How to be a master negotiator

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Being a strong negotiator helps you succeed in your professional and personal life, creating beneficial outcomes that allow you to get what you want.

This can include earning more money, strengthening relationships and holding more gravitas with the stakeholders you engage with. Many people aren’t naturally gifted with the communication techniques needed for negotiation but can easily develop these skills through preparation and practice.

Preparation is key

Entering into a negotiation is similar to going into a battle. Make sure that you gather as much information as possible so that you have stronger bargaining power. Having a bird’s eye of the battleground allows you to weigh and consider a;; the available options. Always consider the worst offer that you would accept before reneging on any type of agreement. It is important that you’ve decided this in advance so that you don’t agree to a deal which is not in your best interest.

Don’t talk too much

Make sure to keep your cards close to your chest so that the other party has little knowledge about your priorities and non-negotiables. Letting the other side talk without interruption, will let them reveal their motivations, desires and intended outcomes, without having to reveal any such information yourself. Listening intently to their reasoning, and asking follow up and open ended questions, will allow you to work out how best to structure an opportunity which seemingly meets their needs, but also results in the best possible outcome for yourself.

Set deadlines

Setting deadlines is a common tactic of seasoned sales professionals to close a deal within a specific period of time.  They will frequently pique your interest with a “too good to be true offer” but will insist that this is only valid for a limited time. Frequently these will be around periods during which they have to hit certain targets such as month end or quarter end.

Setting a deadline gives the other party limited room to manoeuvre, and allows you to take control by defining the terms. Another benefit of setting deadlines is that this will force the other party to offer their best proposal, or accept yours, rather than holding back in the hope of a better offer in the future.

Be prepared to walk away

“You have to persuade yourself that you don’t care what happens. If you don’t care you’ve won.” – Felix Dennis, founder of Dennis Publishing, Inc Magazine, 2011

It may seem counter-intuitive when trying to close a deal but the best negotiators are always prepared to walk away. If you look too desperate for a particular outcome, and this becomes known to the other side, you risk accepting a less favourable deal.


This non aggressive tactic, commonly used by the FBI when negotiating hostage rescues, allows someone to become susceptible to influence. It is possible to build rapport with the other side by being an active listener, and being in tune with their feelings and motives. This will help build trust, and will make the other party more willing to listen to and accept what you are offering.

Body language

Research from UCLA shows that only 7% of communication is verbal, with 38% being represented by your voice, and body language dominating with 55%. Making increased efforts to gesticulate, by moving your hands and your body will result in you coming across as being more interesting and persuasive, and will create the impression of passion. This is not just a useful tactic to use when meeting people face to face. Deploying this tactic when on the telephone, will result in people being able to hear the effect that gesticulations have on the intonations and expressiveness of your voice.

Nick Levine is a chartered accountant and freelance journalist, with a background in fin-tech who has written for Accounting Technician magazine.

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