January 11, 2022 | Entrepreneur

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A successful negotiation is always possible – no matter what your background is. If you think you have no background or experience in negotiations, read on – you might surprise yourself!

The truth is that we are all negotiators already, and we actually have a deep and rich background in negotiation just by being human.

Many people act under the assumption that only negotiators, salespeople, union representatives, etc., negotiate. We all negotiate throughout each day. Every parent, child, friend and colleague negotiates. Think about it, how else do people get things done when in a relationship with another person? Anyone with a child knows full well that there is a negotiation happening at just about any given moment. Is it a successful negotiation? Not necessarily, but that may have more to do with the 4-year-old than your capabilities! We even negotiate with ourselves, “I want that piece of cake…if I go for a run, then I can have the cake…”

What’s the key to a successful negotiation? It’s actually relatively simple if you work at it. The key to becoming a successful negotiator is to have self-awareness and self-improvement as your focus.

I have spent 15 years as a top salesperson in Toronto, negotiating multi-million dollar deals. Years before that, I sold marketing strategy and advertising campaigns. During my sales tenure, I learned the following key insights and taken them with me into every negotiation I find myself in. Adopting these skills will position you for a successful future.

Let’s tap into your negotiation skills.


The number 1 key to negotiation is to listen. The adage that we have two ears and one mouth is a good ratio to remember. Constantly listen to what the other party is looking for. What concerns do they have? What objectives do they need to make? Is there something that they are not telling you? Is there a missing piece that you can reflect on? If you listen closely enough, you will discover the clear path to completing a successful negotiation.

If you feel the need to be heard or argue a point, correct someone, etc., take a breath and continue to listen. Write notes if you want to help you track your thoughts. You can come back to your points when the time is right.

Uplevel Your Negotiation Skills & Your Career Now!

Wants vs. Needs

Flushing out wants versus needs (also known as “positions versus interests”) is essential. Knowing what you and the other party want to have versus need to have will help clarify your next steps. Also, this will give perspective on what is a walk away term. There are cases when people can focus too closely on what they want to have, leading them to miss the key needs that serve the greater mission.

A win/win is possible. It doesn’t always happen, but there is typically a way for both parties to see a path through the initial gap in positions.

Connection and Relationships

Simply put, building connections and relationships will lead to a high success rate. We all seek connection and community. Building this with people is incredibly rewarding. Note: this refers to authentic connections with others. Feigning interest and manipulation will not work. Any emotionally intelligent individual will see right through it quickly,  let alone bring you onboard for repeat negotiations and transactions. Build and foster relationships. Your world will get a lot smaller with this skill. Having a positive reputation will reward you long-term.

Positive Perspective

Negotiation is constantly a moving target. It will help if you are adaptable every step of the way. Being able to position the positive in an offer, outcome and current situation is a powerful way of helping the other party see the forest for the trees. Ask any good marketing person, and you will learn that telling a powerful and positive story will aid you in a successful outcome. It helps to create a picture or articulate clear examples for others to comprehend.

Types Of Leverage

There are three types of leverage. Be aware as to which one you are using. Only use these consciously. Do not slip into a default pattern that may hinder your position. Not only will these inform your steps, but understanding these three forms of leverage will help you see the other party more clearly.

  • Normative Leverage – some people will use general societal norms. An example may be someone stating the rules of an organization. The breakdown can happen if you try to negotiate with someone who does not share the same views. This chasm can be hard to cross. It can be effective to use normative leverage if the other party has similar views and rules.
  • Positive Leverage – this is the proverbial carrot. Dangling a positive option that the other party would like can lead to an outcome you desire.
  • Negative Leverage – as you would expect, this type of leverage can lead to a power struggle. Terms like “pulling rank” and the proverbial stick are commonly associated with negative leverage. Being mindful of possible outcomes must be considered before attempting a negative play. When this fails, it can be miserable. When it “works,” it can hinder the relationship and possible future interactions.

Know Your BATNA

It is essential to always know your Best Alternative To A Negotiated Agreement (BATNA). Always know what your BATNA is. If this negotiation doesn’t come to an agreement, what are your alternatives? Status quo? Sell to someone else? Sell at an already known price point to someone else? Take another job? The list of alternatives may be short or long. The key is to know what your walk-away options are. This will help you stay focused and know when to pull the plug on the negotiation or commit to moving forward.

Utilizing the above tricks of the negotiation trade will help you better understand your position, the other’s position and what is needed to bridge the gap to close a deal. Ultimately the more you understand yourself and the other party, the clearer you will see the path forward.


Working on your self-awareness, how to communicate effectively, what to disclose and when will greatly impact your negotiation skills. Great leaders are masterful with negotiations – you can be too! Let’s get started here!

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