As Sun Tzu said, “The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.”
Author Daniel J Bockman
High spirited, high stakes negotiation is becoming a lost art. People have become so weak in the art of competitive negotiation likely because it was never taught to them in school.
A few years ago I participated in mock job interviews for our local high school seniors. I was blown away by how little confidence these young people had in getting what they wanted for wages and positions. As the scenario job interviews progressed, me the interviewer, I was able to convince all of them to come work for me for minimum wage or… even less! Don’t worry, at the end of the interview I pointed out what they needed to work on and help them be better negotiators.
Unsurprisingly and as you can imagine, I was never asked to come back and do more interviews with the students at our high school but these negotiation skills serve me and the people I do teach very well in the theater of business.
The main idea
The art of effective negotiation is rooted in getting the most of what you want while giving as little as possible. This may seem shrewd, unfair, and outdated to a lot of people but keep in mind, it’s just business. Don’t take it personal!
Having the willingness to kill a deal is also paramount in your negotiation work. Especially if your willingness is back by the need to finalize the deal. Last year I did a deal on a new Jeep. I walked away from the deal 6 different times. I actually lied to the sales manager that I didn’t have the money to do it just to kill the deal and move on. He came back and accepted the ridiculous offer I made and I didn’t even have to twist his arm for it.
Modern psychological warfare in business is exhilarating, fun, and exciting especially if the stakes are high and, if you know how to do it. It’s the thrill of the hunt, tracking down the spore of opportunity on your own terms and getting everything you have ever wanted! Here are the most brutally effective negotiation strategies to get virtually anything you want out of your deals and out of your life.
“The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.”SunTzu
1. Do your research
Wars are won by vigilantly maintaining the initiative.
You must find out and nail down what your counterpart needs before the negotiation begins. In high stakes negotiation, you will need to find out how desperate your counterpart is to get a good deal. Are they in debt, are they over extended, does the future of their business depend on this deal, or can you leverage them by making an outside deal with someone that holds their interest?
Once you have some leverage, make an offer that seems great, but before they can respond, cut the offer by a 3rd and wait for their reaction. Once they say “no deal”, start revealing what you know about their situation little by little. Likely your 1/3 deal will start to look a lot better! I know this sounds a bit shrewd and unscrupulous but remember, it just business. This is how the game is played.
Set yourself up for success in any dealings by doing your homework and the research. If you can’t do the research or do not have access to the information, just ask them out right during the deal meeting. Say, “What do you need” or, “why do you need this?” You will be very surprised just how honest most people are once they are being pressed right from the beginning. They might even start to spill out all the information you needed. If this happens, get out of their way and let them sing!
Most people assume we all want what any reasonable person would want if we were in their shoes. This is a huge mistake that most negotiators do not take full advantage of. Use their desperation and their assumptions as a tool against them.
If you are negotiating for a raise from your boss, do your research on what your boss will want from you to award the raise. Also, speak the language your boss speaks. This is so important. Do not go to your boss and ask for a raise for the reasons that are jaded to business owners like, “I work hard, I show up on time, I learn fast.” While those things are helpful, they are not skills that bring value in business today! Anyone can work hard, show up, and learn fast. Use words he or she are used to using like, “What can I do to “earn” a raise?” or “How can I show you I bring “value” to this company?” Words like earn and value mean so much more to people in business. Appeal to your boss’s business nature.
2. Use your body language to control the initiative
Most of what we communicate does not come in the form of words but rather in actions. When attending a business deal meeting, you must present your physical presents as the dominate force in the room. If possible, try to do your dealings with home field advantage. Always be the first to offer to host the meeting on your territory. Pay for their travel if you have to in this instance. Invite your counterpart to your office or conference room and set everything up to be as comfortable as possible for them. Having them comfortable will immediately get them to let down their guard.
To capture the attention of the room and convey that you have all the power, stand while your counterparts sit. This is basic human physiology. You stand and look down on them while they comfortably sit and look up at you. Physical intimidation and dominance is as old as time itself. Stay standing and walk around the room slowly talking and listening to each of your counterparts. This keeps you in control of the initiative. Even if you are negotiating with people who out rank you, stand the whole time because people’s brains are still susceptible to the primitive side of a dominant person.
If you walk into a room and can sense you already control the initiative, you won’t need to stand the whole time. In fact, standing in this instance might make the meeting adversarial. Read the room! Your counterpart is already scared and intimidated from the get-go. Your dominate presence might enlist a fight back response to your dominate presence. Remember a wounded animal is the most dangerous.
In this instance, relax and sit down before they do. Create a sense of comfort and the feeling of everything will be okay. Sprawl your arms out across an office couch with your arms open on the back of the couch, and cross your legs. You have a desperate and captive audience so convey relaxed confidence and make them come to you with their pitch. At this point you can apply the pressure you need to get what you want from the deal because you are making all the first moves from the perspective of relaxed, confident control.
A 3rd physical strategy is the eyelevel, side-by-side sitting position or also called “same side, same team.” This is a great one-on-one negotiation strategy especially when your counterpart seems to be locked up and won’t budge. Sitting at eye level, side by side shows your counterpart that you are on the same team and there is no need to be combative. It’s a “trust me” move that takes all the business out of the interaction. If your negotiations are not going well or you have offended your counterpart, try getting up from the table, walk over and sit down right next to them. Its saying I’m sorry without actually saying it. This may feel awkward at first but the results will have a huge effect.
3. The now or never offer
Now it’s time to strike a deal. The “now or never” works to get the most you can from people by using exploding offers to create panic in your counterpart. Most highly successful people use the “now or never offer” traps during negotiations to knock their counterpart off their game. If you give your counter part time to consider their options, they might go out and find a better deal.
Make the offer you want and quickly put a timeline on the offer. Say, “We either do this deal today or I walk away.” This forces your counterpart to focus very quickly and narrows their choices to two options- either get what they want now for less, or miss out for ever. This is a favorite strategy for prosecuting attorneys when striking a deal with a defendant and in romantic relationships when the other person is looking for a commitment. The “If I walk out that door today, this deal is off” strategy is highly effective but does come with risk and cost.
When using now or never, you will get good deals for yourself but your counterpart made a decision in haste or without thinking it through as a result of your pressure and they may end up sacrificing too much to be in business with you. This is not a good way to be in business with someone. Also a lot of job offers are done this way and you might be scaring off good talent because they do not like you aggressive style.
This style is highly effective but be aware if someone doing it to you! When you recognize that your counterpart is trying to use the “now or never offer” on you, you must be steadfast and say no to the deal right away. You are privy to this strategy and you understand that no deal really has these ridiculous time constraints so immediately say no and walk away no matter how bad you need this deal! Remember, you are the master of negotiation, not them! They will most likely come running back to you.
Another no response you have to elicit is if your counterpart changes the terms of the deal last minute. A lot of savvy business people save the “best for last” and once they get a deal done, they take advantage of the good nature of the deal and try to get in one last item on the deal. When this happens, kill the deal right then and there, even if it’s a good deal. A counterpart who uses this strategy will likely peck away at you with new terms and change-orders throughout your business dealings with them. They see you as malleable and will take advantage of this every chance they get. Trust yourself and kill the deal. Walk away until they are willing to remove the last minute item. This shows you are in total control of all your business dealings with no provisos.
Shrewd business people love to make you think they are the only person in the world you can deal with. (I’m guilty of this myself!) This is simply not true, the world is full of infant opportunity so hold your own and trust yourself.
4. Win at all costs
Here’s a little secret most people may not know, – successful people love winning far more than they hate losing. This mindset gives them an incredible advantage in all of their business dealings because they are positioning themselves in a way that losing a good deal is still better than making a bad deal. In short, successful people really never lose, they can just hold out for a win a lot longer than most people. This is why you see successful people cut an offer deeply to get what they want. They do not mind losing out on a deal if the deal cannot first start out on their terms. Remember, negotiations are about getting as much as you can while giving up very little.
I once bought a used ATV from a guy. He was asking $5500 for the ATV. I started out the negotiators by saying I would give him $2500. He took the deal right away! I was stunned. I couldn’t believe he dropped his price by $3000 before we even got started negotiating. Here’s the best part; it was a nice ATV, I would have paid the $5500 if he would have just held his ground!
Raise and job interviews
When you are asking for a raise at work, do not give a number. Likely your first instinct will be to undervalue yourself. Believe me, if you undervalue yourself, they will take you up on that deal! When interviewing for a job, a strategy big companies love is asking you the dreaded question, “how much you want to make.” This is the classic pressure move to get you to squirm and be uncomfortable. They also want to see how you handle this kind of psychological pressure. We all have a tendency to not want to look greedy and big companies know this so they use it against you.
The dilemma presented here is to test you and the better you handle this, the better your chances are of getting the job. You don’t want to look greedy and take a chance offending the interviewer but you also don’t want to short-change yourself. Giving a number shows your hand right away. If your number is too low, they may think you are not hustle and grind material and not give you the job. You think you are being gracious and fair with the lower number but you are really just making yourself look weak.
Here’s what I suggest, when they ask how much you want to make, just say, “As much as I can” and leave it at that. This shows you have no ceiling and that you will be an ambitious employee. It also shows you are not willing to undervalue yourself, which is a great quality in an employee. This is a very safe response and puts the ball back in their court keeping the negotiation going.
Keeping the negotiation alive is the art of deal making but at some point the interviewer will probably press you for a number, after all they do have the initiative in this deal. Go with a higher wage number at this point. You will either get it or you won’t. I have discovered you will be surprised just how often you will get the moon if you just have the balls to ask for it! Asking for a higher number in high pressure situation shows the interviewer that your first instincts are about success when put under pressure. This is very good! Business owners like this in a person. They will probably not take you up on that deal but they will likely offer you something lower. Whether you take the offer or not doesn’t matter at this point. You just negotiated yourself the job! You can away “earn” a raise later and get what you want then.
Shrewd business people not only study business and finance, they study human nature. We never do business with a thing, we do business with people. Knowing how people instinctively think is a real power move. Understanding the zeitgeist of the times and how people respond naturally to it gives them immense advantages. When asking for a raise, many times a boss will first respond to this with a promotion offer to counter your raise request but keep you at the same wage. They know the sign of the times and that young people are worried about their future. They know your education is irrelevant in a world that no longer recognizes it. More responsibility and more respect in the company is a huge hit to the ego and bosses know it. If you accept the promotion and ask why you don’t get a raise with it, they will say, “Let’s see how you handle the new responsibility and we will revisit a raise on evaluation day.”
This move really plays on an employee’s psyche. They just got a promotion and now they have to go out and prove they can do the job to earn a raise. From the boss’s perspective, it’s the art of the deal at its finest!
5. Hide your emotions.
Never express emotions during deal making. Like a poker player, you must remain stoic and emotionless throughout the deal. The cost of doing business and making deals is just what it is. Never reveal what you think is expensive or has a high cost. You never know what other people think is big money or not. To you, the deal might seem like you hit the lottery and to them, it might look like pocket change. Showing your excitement for the high priced deal they just accepted will make them think you are not used to this kind of money. You will look like a rookie and this could make them nervous.
Inversely, expressing too much disdain for the deal and saying, “This isn’t much money” or “this is a cheap deal” might intimidate your counterpart with your high financial prowess. You have no idea what people think is too much money or not enough. We are all different in the perspective of money. I have had huge deals come together that resulted in life changing money for me but was nothing to my counterpart. Sensing this, I remained steady and mirrored their response and emotions. It was like two really rich people making a deal! My body language was saying, “It’s just money, now let’s do business!”
Remember, – money has no feeling or emotions, so why should you?
6. How to win every deal with your high price
Most newbie deal makers think that coming in cheap is how to get your foot in the door. While this is a good way to establish credibility and develop a long relationship with a new client, savvy business owners know they get what they pay for. Coming in cheap can also exhaust your financial resources as you fight to stay alive developing the relationship.
It’s far better to come out swinging with your best game. Your prices are high. Others are offering the same service for less. How do you show them you are the best choice? You have made the stand that you are the premium choice so you have to live that brand in everything you do from here on out, even in your personal life! If you come with a high price tag, you better bring your A game every day! Your counterpart will want to know what they get for your high price. Simply put, say, “You get me!” Show them you will work ridiculous hours, relentlessly even weekends and holidays. You will answer the phone every time they call and you will be there to deliver what they need. High price is high service and you have to communicate you will do it.
If you lose a deal because your price is too high, think of it the same way your counterpart thinks, – it’s still better to lose a good deal than accept a bad one. This is how you never lose in business.
Closing The deal
In the end, negotiations are all about the long game. Like a boxing match, there will be future rounds. You are going to have some losses and you will piss a lot of people off but eventually you will get what you want if you remain consistent and trust yourself. The best way to trust yourself is to prepare to win. Most people forget that they need to prepare to win at all times. They approach a negotiation and think they will just see how it plays out and try to respond accordingly. Unless you are highly versed in your business and have years of experience, this almost never works! Even the most experienced business people prepare to win. Your confidence and trusting yourself comes from hours of preparation and work done behind the curtain.
Shrewdness, dominance, cunning, self-confidence are not bad things in the world of business dealings. You have to look at it with a mindset that the real world is actually quite cold, savage, cruel, and unfair. Ask yourself, are you willing to sacrifice your happiness and success for virtue and kindness? Or are you the type that will step on the throat of anyone that gets in your way? You don’t want to be a little fish in a sea of sharks.
As I have always said when people complain and ask why someone will pay $1200 for an iPhone or $200 for a lift ticket to go skiing, “It’s because there will always be someone willing to do it!” The same goes for business dealings. There will always be someone willing to push you more and offer you less. Your instincts might be to approach negotiations with respect, kindness and with the feeling most people generally have the same interests. But I warn you, there is always someone willing to risk greater than you just to crush you in a business deal and they won’t lose a wink of sleep over it.
Our world is just begging to give all its riches to the ones that want it the most and are willing to do the work to get it. Successful negotiations is not about getting to the word “yes” but rather mastering the word “no!”