The Worst Thing You Can Do in a Negotiation

At a recent conference I spoke with a group of sales professionals and asked them, “What do you think is the worst thing you can do in a negotiation?”

Here’s what they said:

  • Leaving money on the table

  • Not being prepared

  • Not having all the answers

  • Appearing weak

  • Not knowing who my competition is

  • Giving in too early

  • Showing fear

  • Losing control of the situation (or my emotions)

These are all good answers. However, the worst thing you can do in any negotiation is: Not Knowing What You Want.

Every negotiation should start by asking yourself three questions.  

  1. What do I want?

  2. Why do I want it?

  3. Do I want to invest my time and effort to get it?

And the worst thing you can do is to forget to ask the first question. I mention these 3 questions in a FOX 5 Las Vegas appearance below.

To make sure you do your best in your next negotiation and avoid the worst:

Be crystal clear. Being crystal clear about the outcome you want to reach with any negotiation is crucial. Knowing what you want to achieve is the first step in achieving it. You need to know what constitutes a “win” or a stopping place for you. Once you achieve your goal, you can feel comfortable with quitting.

Know your desired result and good reasons which support your position. When asked, you should be able to list your desired end result and your good business reasons supporting why you want that outcome. You’ll be surprised how many people are willing to help you reach your goals if you tell them your rationale for wanting them.

Determine if what you want is available. As a former mediator and a recovering attorney, it still amazes me how many people battle in lawsuits for years and never define what result they really want.  If you aren’t aware of what you want, you won’t know if an offer or option is inappropriate. AND you won’t know when to stop to walk away, to delay or even to celebrate.

Conquer the fear of negotiating. Most people are concerned with tricks and tactics used by other parties. Very few tactics are effective. They are typically amateurish and are structured to throw an opposing party emotionally. Smile to yourself the next time you see flinching, sighing and yelling. Instead, stand your ground, know your position and communicate clearly. You are going to be in much better shape than trying a counterattack or dropping to the level of relying on outbursts and immature behavior.

Most of us are afraid of the unknown or being taken advantage of. It is perfectly acceptable to ask for what you want, state the good reasons why and show the other side how the deal benefits them. No. You are not trying to cheat others. Winning with integrity means trying to get the best deal you can without deceiving the other person. Really, it’s ok to know what you want and get it!

Journey On!

About Linda: A recognized authority on negotiations, workplace issues and strategic communication, Linda Byars Swindling, JD, CSP is an author, media expert, a “recovering” employment attorney, and a professional speaker.