As nukes we learn a lot of stuff. Most of the skills we learn are what I would consider “hard” skills, like math, science, physics, thermodynamics, and similar. I wish they would have taught us some of the more “soft” skills in the pipeline. I’m talking about skills like how to relate to people, how to negotiate, public speaking, what networking is…
How to be a better negotiator would have been a very helpful skill during my six years in the pipeline. And now that I’m in civilian land, it’s a skill that I’ve had to master because I use it every day. Whether you are buying a new car, trying to craft a divorce settlement, asking for a pay raise or promotion, or just trying to convince your significant other to see things your way, knowing how to conduct (and win) a proper negotiation is an excellent skill to have. It has literally made me thousands of dollars and saved me a ton of grief.
So here’s my take on how to be a really freaking good negotiator…
There is one book that everyone who tries to learn how to negotiate reads. I took a class in law school to learn how to negotiate, and this book was the text book. Some say it is the definitive guide to negotiating…AND I SAY IT’S COMPLETE CRAP.
The book is called Getting to Yes. Do not buy or read this book. It’s all fufu feel good nonsense written by pie in the sky academia, and it is not applicable to the real world populated by actual human beings.
There is a better book. A little known book called Secrets of Power Negotiating for Sales People, Inside Secrets from a Master Negotiator, by Roger Dawson is the best book on how to negotiate for people who actually live on planet Earth, i.e., the real world, and I suggest you click on that link right there and at least check it out. It costs next to nothing on Kindle, and a tiny bit more in hard copy (I have the hard copy version cuz it’s that good), and it will significantly improve multiple aspects of your life.
I used to own the audio version as well, but I let my brother have it and haven’t seen it since. I liked the audio version because I used to listen to it for a quick refresher anytime I was en route to any kind of negotiation. Anyway, you should definitely drop a few bucks for either the book or audio program. So here are the top 10 negotiating tips I have learned from Roger Dawson’s book.
1) Always, Always, Always ask For More Than You Expect to Get
This is the number 1 rule in any negotiation. No matter what you are negotiating for, always ask for more than you expect to get. People always talk about win-win negotiating. Well this is the only way you can set up a win-win style outcome. You must overstate your demands for two reasons: 1) You just might get it, and 2) It gives you some negotiating room.
Without over stating your demand, you have no negotiating room. They are trained to say no to your first offer, they expect you to ask for more than you expect to get, and if you don’t then there is no way you can “win.” If you want a 15% raise, you don’t go in asking for a 15% raise because the boss is going to say, “Well how about a 7% raise?” No sir, you go in there asking for 20% or 25% and the boss negotiates you down to 15% (or maybe even she just says yes to the 25%).
And thirdly, asking for more than you expect to get raises the perceived value of your product or service.
The key here is that you must ask in such a way that you imply some flexiblity so that your opponent doesn’t just end the negotiation right there at your overstated demand.
2) Negotiating is a Game that is Played by a Set of Rules
Take the smartest person you know (a literal genius who has never played a game of chess in her life) and make her play a game of chess against a moderately intelligent person who is also a member of the local Chess Club and plays some 3-5 days per week, who also studies all the Chess books, knows all the gambits, and all the counter gambits.
The moderately intelligent player will destroy the genius every time, because he knows the rules. He already knows the moves his opponent will make before she makes them.
Negotiating is no different than a game a chess. There are rules, there are opening gambits, there are counter gambits to those opening gambits, there are middle gambits, there are closing gambits, and of course, there are counters to those gambits as well.
The problem is, most of us negotiate without ever studying the rules. If you are not playing the game, you are getting played. And you can’t be a player if you don’t know the rules.
The great power in Roger Dawson’s book is that he teaches you the rules, down and dirty, without all the fufu, useless fluff, that you find in Getting to Yes. Once I learned the rules to negotiating, it was like a curtain being drawn back on the real world. It was like seeing how the sausage is made. I remember sitting in a used car dealership helping my brother in law negotiate a price on a used Excursion and I knew what the salesman was going to say even before he said it. And when he did say it, I threw a counter gambit into the mix, knowing full well what counter he was going to use to counter my counter gambit.
I’ve used this stuff on dates, to get promotions, to settle cases, to get raises; life is full of negotiations.
3) Never Say Yes to the First Offer
The only way to make a win-win negotiation is to make both sides feel like they won. That means both sides have to “fight” for the outcome. If someone makes you an offer and you say yes to the first offer a few things naturally happen: 1) You immediately think: I could have done better (now you feel like a loser), 2) They immediately think: Something’s wrong, that was too easy, we’ve been had (now they feel like a loser).
You may be wondering why you care if the other side feels like a loser so long as you get what you want. Well the reason that is bad is because it is just bad business. Do you really want your boss, or your wife, or your customer feeling like you pulled one over on them? No. You want them to feel like maybe they were a bit too hard on you and maybe next time they’ll give you a break.
4) Always Flinch at Any Offer
This one is extremely powerful. When someone makes you an offer, you literally, physically flinch, as if the offer hurt you, or as if you are shocked at such an offer.
You ask, “How much is this?”
They reply, “Sixty-five dollars.”
You flinch like they just insulted your mother and say, “Sixty Five Dollars???”
And immediately they start in with, “Well we could do it for fifty five.”
I don’t have time to explain why this works, but a good flinch is usually followed by some kind of concession from the other side that you didn’t even have to “negotiate” for and you never would have got without the flinch.
These first 4 have all been “opening gambits.” Now let’s take a look at my favorite “middle gambit.”
5) Higher Authority
People pull this on me all the time and it is really freaking annoying, but I understand that it is all just a game, and more importantly I know the counter gambits.
Every now and again you make an offer to someone, someone who you thought was the decision maker, and they pull the old well I got to check with my manager or I have to take it to the board before I can approve that offer. They appeal to some higher authority.
You know what, I even use this tactic when I negotiate, even when I don’t have a higher authority, I make one up. Sorry, it’s just how the game is played.
When you use the Higher Authority tactic it puts you in a position of strength because now they know that they have to win you over so that you will favorably introduce the proposal to the “board” assuming there even is a board. And they feel like they have to make their best offer so that you can do that.
And now that you have let them know that you are not the actual decision maker, you can put pressure on them without actually being confrontational, “I think it’s a good proposal, but I can tell you that we would be wasting our time taking a proposal like this to the board.”
It also takes the pressure off of you in a negotiation because you are able to set aside the pressure of making a decision, and that really annoys the other side, it knocks them off balance when they realize they are not actually dealing with a decision maker. This is a tactic employed by car salesman all across America, “$45,0000 is a good offer, but I’m going to have to verify with the sales manager. Now let’s talk about the counter gambit to Higher Authority.
6) Remove Their Resort to Higher Authority
Make sure you are dealing with a decision maker by getting them to admit that they could make a decision if the offer was irresistible. “Let me be sure I understand. If we find exactly the right (property/outcome/whatever is being negotiated for) today, is there any reason why you wouldn’t be able to make a decision today?”
Salesman do this all the time, “So if we find the right car at the right price, is there any reason you wouldn’t buy today?”
I used to do this to my union technicians at NASA, “So if I can get you the procedures before lunch, signed off by Safety and QA, is there any reason why we couldn’t perform the test this afternoon?” Now they can’t say, “We have to check with Safety,” or “We have to check with QA” as a means of getting out of work.
If I’m not able to remove their higher authority with one of those kind of questions, then I always 1) just appeal to their ego, and 2) get a commitment that they will give me a positive recommendation.
Him: “Sorry man, I still have to take it to the Board.”
Me: “Oh sure, but they always follow your recommendations, don’t they?” (appeal to the ego)
Him: “Well, yeah if I like it, it’s a good as done.”
Me: “But you will recommend it to them won’t you?” (get a commitment)
Him: “Yeah, I think I can convince them.”
This is textbook stuff that I use every day. I use it so often that I don’t even notice it anymore until the client is like, “How in the heck did you get that?” And then I start thinking, well let me see, they used higher authority, I countered with an appeal to ego and asked for a commitment to get a positive recommendation…
7) If I do that for you, what are you going to do for me?
A lot of times the other side will offer you exactly what you want. Resist the urge to just accept the offer. Always trade something in return. And especially, when you are offered something that you don’t want, you should always ask for something in return.
If the boss asks you to stay late, “If I do that for you, what are you going to do for me?”
You son asks you to let him go to the movies, “If I do that for you, what are you going to do for me?” It’s no big deal, but maybe you’ll get him to commit to cleaning his room before he leaves without even having to ask him to do it.
Chief asks you to help out with steam generator maintenance, “Chief if I do that for you, what are you going to do for me?”
There are several advantages to always asking for something in return, they are:
- You might get something you never expected to get or even ask for.
- You have now elevated the value of the concession. You have defined yourself as valuable. Your time is valuable, your service is valuable, you are not a pushover, you are someone to be respected and time/service/product/concession must be paid for. The person asking knows you are valuable and that any concession is going to also cost them something.
- It stops them from taking advantage of your or continually trying to negotiate you down. They stop asking for concessions when they realize that every time you give up something they will also have to give up something.
There are several more negotiating gambits that I would like to talk about like “Nibbling,” “The Puppy Dog Close,” “Withdrawing an Offer,” and “the Subject to Close” (which is probably my favorite because the Subject to Close allow you to put absolutely nothing at risk while convincing the other side that you are making a huge concession).
I would like to talk about all of those other negotiating gambits, but it is all in the book and you should really just buy the book or audio program because Roger Dawson does a much better job of explaining every thing than I can do here. So click on my picture of my book to see how to purchase the book from Amazon. I think it’s like $9.00 or something like that so it will not break the bank and it really will make you hundreds, if not thousands of dollars within the next few years of your life.
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