Negotiation Tactics: A Twist on the Tried & True Approach

Young woman successfully negotiating with leadership.

By Katherine Konrad, an experienced marketing professional and recent Celarity contractor 

I’m not trying to brag, but I don’t even need another person to be able to have a negotiation. Yes, it’s true: I have conversations with myself about when I should go to bed; when to fill up my gas tank; when (let’s be honest – if) I’m going to work out. Negotiation happens more than we realize, and it doesn’t even need more than one person involved. All it requires is two or more differing viewpoints.

So, why, if I’m negotiating all the time, does the word “negotiation” seem more 4-lettered than eleven? It’s not that I’m awful at spelling, it’s that I’m a passive-aggressive Minnesotan woman who avoids what I deem to be conflict and confrontation at all costs. So, yeah –“negotiation” is a bad word.

According to economist Linda Babcock, more women than men — by a factor of 2.5 — feel a “great deal of apprehension about negotiating and go to great lengths to avoid it. They’ll pay up to $1,400 more to avoid car dealership bargaining and will miss out on up to $500,000 over the course of her career.

No matter if you’re a little gun shy, or consider yourself a seasoned negotiator, below are some ways to get used to negotiation, and different ways of looking at tried and true negotiation tactics.

Start somewhere

On a lazy Saturday afternoon, I was waiting my turn in the impulse-purchase ridden check-out line of a basement bargain retailer. A travel mug caught my eye and I picked it up to inspect. It was a knockoff of a name brand; already a pretty good deal, but I noticed a scratch on the side. As my turn came I walked up to the cashier, explained the imperfection I’d discovered, and asked if there was anything they could do. The cashier radioed for her manager who gave me a look, but also a discount on the mug! Success.

2 is better than 1

The next time I go hustling for a cheaper bargain mug, I’ll go in with two numbers in mind: 1. How much money off would be ideal, and 2. The number or situation I would settle for. I was happy that they gave me any sort of a discount at that time. But what if I had gotten a steeper discount? Or what if they weren’t willing to offer anything at all?

Make the first move

In the case that someone might not be willing to offer anything at all, making the first move can reset their baseline expectations. Making the first offer defies the conventional wisdom of not showing your cards. But research proves that the number first thrown out there sets the stage and mindset and is the price or the terms that are used to move forward with the negotiation.. So, instead of asking “what can you do for me” about this mug, I should have said: “I’d like X amount discounted”. Can’t make the first offer? Make a case that the offer posed is not realistic and reset your baseline.

Play hard to get

Even if the first offer meets your target criteria, don’t concede so easily. Studies show that both parties end up more psychologically satisfied with terms reached if there’s a little back and forth in the process. I liken it to that – nothing worth having should come easily. And if it does, you start to wonder what’s wrong with it.


Speaking of second-guessing: if you see a new car listed for well under its market price – your first thoughts are: what’s wrong with it? Or, what’s the catch? The same applies while setting terms or a starting price for a job offer or a promotion. If you start too low, your negotiation counterpart will wonder what’s wrong, and you won’t look as appealing. Your negotiation counterpart will lose any incentive to offer high. The best first offer is just outside of their set terms, but not so high they have sticker shock.

Make a connection

Also contrary to popular belief is that showing empathy, understanding, and emotion are ways to have a successful negotiation session. According to former FBI agent, Chris Voss:

Mirror their words

Same as you might mirror someone’s body language while speaking with them (subconsciously or not). Repeating the last three words of your counterpart’s sentence establishes rapport and trust, which allows openness to compromise

Proactively label their feelings

Anticipate what they might be thinking or what they might be hesitant about in the situation. Proactively address their concerns and follow up with a solution. This tactic allows you to continue to steer the conversation if needed

Ask “no” questions

If people sense they’re being pushed to say yes, it puts them on the defense and closes them up. Asking questions like: “Is now a bad time to talk” gives them a sense of control.

“That’s right”

Sum up their side of the story, and what they’re looking for so you give them a chance to agree with you. The moment you can get a “that’s right” from your negotiation counterpart is when a breakthrough can happen.

It’s important to remember that a successful negotiation does not mean there’s ‘winner’ and a ‘loser’. It means both parties are able to walk away satisfied – a ‘win/win’ situation. Or, to paraphrase Michael Scott from The Office: a ‘win/win/win’ situation.  You win, your negotiation partner wins, and I win for giving you the tools to do so. Right?

 Blond woman smiling at the camera - Katherine konrad.

Katherine is a marketing professional by day, and a content creator by night. She enjoys summers in Minnesota, and anywhere else in the winter. When she’s not writing you can find her exploring new neighborhood hangouts; dressed up at a social event; jogging around Minneapolis lakes; or staring at her phone. 

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