about negotiations — it's an essential professional skill.

Whether it's your salary, a vendor contract or a project decision — most professionals negotiate on a weekly basis. It's good to know a few reliable negotiation strategies.

As Trotsky said — you may not be interested in strategy, but strategy is interested in you.

1. Determine Your Best Alternative If Negotiations Fall Through

If negotiations fail to produce an agreement, what will you do?

Never go into negotiations without a firm understanding of your alternatives. Prioritize your alternatives to find your Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement (BATNA).

2. Establish Authority

Establishing authority helps to build your negotiating power. Better yet, establish yourself as a leader in negotiations.

3. Establish Rapport

A friendly, calm approach yields better negotiated results. Even if your negotiations are adversarial, it's possible to establish rapport.

4. Establish Relationships

It's easier to negotiate with someone with whom you have a relationship (e.g. a friend, trusted partner, etc.). Build your professional network for better negotiated results.

5. Show Empathy & Understanding

The first step to persuasion is to show that you understand the other side's problems and motivations.

6. Establish Common Ground

If you can't resolve a big issue, identify small things that you can agree upon. Small agreements may lead to large agreements.

Example of Common Ground in Negotiations

A car sales person may agree to include free options (e.g. a rack) before agreeing to a price.

This gives the customer a sense that they've won something and motivates them to seal a deal. In the rush to lock in their wins, the customer may agree to a higher price.

7. Give to Get

Make the other side feel indebted to you by giving them something. For example, a sales team may wine & dine clients.

A gift as trivial as a cup of coffee can help seal a deal.


Laws in many jurisdictions, restrict purchasing agents from accepting large gifts. Check with your organization's legal department before giving or accepting gifts in negotiations.

8. Be Consistent

It's a well known aspect of business psychology — people value consistency.

If you state a position and later contradict yourself in negotiations you'll make the other side uneasy. You'll be less likely to persuade them.

9. Be Certain

People value certainty. Providing certainty is a well known tool of persuasion.

Example: Persuasive Certainty

A customer asks a used car salesperson if a car has been rustproofed. If the salesperson says "I'm not sure, I think so" — it triggers confusion and doubt in the mind of the customer.

From a negotiation perspective, it's better for the salesperson to say "no, it hasn't".

In other words, customers value certain information. Uncertainty looks unprofessional on the part of the salesperson.

10. Establish Social Proof

People use social signals to make decisions. For example, people feel more comfortable buying a product a friend has recommended. They may also feel more comfortable buying a product that's generally popular or that a celebrity has endorsed.

On an interpersonal basis, people will be more likely to trust you if you know the same people. Strangely, they might even trust you more if you happen to know some celebrities.

11. Establish Scarcity

If something is rare, people may feel more rushed to obtain it.

When you're negotiating salary, if you can establish that you have rare skills it will help your chances.

12. Sales Pitches

Keep your arguments short and memorable like a marketing slogan. People easily forget long, complex arguments.

13. Demonstrate Good Faith

Make small promises and keep them religiously. If you say you'll call someone at 5pm, call them at 5pm on the dot.

14. State the Other Side's Point of View

State what you imagine the other side is thinking. For example, a sales person may make comments such as "I know that seems expensive but it's a top end model".

15. Ask Them To See Your Side

Ask a question that forces the other side to look at your point of view. For example, after a low salary offer say "why would I accept a salary offer like that?".

16. Aim For Win-Win

Unfortunately, not every negotiation can end in win-win. If a win-win outcome is possible it's in both parties interests to seek it.

17. Aim for Mutual Gains

A mutual gain isn't the same as win-win. It's a trade-off. For example, a car salesperson may ask a customer to accept a price in exchange for a free option.

18. Body Language

Use body language to communicate. For example, if the other side suggests something outrageous — flinch in reaction.

19. Foot-in-the-door Technique

Make a small agreement first to establish a relationship then pursuit much larger agreements.

20. Door-in-the-face Technique (Highball / Lowball)

Door-in-the-face is slang from the days of the door-to-door sales person. A salesperson would offer a price so high that a customer might literally slam the door in their face. They would knock again and offer a much lower price.

Door-in-the-face is still a common way to begin negotiations. By starting with a outrageous offer, you help to make the other side to write their victory speech.

21. The Nibble

Seek a small concession just as a deal is closing.

22. Separate The People From the Problem

The number one rule of negotiations is to control your emotions. Emotional negotiators are seldom effective. A good strategy to avoid emotions is to focus on the situation instead of the people.

23. Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt

Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt involves sowing doubts to trigger the fear instincts of your opponent.

24. Endurance & Persistence

Great negotiators like long, difficult negotiations because they have developed superior endurance and persistence. If the other side tires before you, they'll become more manageable.

25. Active Listening

Active listening is a powerful habit that allows you to increase your listening comprehension.

strong communication

26. Empathic Listening

Show that you understand how the other side feels (e.g. "You feel that many cars are low quality these days, you're looking for something that's really reliable" ).

27. Disagree With Positive Language

Avoid saying no. Disagree indirectly with positive words.

Example: Disagree With Positive Language

In salary negotiations, an employer asks a candidate to start right away:

Employer: We need you to start right away, on Monday.
Candidate: I'd love to start right away, I need to give my current Employer two weeks notice. I'm sure you understand.

28. Open Ended Questions

Open ended questions can't be answered with a one word answer. They're a good way to get the other side talking (information is key to successful negotiations).

29. Use Silence

Skilled negotiators are comfortable in silence. When the other side feels uncomfortable in silence they may make concessions.

30. Strategic Use of I, You, We

The strategic use of personal pronouns is a powerful persuasion technique.

31. Offer Choices

Ofter the other side two or three choices. Make one of the choices stand out as a bad choice. The other side may jump at the better choices.

32. Nervous Laugh

Nervous laughter is most commonly used to relieve tension after someone tells a joke that's not funny.

A nervous laugh can also be used to communicate stress or rejection. Such subtle forms of communication are useful in negotiations.

33. Positive Words, Negative Body Language

Let you're body language express what you're really thinking but keep your words positive.

Example: Positive Words, Negative Body Language

A: We need a 80% discount at minimum.
B: (Jumps back in shock) yes, we can work on a great discount for you in the 5% range.

34. Eye Contact

Strong eye contact is an essential negotiation skill.

This post is part of the ongoing series of articles called how to win at negotiation.

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