Negotiating with yourself versus savvy negotiating – a multi-million dollar difference

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Negotiating is a necessity of life. Children learn to negotiate to get what they want at an early age. Being an effective negotiator is a learned skill-set, though. It is a competition, and out in the real world, there are some prolific negotiators. There are many courses and programs designed to teach best practices on the subject. One simple best practice is never negotiate with yourself.

There is an old adage in negotiating that says the first person to talk loses.

I had been leading teams for years before someone pulled me aside and shared this wisdom. I was negotiating with myself like a banshee! It was a bad habit. In many cases my personality and demeanor allowed me to survive my own worst practice. Sometimes, though, a savvy negotiator would just eat my lunch! Here is a simple example of negotiating with yourself:

Imagine a moment where I am making an offer to buy a car from an individual. We are talking on the phone and the owner asks me to make an offer. So I throw out an offer of $12,000. The savvy seller does not respond and let’s some dead space occur. Before the seller responds I begin sharpening my offer. I then offer cash. Again, no response from the savvy seller. So I raise the offer by saying “I am open to a higher number. What will you take?” This is classic negotiating with myself! Do not overthink or overact. Once a number is on the table, negotiate it to your winning position. Do not negotiate with yourself!

Once I make the offer, I remain silent until the seller responds. Period. Not a word. If he never responds I will say good bye. I am that committed to waiting. Now the seller has the full burden of negotiation. I am not going to negotiate with myself.

There is an old adage in negotiating that says the first person to talk loses. The example above also highlights this wisdom. Once a negotiation has begun, let the other person feel the weight of a response. Wait for them to negotiate before you feel any urge to talk or change your side of the deal.

This best practice has tremendous application in every day life, including personal and business settings. Some people negotiate to beat the other party. This is a choice. Some people negotiate to create a win-win outcome. This is also a choice. Some people are so nervous and overthinking that they give away their position without the other party ever having to say much. This is also a choice, and a very expensive one over a lifetime. So your desired outcome is up to you. Regardless of your desired outcome, though, there are best practices that support your likelihood of achieving it.

Three basic best practices of a seasoned negotiator: Never negotiate with yourself. The first person to talk loses. Be willing to walk away

So let’s look at an example of more savvy negotiation: Using the same scenario as above. I am making an offer to buy a car from an individual. We are talking on the phone and the owner asks me to make an offer. I could say, “What will you take?” But to stay consistent with the scenario above, we will start the same. So I throw out an offer of $12,000. Once I make the offer, I remain silent until the seller responds. Period. Not a word. If he never responds I will say good bye. I am that committed to waiting. Now the seller has the full burden of negotiation. I am not going to negotiate with myself. The seller responds by saying “your offer is much lower than I had hoped.” That is not a full response. What is the number? Best practice here, once again, is to not negotiate with myself. So I remain silent. No response. Now the seller is feeling even more weight. He may even say, “are you there?” I would respond, “Yes. I am here. What number do you have in mind?” The seller now has to come up with a number and we continue the negotiation. At all phases of the negotiation, once I make an offer or concession, I sit and wait. By not negotiating with myself, I am a much better negotiator.

Another real life example of this is for sales persons. Once the client says, ” OK. I will take it.” You stop selling. Hand them a pen!

For this scenario above, in the end I may or may not buy this car. Getting a fair deal is also based on two people who agree to it. That may not happen. So always try to be willing to walk away if the process is flawed, the product is flawed, or the person with whom you are negotiating is unfair.

In summary, the three basic best practices above are:

  1. Never negotiate with yourself
  2. The first person to talk loses
  3. Be willing to walk away

Another real life example of this is for sales persons. Once the client says, ” OK. I will take it.” You stop selling. Hand them a pen!

Sometimes we just need to do right and lead right. As leaders we need to inspire and deliver.

    1. Thank you, Phil! This kind compliment is coming from one of my great mentors! I learned a lot working for you back at USA Mobile. We had fun, too.

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