Negotiations are part of business. Two or more parties want to achieve different objectives that aren’t necessarily compatible. So the parties negotiate, looking for opportunities to compromise, to change strategies, and walk away with a great deal – the lowest purchase price, the highest sales price, ideal terms, or whatever it might be.

Some experts believe that negotiation is an “art.” The ability to negotiate successfully does require creativity in order to arrive at a negotiated agreement, but negotiating is much more than creativity. It’s a valuable skill that can be learned and honed regardless of how creative you are. Good negotiators deliver the most desired outcomes, in part because they’re able to construct creative solutions to differences that crop up during the negotiation process – compromises all stakeholders accept.

Successful negotiations begin long before the negotiating parties sit down to work out the details.Here are some negotiating tips that will help deliver the results you require the next time you get down to business.

1. Leave your ego at the door

The objective of any good negotiation isn’t to win. The objective is to find common ground, solutions to differences, and terms all stakeholders can live with. Forget “I.” Negotiations involve at least two parties, so focus on the “we.” Recognize that the other negotiating party has objectives. Work to find solutions to help meet those objectives as well as your own.

2. Define objectives before going in

Know what you're aiming for and prioritize goals from most to least important. It’s difficult to negotiate if you don’t know what you’re negotiating for, or when you’ve finally reached your objective. Before undertaking any negotiations, determine your “bargaining chips” – those elements you could concede in return for something more important to achieving your business goals. Bring a stack of “chips” to the negotiating table to trade for the things you really want. The more chips, the smoother the negotiations.

3. Do your research before beginning negotiations

Research all parties to determine their objectives. Knowing as much as you can about all parties to the negotiations may give you valuable insights. Companies’ websites may provide good information and highlight possible needs. Your counterpart may have worked with others in your circle of business contacts. Call around. Read LinkedIn® profiles and company bios.

4. Make a good first impression

During the first five minutes of negotiations, both sides size up the other negotiators and exchange useful information. Sometimes, decisions to continue negotiations are made before your first sip of coffee. During the first five minutes of negotiations you’ll be evaluated – and so will your negotiation skills. You’ll also evaluate the other side during this critical time. Be relaxed, confident, friendly, and open-minded to set the tone.

5. Make the first offer

By setting the bar, you set the range of negotiations. You set the starting point.

6. Never accept their first offer

Chances are, your negotiating associate comes in high and can be negotiated downward in your favor. Listen carefully to the proposal, inform the other person that the terms aren’t acceptable, then don’t say anything. There may be a long, uncomfortable silence, but the first parties to speak are the parties willing to move their positions. Don’t say anything after turning down an offer. Wait.

7. Don’t give something for nothing 

In a good negotiation, both parties get some of what they want. If the other party asks for a concession, ask for something in return that will benefit your business.

8. Use body language

Often, body movements reveal more than words, so when you’re negotiating, slump a little at the first offer. Sigh. Shake your head. Then, politely say, “I can’t do it.” Deliver your disappointment using body language

9. Create urgency 

“We have to make a decision by Thursday” creates a deadline, whether it’s real or simply a negotiating tactic. Car dealers often use this tactic because it works.

10. If you have questions or concerns, bring them up before the agreement is set in stone

If your concerns turn out to be a deal-breaker, it’s better to know now rather than later, after you’ve started working with another business that has a different view of what was actually decided upon.

In conclusion:

If the negotiation doesn’t turn out exactly the way you’d planned, give some thought to what you could have done differently, and learn from your mistakes. This will help you prepare yourself for the next negotiation so you can get the best terms for your business. There is art in negotiation, but there’s also good preparation, honesty, transparency, and the desire to arrive at a solution everyone can live with.


The information provided is presented for general informational purposes only and does not constitute tax, legal or business advice. Any views expressed in this article may not necessarily be those of Nevada State Bank. Nevada State Bank is a division of Zions Bancorporation, N.A. Member FDIC