9 Smooth Negotiation Techniques That Never Fail

UPDATED: October 7, 2019
PUBLISHED: May 26, 2015
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There you are, sitting across the table from a frustrating situation—he wants one thing (say, vanilla ice cream), and you want something else (swirl, duh). You’re about to begin what could be a heated negotiation. So how do you approach it? How do you smooth talk your way to sweet, swirlin’ success?

Whether you’re trying to convince someone of what ice cream flavor to order, or you’re hammering out a more serious business contract, negotiating is never easy breezy. And as much as you’d like to think of yourself as an expert negotiator, able to convince a die-hard vanilla fan to change his ways, even the best can stumble in the midst of a tricky deal-making discussion.

So we asked the Young Entrepreneur Council, “What’s your favorite negotiating technique—one that never fails you?” Before you say or do anything, here are 9 negotiation tips so you can walk out happy, swirl cone in hand:

1. Use data and content to back up your position.

If you’re negotiating solely based on your opinion of what something is worth, you’ve already lost. Utilize content you’ve read, stats you’ve seen and insight from others to make a case for what you’re negotiating for.

—Kelsey Meyer, Influence & Co.

2. Go for a walk.

Sometimes negotiation stalemates can happen when people feel bogged down. Research shows that movement and change in physical space can change mental space. If you can’t work it out in the board room, ask the decision maker to step out and get some fresh air with you—go grab a coffee or lunch together. You might be surprised what shakes out.

—Vanessa Van Edwards, Science of People

 3. Use silence to your advantage.

Awkward silence isn’t a bad thing—especially when it comes to the point where the other side of the table is bringing up [deal-making details].

—Justin Boggs, ZeeBerry.com

 4. Use your emotional intelligence.

It’s obvious but often forgotten; be personable and likable. If time allows, build up a great relationship first by getting to know the person while also finding some common interests. It becomes harder for them to say no to someone they like. I will say that it may not be the solution all the time, but I find that I enjoy working with people I actually like.

—Souny West, CHiC Capital

 5. Discover areas of mutual gain.

Spend time to discover the other party’s goals to increase the mutual gains achieved in the negotiation. For example, if the other party won’t budge on price, focus instead on other areas of the agreement, such as the length and scope of the warranty, a discount for purchasing in bulk and other areas of interest that might provide even greater benefits for both parties.

—Doug Bend, Bend Law Group, PC

 6. Set the anchor by speaking first.

In salary or other price negotiations, most people will wait for the other side to speak first. This is a mistake. The person who speaks first has the advantage of setting the “anchor.” The first number that is mentioned is typically the anchor for the rest of the conversation. Don’t be afraid to speak first and control the situation by setting the anchor. Most deals will close near the anchor.

—Mark Cenicola, BannerView.com

 7. Respect the other’s side.

Showing that you respect the other’s side never fails to mellow his/her stand. Practical usage: “You want $30,000 for your great program, and it’s really worth it. It has simple ­to­ use features and awesome reporting. The only problem is that I have a $20,000 budget for this type of service. Please get back to me if it can work anyway.” It works!

—Elliot Bohm, Cardcash.com

 8. Listen.

It may not seem unusual, but it is rare to find a person in negotiations who is actually listening to the other party. When you listen to what your “opponent” is actually saying, whether it’s in their tone or by reading between the lines, you can always find a way to come to a solution that works for both of you.

—Kevin Henrikson, Acompli (now Outlook iOS/Android @ Microsoft)

 9. Add in negotiation freebies.

Intentionally include something as part of the initial proposal that you’re willing to give up. This is especially true if your proposal has to go through several rounds of approval (legal, product, management, etc.). Give each one of them something that they can easily come back and tell you they want to remove or change—that way they feel good about having had a role in making the deal better.

—Mattan Griffel, One Month

How are your communication skills? Find out 10 ways to be better at both sides of the conversation.

Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite ­only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.