It’s not what you get in life, it’s what you negotiate.
If you don’t know how to negotiate, you’ll get less than you’re worth — or worse, you’ll get taken advantage of. If you learn negotiation though, life can get a lot easier.
Negotiation isn’t hard once you understand these basics.
Start with a crazy low offer
I’m a sucker for the history channel.
One of my favorite tv shows is American Pickers. I hate old antique stuff and junk, but I’ve learned so much about negotiation from Frank Fritz and Mike Wolfe. One of their methods stands out.
In many negotiations, they’d often start with a low first offer. It might seem like they’re trying to get a discount with this approach. Not quite.
It’s good to start with a low offer to get things moving. It helps both sides establish their positions and get a feel for where the conversation goes.
Another technique I learned from the show is to always be fair.
Often, Mike and Frank would find an amazing item that the original owner didn’t know the price of. If the owner unknowingly gave them a low price, they’d offer more money as a gesture.
A fair deal is the best deal because it opens the door for an ongoing relationship instead of a transaction.
Be aware of this hidden negotiation trap
When I worked in IT recruiting it was my job to negotiate salaries.
It’s surprised me how often a software engineer we’d happily pay $500k a year for would ask for a salary of $150k. Not only did they not know what they were worth, but I later realized many of them had imposter syndrome.
They were worried if they passed the code test and got the job, they might be revealed as a fraud. Or they may not have the talent they thought they had.
Imposter syndrome can hijack your success. It’s normal to have fears about your ability to deliver on a promise tied to a negotiation. But don’t let it hold you back. We’re often far more talented than we give ourselves credit for.
And worst case, if you win a negotiation and can’t deliver on your promise, you can always lower your price, walk away, or renegotiate.
You don’t get what you are worth. You get what you can negotiate — Lawrence King
What an FBI negotiator can teach you in a few sentences
Chris Voss was an FBI negotiator and wrote the book “Never Split The Difference.”
He has a framework called “Getting to ‘That’s right.’” When he analyzed the transcripts of his best hostage negotiation victories, where a positive outcome seemed impossible, a pattern emerged.
Whenever he took the time to listen to the captor’s problems, then summarize those issues back to them in his own words, and get the captor to say “that’s right” of their own free will …
…the negotiation would often end peacefully.
There’s something about making people feel heard that’s a superpower. Only then can we open the door for negotiation.
A negotiation *isn’t* war
I once worked with a 50 year old boss man who had the emotional maturity of a 12 year old. He treated every work scenario like a football game.
There had to be winners and losers.
Whenever I saw him negotiate, it was war. He had to screw the other side down. Worse, he used intimidation tactics to scare the other side. He thought physical toughness made a difference.
“It’s because they’re scared of me that they said yes.”
This approach is how you lose a negotiation. A great negotiation is where there are wins for both sides. If one side gets all the perks then the negotiation will fall over.
In business that means a cancellation of an order, a refund, or a dispute that turns into a legal matter.
Don’t be a dumb-dumb like my former golf pants boss. Aim for a win-win.
The best attitude to have in a negotiation that gets more deals done
Herbie Cohen is quietly one of the best negotiators in the world.
When Jimmy Carter was the president he advised him on the Iran hostage crisis. When President Ronald Reagan was in power he helped him negotiate the famous Reykjavík Summit with Russia.
In the sports world he was brought into the NFL players’ strike back in ‘87.’ He even got to negotiate with terrorists and help settle a police strike.
The negotiation technique he uses is called engaged detachment.
“Care, but not that much.”
It’s a political strategy and works well in business, too. But more than that it’s a way of life that transcends the art of negotiation.
Assume good intent
Sam Altman is the CEO of OpenAI.
Right now he has the world’s attention on him because of the advancement in AI. This requires him to meet daily with politicians, world leaders, and regulators.
It would be easy for someone in this position to believe that everyone is out to get them. Not Sam. He says he assumes good intent in every negotiation.
AI will take time for people to understand, and despite what the conspiracy theory doomers say, he wants AI to be a net positive on the world.
Assume good intent until shown otherwise. Then validate questionable intent to make sure you’re not jumping to conclusions.
What to do if a negotiation gets stuck
Some negotiations will get stuck no matter how hard you try.
This will help the negotiation get back on track.
Be willing to walk away from a negotiation with your head held high
Many salespeople stuff this up.
There isn’t always a deal to be made. Read that again.
The Sunk Cost Fallacy wrongly forces us to keep negotiating because we’ve invested time, money, and resources into a negotiation. This is how terrible deals are born.
In every negotiation it’s always a good idea to have multiple options to increase your leverage.
When I was on the hunt for a new job in 2019, I got many job offers in writing. I had no intention of taking most of the offers, but I got them so that when the right offer came in, I could walk away if I didn’t get what I wanted.
If I didn’t have those other offers, then I would have been forced to take a salary package that was less than what the market was happy to pay me.
Options create leverage. Always try to negotiate with more than one party.