13 Tips for Success in Any Negotiation

Here’s what research, experience and common sense show works best. It may surprise you to learn that both sides often achieve more when they cooperate.

Life is one great big negotiation. You’re asking the cable company to fix a billing error. You’re negotiating a salary increase at work. You’re haggling with a 9-year-old over bedtime or with a teenager over curfew. In one way or another, your bargaining skills are always hard at work.

That’s why upgrading skills in this area pays dividends. Whether you are an employee, a boss, a spouse, a flea market vendor, a parent or a kid, you can use these 13 tips for more profitable negotiations:

1. Stay focused on your goal

Negotiating is stressful, so it’s easy to lose focus. To stay on target:

  • Try to avoid being ambushed by a negotiation. If possible, take the time to prepare your case and tactics. Plan how you’ll stay on track if the conversation veers into unexpected directions.
  • Focus on what you stand to gain. “Whenever we think about our goals in terms of potential gains, we automatically (often without realizing it) become more comfortable with risk and less sensitive to concerns about what could go wrong,” writes the Harvard Business Review. Dwelling on what you might lose pulls you into a defensive position, making you conservative and risk averse.

2. Know your limits

Negotiation is by definition a compromise. You’ll need to give up some things to win others. Before going into a negotiation know clearly what you are willing to give up and where you cannot yield.

For help identifying what’s most important to you, use this dominant focus questionnaire.

3. Name your price first

Your opening bid sets the terms for the negotiation. Try to name a price first and name it high if you are negotiating salary, low if you’re negotiating a purchase price. You can give ground later, but you’ll never get a better number than your initial bid.

4. Let the other party name a price first

When it comes to salary negotiations, at least, there’s another school of thought. Marc Cenedella, founder of The Ladders, a job-matching website, advises against naming a price too soon. He writes:

The risk you run by speaking first is that your salary history may scare them off. If you go first, you’ll either be too high, or too low. But since you won’t know ahead of time which of those three numbers applies to you, you can lose the offer by coming in too high or too low.

Instead, wait until you know they’re serious about hiring you — let them make you an offer. That way you lock in an offer and you’ve got the job — and you can negotiate from that place of security.

5. Conceal your interest

Classic haggling technique includes feigning a lack of interest in the object of your desire. Note: This may not be a useful tactic in a salary negotiation unless you have good reason to believe that they are dying to hire you. However, if you’re bargaining for jewelry at a flea market, or shopping for a car, remember that a seller is likely to keep the price high on the items he believes you value most, using your desire as leverage against you. Concealing the intensity of your interest can work to your advantage.

6. Know your adversary

What’s most important to the other side? Studying the people and organizations with whom you’re bargaining helps tell you what they may and may not give up. Former U.S Ambassador to the United Nations Bill Richardson tells Inc. that negotiators should:

Know everything about your adversary: What they stand for, what they think, who is the last person they talked to. Read up on the culture and the person. Know if the adversary is entering the negotiation with strength, or is negotiating from weakness.

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