3 Tools to Master the Art of Negotiation

Haggling is not negotiating. I repeat, haggling is not negotiating. You are just “meeting in the middle.”

I remember watching an episode of the BBC’s “The Apprentice” in which the task was to buy a list of items in London. The would-be apprentice, Jim, went to a butcher to buy a steak. It was a classic haggle. The butcher started high and Jim started low. They ultimately met in the middle.

This back and forth is haggling, which is a valid method of resolving a conflict. But other ways to resolve a conflict exist, including negotiation. The difference is that haggling is just about the price, and largely the outcome depends on who starts the highest or lowest. But negotiation is about trading variables and takes more skill, which makes it an art rather than a blunt instrument.

Learning the art of negotiation can be done with a few simple, yet effective tools.

Tool 1: The Up-and-Over

As a child, my family lived in a modest three-bedroom house in Laindon, Essex. It had one of those garages at the front of the house but you couldn’t get to the garage through the house even though it was integrated into the building. You could only get to it through the big up-and-over door.

“Up and over” is also a negotiating tool to use when you want to counter propose, which means to reject an offer and replace it with one that suits you better.

Let’s say you are selling your car. After looking the car up and down and kicking the tires, the buyer says, “Would you take $4,500 instead?” Typically, you’d haggle and say, “No, but I would accept $5,000,” and on the haggle goes until you meet in the middle. In a negotiation, you might say, “If you can buy the other car I am selling too, I could move on the price.” “Another car?” the buyer replies. “I don’t want another car. That’s silly.”

The idea here is that you don’t say no; instead you take their offer and up-and-over it with an even more ridiculous offer. By rejecting your “silly” offer, the buyer realizes that they must have also made a silly offer in the first place.

>>Case Study: Applying contract negotiation best practices<<


Tool 2: Prepare Your Variables

The key to being an effective negotiator is to be creative in your variables. If you want to avoid haggling, you need to introduce other variables into the negotiation. Yes, the price will always be important, but some other things can be important too. Remember when you bought your last house? Price wasn’t the only factor you considered. Negotiations are the same.

Before your next negotiation, write down the variables: The things you want and the things you are willing to give. Have at least seven of each variable prepared.

Sticking with the car example, imagine you are at a car dealership. What would you want? You might say that you want free servicing for a year, new tires, a tank of fuel, complete valet, etc. You need to balance the negotiation with the other variables of what you are willing to give. This list might include a cash payment, an online five-star rating, a referral to three friends, a promise to buy your next car there and more.

These variables are the grease for the wheels of your negotiation and keep the negotiation moving forward. Without them, the wheels grind to a halt and it becomes a head to head on price, with the winner being the one who can talk the fastest.

The sweet spot is to give away variables that do not cost you a lot, but the other party values them highly. In our car example, this could be as simple as an online rating, because sometimes these are the things that get people bonuses, particularly salespeople.

>>Read more: SIG Speaks to Jeanette Nyden, Commercial Contracts Expert and Author<<

Tool 3: Maintain Confidence, Not Arrogance

The most effective negotiators don’t bang their fists on the table, shout or bully. They are prepared, considerate, reflective and creative. In the film “A Few Good Men,” Tom Cruise’s character instructs the other members of his lawyer team that “If it doesn’t go our way, don’t fuss, don’t fiddle and don’t shuffle. Everything must be viewed as going the way we want it to.” Negotiation is similar. Confidence is a powerful tool.

Amy Cuddy, the American social psychologist, can also lend a lesson in confidence. In her famous Ted Talk, “Your Body Language May Shape Who You Are,” she discusses how to fake it until you make it. She says that what we think in our heads will affect how we behave. Amy has also proven that what we do with our body affects how we think. It goes both ways.

Next time you are negotiating, take a mental audit of your body. Ask yourself, “How would <insert a confident person’s name> sit in this situation? Then adjust your body to be that confident person. If you feel confident, your words and tone will take on confidence, and you’ll negotiate more effectively.

Looking for more tips? Darren has a list of 50 negotiation techniques, tools and strategies to help you in your next negotiation.