Become a World-Class Negotiator by Focusing on 4 Key Ideas

Do you negotiate?

Many of us do without even thinking about it.

If you have a social life, you negotiate with your friends about making plans—where you’re going, what everyone’s bringing, who’s driving, where you’re eating, etc.

If you have a job, you might negotiate deadlines, how much work you take on, how much you get paid, how a project will be handled by different team members, etc.

If you have a family, you negotiate with your spouse to handle household responsibilities and date night plans, you negotiate with your kids to brush their teeth and take out the trash, and you negotiate with everyone to decide where you’re going on vacation.

Negotiating is a part of regular human existence, so if you want to create outcomes that benefit you and the other party, thus improving your personal life and professional life, then this blog post is for you.

By the end of this article, you will know:

  1. Why storytelling is crucial to getting the outcome you want
  2. How to concede so the other party feels like they’re winning
  3. The value of giving multiple offers to convey a feeling of control
  4. How to use the story you created to close the deal
A view of the pyramids of Giza with a few people riding camels in the foreground
We have been telling stories about ourselves and the world around us since we could communicate

Create a story that focuses on them

If you live in the U.S., think about all the ads you see for pharmaceuticals. The visual component of the advertisement is almost always showing people smiling and laughing and enjoying life, because that is what the pharmaceutical company is selling: the way you will feel if you take their drug.

If people made purchases and closed deals based on numbers and figures alone, then the $130 billion advertising industry is wasting a lot of time and money on:

  • catchy tunes
  • attractive models
  • charismatic public figures
  • unforgettable slogans and visuals
  • decent writers
  • fancy photographers

We buy a product or service based on how we think it will make us feel and how it fits into the story of how we see ourselves.

So, if you want to negotiate an outcome that benefits you and the other party, you’ve got to tell a compelling story that involves you and the other party.

But I’m not talking about storytelling strictly in the sense of the other party’s financial benefit. 

This story is about how their decision to do business with you (or brush their teeth in the case of your kids) weaves into their own story of:

  • what they do
  • why they do it
  • how they do it
  • and what they want their future to look like

If I run a meal prep business and you run a grocery delivery business, that story can be about how you want to get more quality food to more people because my meal prep business only uses the freshest ingredients and prepares only high quality organic dishes.

If your child resists brushing her teeth, that story can be about whether she wants to have teeth as an adult.

A close up of two kids brushing their teeth
“Psssst… as soon as mom leaves the bathroom, let’s just pretend we’re still brushing, ok?”

Leave room to concede

To be a successful negotiator, it’s critical we think of every negotiation as a cooperative effort. It’s easy to view a negotiation as a competition because both parties are trying to get the best deal for themselves.

However, let’s say you enter into a negotiation with the desire to “beat” the other party into submission and get the absolute best deal for yourself. You might “win”, but do you think the other party will want to do business with you in the future if they know you’re only concerned with yourself?

I know I wouldn’t.

This is why you want to plan ahead and choose areas in the negotiation you’re willing to concede on. This way the other party can see you concede and feel like they’re gaining ground.

Think about the last time you bought a new or used car from a dealership. The final price you pay for a car is typically a combination of the sticker price and a bunch of fees.

But the sticker price on the car is not set in stone and some of the “fees” are nonsense. That padding exists to increase profits for the salesman and the dealership, which gives them room to concede when doing business with a customer who is willing to walk away from the deal.

A blue Audi parked in front of a dealership
Your power in a negotiation comes from your ability to walk away from it

Give them multiple offers

People love feeling like they have choices because we love feeling like we have control over a situation and can determine the outcome.

So, if you want to be a great negotiator, walk into every negotiation with multiple offers for the other party to select from.

Trying to negotiate with your friends about where to get dinner?

Throw out a few options and let them choose. Have a craving for something specific? Then be intentional about choosing the options so no matter what your friends pick, your craving will be satisfied.

Trying to sell a house-cleaning service to a potential new customer?

Have three levels of cleaning services available: one cheap, one middle of the road, and one premium. Some people may just want to test your service with the entry-level package before upgrading to the middle or premium service. Others may want the best bang for their buck because they’re budget-conscious, and others may go straight for the premium service because premium services fit into the narrative of how they see themselves.

How about a helicopter-delivered cleaning service?

Circle back to the story

So, up to this point you have:

  • woven an engaging story the other party feels they are a part of
  • made concessions to make the other party feel like they’re coming out on top
  • given them multiple offers to choose from, allowing them to feel in control of their fate

In other words, you entered into the negotiation with a clear idea of what you want out of it and how it will benefit the other party while allowing the other party to feel they are in control.

After making the concessions and putting several offers on the table, you can circle back to the story. Incorporate and emphasize the concessions you made and the offer they selected as the icing on the cake. Paint a picture of what the future will look like assuming they choose one of your offers.

They might have entered the negotiation thinking they were going to have to fight for what they want. But from the beginning, you made the process a cooperative one and allowed them to get what they want in a way that also gave you what you wanted.

Why would they want to do business with anyone else?

The deal has been made! Now, to inspire my kids to brush their teeth…

In a Nutshell

Negotiating can feel overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to.

There are a few key ideas you can focus on when preparing for a negotiation that will make the process easier and more successful for all parties involved. Follow them and you’ll feel empowered and confident in any negotiation.

Remember, it’s not about being selfish or getting what you want at the expense of someone else. Negotiating should be viewed as a potential win-win for everyone.

If you approach negotiations with that mindset, you will find people are more receptive to doing business with you because they know you’re not just in it for yourself.

Start by creating a story around your negotiation instead of focusing on what you want from them or how they could concede to help you out.

Next, leave room in the conversation so you can concede without the other party feeling like you’re giving up ground too easily.

Then put multiple offers on the table because people love choice and feeling like they have control over outcomes.

And finally, use storytelling techniques at every turn—good stories lead others into believing an idea is likely to happen.

If you want to learn more about becoming a world-class negotiator, check out our latest podcast episode on the topic with Dr. Victoria Medvec, a master negotiator and author of Negotiate Without Fear: Strategies and Tools to Maximize Your Outcomes.


If you’d like to learn how to confidently go after all of your big goals without hesitation, we’re here for you. We can help you make this happen by providing expert coaching in our X-Factor Accelerator mentorship program. You’ll develop the attributes you need to attract the right people, forge meaningful relationships, and create life-changing opportunities in your life and career.

Rick Ahlgren - author of 18 posts on The Art of Charm

Rick is a 35-year-old human who spends his time freelancing as a writer, deadlifting (with his scrawny high school physique), and performing odd jobs for friends. He takes satisfaction from helping humans become more aware and better at life, which means he has to know what he's talking about for him to be able to help others. Rick enjoys long walks and bike rides because they help him slow down and pay attention to the details of this crazy ride we call life. And he digs reading fantasy like George R.R. Martin and science fiction like Frank Herbert and Alastair Reynolds. Sometimes when Rick finds himself staring into space without any distractions, he'll ask himself "What am I doing?" Usually the answer is nothing.

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in Art of Business, Deal Making & Negotiations, Marriage & Relationships

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