We have a 98% acceptance rate with offers here at ATP –– unheard of in our industry.
Just the other day, we had a tough search finally come to a close. They (the Founder and VC) were shocked that the candidate was a yes within 24 hours and didn’t ask for anything additional.
Why’d that happen?
Because we had open, collaborative discussions the entire way through with both parties = no hidden surprises.
Despite how you feel about it, negotiation is an essential life skill.
However, it’s not a battle. Negotiating is simply an opportunity for two parties to come together. After all, in most cases, you’re negotiating a relationship, not a one-time transaction.
I like to think of it as an opportunity to have a more formal, yet collaborative conversation.
Some conversations enrich your life and some make you want to pull your hair out. But it’s nothing to be afraid of.
Big things happen at negotiation tables, so it’s crucial that you’re ready for the moment when it comes.
These 10 tried-and-true rules have made all the difference for me over the years.
10 Rules for Successful Negotiation
Here are my top ten rules for masterful negotiation:
Don’t view it as a win/lose scenario
It’s a collaborative discussion
Don’t make any assumptions
Show up prepared
Know the different levers you can pull
Get everything important in writing
Sometimes you have to give to get
Be 100% transparent, clear, and honest
Cut it with the tactics
Strive to come together
So without further ado, let’s dig in, shall we?!
1. Don’t view it as a win/lose scenario
The best negotiations end with both parties leaving the room with a good feeling about what just happened. Nobody feels slighted, no enemies were created… everyone’s happy.
One side may end up with a better deal than they were expecting, but that’s not the goal here.
You shouldn’t go into any negotiation thinking that you need to ‘win’, because you don’t.
It’s an opportunity for you to get what you want. But you can make that happen without everyone else at the table losing.
Sometimes you have to give up certain things to gain something else. Walk in with this concept in mind and it’ll make everything run much smoother (see #7 for more on this idea).
2. Negotiating is a collaborative discussion
Keep in mind that you’re not the only party in the negotiation that wants something. Whoever you’re sitting across from has their own needs, wants, and desires too.
If you’re narrowly focused on yourself and what you want, you won’t be able to empathize with the other side. The best negotiators work with the people they’re negotiating with, not against them.
3. Don’t make any assumptions
Going in thinking that you know it all isn’t going to make the person across the table want to work with you. That attitude shows that you don’t really care about their side of the story.
Ultimately, people want nothing more than to be to be seen, heard, and understood. Active listening is a powerful way to increase your chances of getting what you want.
This is why I like to show up to every conversation with a ‘seek to understand’ mentality. The less assumptions I have, the better.
This keeps the door open for me to listen to the other side, fully understand their needs, and find a way to bring us all together.
4. Show up prepared
Specificity is your friend. Before you walk in the room, make sure you have a clear understanding of your position and what’s possible.
What do you want? Why do you want it? What’s the reality of the situation? What would you be happy to settle with? These are all super important questions.
Successful negotiation is all about planning and preparation. There’s no reason why the actual negotiation day shouldn’t be a breeze for everyone involved (remember the story from the intro?).
The more you do behind the scenes, the easier it is to get a deal signed.
5. Know the different levers you can pull
This is one that many people miss. Before you go into an important negotiation, you need to know what’s possible to negotiate.
For example, when negotiating a job offer, people tend to get fixated on the salary. But there are a TON of different things that you could negotiate here. Things like:
Paid time off
Stock options / equity
Bonus structure / amount
Remote work potential
Payment of your phone / internet
Education (course fees, etc.)
Specific projects / assignments
Headcount on your team
Mentorship from higher ups
Investing in professional development
Taking care of your home office
None of these levers are fixed! Be ready to bring them into the conversation and you’ll have a much better chance of walking out with a deal you’re excited about.
6. Get everything important in writing
Sometimes everything goes well at the negotiating table, but then the actual deal comes and it doesn’t represent what you discussed. It’s rare, but it happens.
You can follow up after the negotiation to clarify key points and make sure everyone’s on the same page before the deal is sent. Then get all the important details in writing to protect yourself if there’s an issue later on.
7. Sometimes you have to give to get
You should always come into negotiations ready to bend a little. You never know what the other side is going to offer you in exchange for giving something up.
Think about it, you might not get the starting salary you dreamed of from the start, but if there’s a clear roadmap for subsequent promotions in the years to come there can be tremendous upside for your career.
Flexibility can lead to a host of opportunities you didn’t consider.
8. Be 100% transparent, clear, and honest
There’s no reason to hide what you really want. People respect honesty. If you lay it all out on the line, people are much more likely to work with you to make things happen.
By the way, this transparency needs to begin well before the negotiation table.
For example, if you make it a part of your discussions around how you price and are transparent with what your business cares about to pinpoint a plan where both parties can win, you’ll find that respect and openness comes automatically, along with an alignment to get the deal done.
Nobody likes to be duped or feel like they’re in an episode of Game of Thrones. Keeping your cards face up on the table keeps the discussion from being icky and makes everything much easier.
If you’re interested, Todd Caponi’s book ‘The Transparency Sale’ is a great deep-dive into this topic.
9. Cut the tactics
Negotiation tactics are easy to spot and create HUGE red flags – especially if there’s a multi-million dollar deal on the table. How can I trust someone who is knowingly trying to take advantage of me?
It’s the epitome of sleaziness and goes directly against the last rule about honesty and transparency.
Again, it’s not about extracting as much as you possibly can from the other side. Negotiation is about finding a middle ground that both sides are excited about.
Don’t burn bridges just to make some extra money. It’ll likely come back to haunt you.
10. Strive to come together
Negotiation should always be viewed through a teamwork lens. Both sides are coming to the table with their own needs to be met and everyone plays a part in making it work.
Want to end up with a deal that has everyone smiling? Then you need to work together. The right attitude goes a long, long way.
Be clear on your needs, take the time to understand theirs, and be prepared to lay it all out on the line when the time comes.
Anytime you’re asking for something – whether it’s getting a raise, better benefits, better prices, or closing a multi-million dollar deal – it’s likely that negotiation will be involved.
It’s an essential life skill, so don’t shy away from it!
And on top of that, how you negotiate says a lot about you and how you value your relationships. We’re living out loud in this digital age and word of mouth travels far and fast. Regardless of the outcome, it’s important to remember to be gracious and leave that door open. You never know when your paths will cross again in the future.
What you do now and how you do it, will shape what happens in the future. And as Warren Buffett says, it only takes 5 minutes to tarnish your reputation… choose wisely.