Sealing the deal: How to get the upper hand at the negotiation table

Mark Sands
Sealing the deal: How to get the upper hand at the negotiation table

With strong negotiation skills, you may be able to win over a hard-to-get prospect or ensure better pricing on a specific business project

Startups are busy trying to scale up. In doing this, they need to ensure they address multiple tasks: supplies should be fully stocked and business should be open on the expected day, among a wide range of responsibilities. While these tasks are important, the art of negotiation is invaluable for the success of any startup – and any organisation today.

With strong negotiation skills, you may be able to win over a hard-to-get prospect or ensure better pricing on a specific business project. Interestingly, negotiation can be applied in almost every aspect of today’s business landscape. This, in fact, can work in your favor, as you strive to realise the best value from deals. Whether you are faced with difficulties fixing a price point for a product or new business deal, or you are looking to build networking relationships, understanding the art of negotiation will significantly boost your chances of achieving a positive outcome.

However, negotiation involves more than just applying a few sales tricks or using open-ended questioning for prospects, business partners, and potential networks. Here are nine simple ideas that will stand you in good stead and achieve high level of success in your negotiations.

1. Practice Confident Mental Strength and Body Language

Preparation is everything. According to negotiation experts, 55 percent of what goes on in our head is given away through our body language. Simple movements such as folding one or both arms across your chest can send the wrong message from the onset and turn people off even before the negotiations begin.

On the other hand, a strong and confident handshake sets the tone for a great conversation as it makes for a good first impression. Your ability to back up your words with corresponding physical actions that exudes confidence and honesty increases the desire of the other party to cooperate with you and reach a favorable agreement. So having the right mental approach is important. Before going into a negotiation, know the value of your offer and how it helps the other party. Always think: “We both need each other”. When you feel in control before negotiations begin, you can better take charge of conversations and achieve higher level of success.

2. Master the Gentle Art of Saying No

The truth is, you can never be as productive as you should if you always agree to everything during a negotiation process. While saying “no” may sound too simple, doing this comfortably is key to ensuring you get the best out of a negotiation. However, you must realise that saying “no” may disappoint the other party – and that is usually not fun. By practicing the art of saying no, you will be able to detach yourself from commitments that do not align with your priorities.

The fear of missing out or the desire to please people make many persons struggle with saying no to certain offers. While this art takes a lot of effort, mastering it will help you work your way through favorable outcomes.

3. Negotiate A Win-Win

Effective negotiation is like winning at poker. Both require that you play your cards close to the vest, maintain a straight face, and know when to hold or fold. Poker is a strategic game – and it would be wise to find a group so you can play it regularly if you are not currently doing so. If you stake too much in tha game, you risk losing other players in the deal.

As you improve your poker game skills, you will be better able to mitigate any potential risks and get the best value for your business during negotiations. Playing with a new group of people allows you an opportunity to win some new clients and customers over to your side. The game of poker helps you master the art of effective negotiations. The best hand is when a negotiation allows everyone to leave the table winning, when possible.

Also read: 10 negotiating tips every woman needs in her arsenal

4. Prepare Beforehand

Preparation is everything. In order to offer a tailored response to fit the demands of different individuals, it is important that you do your homework on the other party beforehand. Knowing all the right details: figuring out the type of individual involved and the language that best fits the negotiation process, will help you persuade as well as counter where necessary.

For instance, at the end of every negotiation, you want the other party to feel like everyone’s a winner. Preparation will give you a chance to understand what you can bring to the table so you can get what you want. It can also help you view the conversation from their perspective before going into it. By preparing and strengthening your negotiation skills before a negotiation process begins, you will be able to adapt your approach to fit the needs of the other party, and this goes a long way.

5. Rather than Sell, Discuss

Negotiations should revolve around discussions concerning how to achieve a mutually agreeable result. By offering a “this is how we can help you” pitch, you will have something to negotiate with, since this allows you tell the other party why they need your product or service.

It is also important that you identify trade-offs – those things that are off high value to the other party yet low cost. For instance, if your startup is into the sales of IT systems, and part of your offer includes a two-day on-site assistance from your engineer, you could offer three days, since you already you already cover the costs for that person, so an extra day will not cost you much.

But, if on the other hand, you charge $500 to send your engineer out for a service daily, your service will be really valuable to them. So how can you help them and receive help in return? It is important that you do not move away from your normal price point. But what can you offer that still brings value to the table?

6. Ask for a Break

Do not be scared to ask for some time out during negotiations. Negotiations may get really tricky and you may just need time to go away and collect your thoughts. If you are not against a fixed deadline, do well to ask for some time to recalibrate your thoughts and reconsider your options.

7. Understand Your Position

Before going into negotiations, consider three positions: what you could potentially get away with (often your opening bid), what you should expect (based on the outcome), and the other party. In the heat of the conversation, it is easy to offer more than you normally want to, hence, it is important that you understand your position well in advance.

While it is fine to be extreme during negotiations, it is also ideal that you are realistic with your offers and opening bid. By taking realistic positions, you can win the trust of your deal breakers and ensure fruitful collaborations with your business.

8. Get to Know Their Position

One of the biggest mistakes startup owners make is failing to understand the position of their opponent. When selling a product or service, for instance, ask what a potential customer is willing to pay if they do not want to meet your asking price. When you are able to uncover the thoughts of the other party, you will now have two positions to work with – and there is an opportunity for negotiation.

9. Practice, Practice, Practice

Mastering strong negotiation strategies that become innate requires practice and more practice. As you prepare to utilise your negotiation skills in business, a sense of vigilance is required. Think about the best concepts that will apply to different individuals and businesses, practice them all the time: with friends, family, and even at work. If you consciously apply your new negotiation strategies in different applications, they would gradually become nature, and take the place of the old patterns.

Closing Thoughts

Negotiation is a key part of the business process – and even our everyday life. By applying these simple practices, you will be better able to scale up your business and achieve the best outcomes for your startup. Practice these skills, continuously challenge yourself, but be kind to yourself when you make mistakes. These mistakes help you develop stronger skills – and help you strike the best deals in the long run.


Mark Sands, co-founder of High Risk Merchant Account LLC, a leader specialising in high risk merchant account and high risk ach processing. Mark is an authoritative expert in the merchant services industry and enjoys writing about the issues facing entrepreneurs in the current marketplace environment.

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