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A Non-Negotiator’s Guide to Negotiating (99u.com)
93 points by projuce on Apr 10, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 35 comments



Getting to Yes is the book on negotiation. I'm surprised someone didn't mention it already, but I'll get the karma points instead. If you haven't read it, it will likely become one of the more important books on business and give-and-take interactions you read. We all negotiate every day, on things like prices and salaries, but also what movie to go to or what restaurant to eat at. This book helps in all these areas.

It transformed negotiation from me from something I didn't like to a human and essential part of business.

- A few words I wrote on the book -- http://joshuaspodek.com/top-models-strategies-negotiating

- Wikipedia page -- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Getting_to_yes

- Amazon -- http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dap...

Here are the main strategic points, for reference

1. Separate the people from the problem.

2. Focus on interests, not positions.

3. Invent options for mutual gain.

4. Insist on using objective criteria.

5. Know your BATNA (Best Alternative To Negotiated Agreement)

6. Always try to improve your BATNA.


Whilst reading Getting To Yes, I kept thinking, "I don't see how this is going to get me a cheaper car", but it did take a while to sink in. I would say it's probably been more valuable in changing how I speak to people rather than directly giving me skills to knock a price down. However, when you define "negotiating" to include eliciting s/w requirements, speaking with managers/colleagues, defining personal relationships, etc. then I would say it's an invaluable read.

I will try Bargaining For Advantage mentioned elsewhere as well.


GTY is more about building something from nothing: getting people to join you in an effort/venture, from a position if initial mistrust.

It is too softball for strictly 1-dimensional negotiations like a car price.

Haggling on car price will always be an antagonistic zero-sum competitive operation, since their aren't any other dimensions.


Not necessarily. A big part of GTY is understanding the complete picture of incentives for all parties. I've found an absolutely terrific way to negotiate car prices is to do all your research ahead of time (including a test drive, if necessary), know your data (like the invoice price) and a fair dealer profit (from car buying forums).

Then enter into the dealership and say "I am ready to do a deal right now for this price, I've done all my research and know exactly what car I want. Here's the price I am going to pay, you know it's fair, I know it's fair, it gives you $1,000 of dealer profit and I want to get this done as fast as humanly possible to get you on to your next sale."

You'd be surprised at how attractive that is for a salesman. If they can make $1,000 in an hour, or make $2,000 over 8 hours of hard sales work, they will choose your deal all day long. Best of all, you get what you want, which is a lower price, and they get what they want, which is to maximize their commissions per hour of their time.


Knowing your BATNA (if I search long enough I can find another person who is willing to sell me the same car for cheaper) can make the difference. That's perhaps the most useful lesson I learned from GTY. In this kind of "competitive deals", if the deal is ever done it will favour the party which held the hardest position; knowing your BATNA helps you stay hard if you have a good reason to do so, even if you're a soft person. It's a bit like the difference between a well calculated poker bet and a complete gamble.


I think the thing most people struggle with is #2. Prior to reading Getting to Yes and taking a seminar on Negotiations, it was certainly the thing I most failed to realize. People seem to be so concerned about "losing" during negotiations that they dig themselves far too deep into their positions, while failing to really realize what they actually need, let alone what the other party needs. I'm actually shocked at how much my real-world bargaining outcomes have improved since having these concepts introduced to me.

And the book is very short, to boot, so it's quick to read and doesn't contain much fluff.

It's worth noting that the book tries to touch on negotiations where the other party is purely adversarial, and many negotiation situations are still approached this way by very experienced negotiators, but it isn't enough of a focus to really give particularly strong advice in this area. Still, some of the major principles still apply and by still focusing on your interests and understanding your position (BATNA, bottom line, etc.) will put you in a much stronger place when dealing with tough situations.


It is important to note that this book and others talk about negotiating and reaching a win-win agreement but you can confront on situations where the other party is happy only in a win-loose situation. This aspect of negotiation change with culture.


If you only get one book on negotiation, get Getting to Yes. If you get two books, get Bargaining for Advantage as well.

Bargaining for advantage differs from Getting to Yes in that it's more of a tactical guide, and BFA's advice works not only in collaborative situations, but also in adversarial zero-sum negotiations.

I truly understood the value of negotiation when I walked out of a happy vendor's boardroom having just cut my expenses by over $60,000 using a couple emails, a phone call, and a two-hour meeting.


BfA is my goto book, +1 on the recommendation


for those looking for the adversarial approach, there's also Start with No (http://amzn.to/16QO6sO). While I haven't really used those tactics, I did find many of the strategies outlined employed in the corporate environment.


When I was a trial attorney, I wrote an article called, "Ten Rules of Negotiation". Here's a link to the pdf:

https://skydrive.live.com/redir?resid=641BD45A41B1BD6C!645&#...


Nice article. You might want to change this sentence though:

> You can always go up, but never down (or vice versa).

That last part radiates an inconsistent signal :-)


This article is more like an appetizer and not a meal.

The author's basically telling us to not be afraid of negotiations because they're an opportunity to gain something not just one to lose something.

That's the only idea I got from there. Even splitting it into two epiphanies seems like overkill.


While I loved the sentiment, that was woefully brief and seemed to focus mostly on buying a good, such as a car or toaster. Here's a larger guide.

If you think you're close in price, the first person to name a price usually loses

For example, if you want to hire someone to do recruiting for you, if they say they charge X% of a candidates salary, you might find out that X% is less than what you were willing to pay. Win! (Assuming you trust their competence).

This isn't always true, though. If you think someone is willing to offer 25K on a contract and you start our with 75K (even though you'd settle for 40K), you might radically readjust their thinking of the value. Car salesmen do this all the time when they tell you that $5,000 car is selling for $13,000.

Isolate the other side's true objections to completing the deal, not the irrelevant fluff (this is hard)

If someone says "I don't know, your software doesn't implement X", they might be using this as a negotiating ploy and not as a real objection. Your response might be "so you're saying that if we implement X, you'll sign the contract?" If they say "yes", you have a real objection to work on. Otherwise, you may have to do more digging.

Most people won't agree until you've asked them several times, usually in different ways.

People rarely say "yes" the first time, but you can't just repeat "will you buy this now?" five times. Instead, when they don't say "yes", you need to spend time isolating their objections or trying to build more rapport.

Only budge in small amounts

I've seen this kill so many deals. If you're selling a project for 10K and you're suddenly willing to drop to 6K, the other side will very reasonably start questioning the actual value. If they're stuck on price (really bad!), and you say well, what if I can get management to agree to 9.8K? That's setting up expectations of not having much wiggle room in price and that perhaps the price is actually fair.

Compromise

This can be hard if you're just selling a toaster, but if there are several aspects to a deal, try to balance them. For example, if your customer insists upon only paying 7K for that 10K product, but you also offer support for three years, try saying "what if I can get you 9.1K, but as a compromise, you allow the support contract to only run for a year?"

Notice that you're still not dropping your price much (keeping them in the realm of "we have real value in this product"), but you're trying to meet their immediate need (price) and they help you out by letting you lower some other costs.

Sell on value, not price

Critical! There's a reason people still pay for Microsoft Office rather than simply adopting the free alternatives: for many people's needs, MS Office is simply a better value. Once you convince someone of the value of something, everything else is much, much easier. If your business plan revolves around "cheaper than all of our competitors", you've already lost. It's often OK if you're cheaper than your competitors ... your clients will discover this ... but they won't buy if they're not sold on value.

In fact, many have discovered that higher prices often convince people of higher value even though it's not manifestly true. I know of one person (who I am obviously not going to name) whose business was dying, even though he offered a very competitive product. He got frustrated one day and jacked his prices through the roof. Sales increased magnificently and now he has a large staff and is developing multiple products.


Very well written Ovid!

I was about to write my own guide based on my experience, but I scrapped it after seeing your answer. I see we agree on point 2. But the Number 1 point I think is to identify when you are in a negotiation and when you are in an impasse.

To me a negotiation is when you both know there is a middle ground, and are both trying to find it. An impasse is when the colloquial unstoppable force meets the immovable object.

For example, theists and atheists(not agnostics) will never fundamentally agree about the existence of a god. The time wasted and bitterness generated over this is just not worth it, and you should look at walking away if you can.

How to identify if you're in an impasse? That's where point number 2 comes in. Identify what are the real objections and what is fluff. If the real objection is fundamentally opposite to yours and not merely orthogonal, then you have an impasse.


Very nice reply. Wish I had thought to include that :)


I would add a couple more here. First, having a willingness to walk away from the deal, and a number or point to do so, is key in my experience.

Second, don't negotiate just because you think you should. I see this quite a bit with very young job seekers. They get an offer above their expectations and at or above perceived market rate, and they feel they need to negotiate just because they think they should always negotiate.

Lastly, have a sense of timing when negotiating. Let the other side think about things for a bit. Tell the other side you want to give it thought and let them believe that you may walk away from a deal.


Yes. Always be willing to walk away from that deal (I should have pointed that out!), but make sure that if you're at the point where you've decided to do so, that it's impossible to get the other side past that point. Being at that point doesn't mean you'll stay there.



It seems to me that some of these (e.g. "always flinch at the first offer") will be immediately seen as obvious negotiating ploys and will make the other party question (or even dismiss) anything else you might have to say.


Don't you think that by showing that you have negotiation skills, even by employing more or less obvious ploys, you actually show the other part you can play the game just as well as they can? ...so they can stop trying to out-game you and they can start thinking about offers that really make sense both for you and for them.

...I think a lot of business deals start to make more sense once you "de-gamificate" them: you show the other part that "gaming" tricks won't work in this negotiation because you're on the same level as they are on using them, so both parties can now concentrate on a compromise offer that provides the best "real value" for both! I know, "make more sense" doesn't mean "make more money", but you end up with more satisfied customers and you end up doing business in segment of the market where there's less "gaming" to waste your energy on, so you can concentrate on improving and diversifying products or forging better customer relations.

Maybe the best way to "win" a negotiation is to "kill" it, i.e. turn it into something that's no longer a negotiation, where it's obvious that no one side can "win", no fucking way, so both parties can concentrate on the best possible compromise. (Yeah, the "pro gamers" will never want to do business with you again an will try to keep you away from any of their future businesses and negotiations, because your ways are "bad for business", but maybe this is not the segment you want to play in in the first place!)


Don't you think that by showing that you have negotiation skills, even by employing more or less obvious ploys, you actually show the other part you can play the game just as well as they can? ...so they can stop trying to out-game you and they can start thinking about offers that really make sense both for you and for them.

...I think a lot of business deals start to make more sense once you "de-gamificate" them: you show the other part that "gaming" tricks won't work in this negotiation because you're on the same level as they are on using them, so both parties can now concentrate on a compromise offer that provides the best "real value" for both!

Yes, and that's what I have a problem with. I believe (very naively, I realise) that negotiations should _start_ with trying to find the "compromise offer that provides the best "real value"". What you seem to be suggesting (if I understand you correctly) is that one should first try to con the opposing party unless they're in on the game, in which case you move on to a "proper" negotiation. Whenever I see someone trying to do that to me, my immediate impulse is to kill the negotiation and walk away right there (perhaps go try to find someone less slimy to deal with). And I do realise that this can result in me losing out and I probably wouldn't last long in business, but cheap manipulation is something I just can't stomach. I guess that's why I'm a developer and not a businessman...

Maybe the best way to "win" a negotiation is to "kill" it, i.e. turn it into something that's no longer a negotiation, where it's obvious that no one side can "win", no fucking way, so both parties can concentrate on the best possible compromise.

That pretty much has been my "tactic" in the past. I realise that this means I miss out on dealing with the "pro gamers", but, well, fuck'em.


> is that one should first try to con the opposing party unless they're in on the game

I don't say the should, but they always try to do if they think they can get away with it! Now, "con" is a relative term, and I don't say you should "walk away right there", no f way! But if you show them that you too have "gaming" skills to match their league, some will just drop the game and go to a "fair compromise" mode, which is the mode I like doing business in. What I call a "pro gamer" is someone that will never drop out of the gaming mode (or at least drop to "lower gaming mode" where it's obvious we're looking for a compromise that works well enough for both side although nobody really "wins") either because they are better than most others at "gaming" and they know it, or because they just enjoy gaming for gaming's sake...


"Don't you think that by showing that you have negotiation skills, even by employing more or less obvious ploys, you actually show the other part you can play the game just as well as they can?"

No, because automatically rejecting the first offer doesn't show that you have negotiation skills, it shows that you're just cargo-culting a list of negotation tactics.


A lot of it is situational as well. If you cargo-cult a list of negotiation tactics for long enough with a souvenir vendor, you might actually get quite close to their reserve price (they're quite used to playing the game, quite enjoy it and will see a great opportunity to upsell you a whole lot of other bargain-priced items starting from even more inflated prices.).

If you try the flinch in a serious business meeting, you've just made yourself look out of your depth, even if it's a convincing flinch. And whilst creating "higher authorities" to check with or appearing uninterested might encourage the other party to rush in with a more appealing offer, if they're competent and not desperate it'll probably make them less willing to show their hand (why would they negotiate with you if you're not willing and able to do it?)


But the person across the table may be trying the same, and often is.


This is exactly what happened when I got a quote for a new boiler recently. He asked how much I thought it would cost, I told him, and he did the, "you really don't know anything" flinch and wide-eyed stare.

I responded by rolling my eyes and putting all my guards up.


There are lots of little psychological tricks and bluffs that can be risky if the other party knows what you're doing. Regardless of those, I think the key is really:

•Know what you want and don't be shy to ask for it

•Know what you have that the other party wants

I don't think a good negotiator is necessarily someone who gets the best deal on everything--especially if it requires a long, dragged-out negotiation, because that time and stress is also a cost. Rather, it's someone who knows what they have, knows what they want, and can turn the former into the latter at a high rate of success, and with positive net value gain to him or herself.


I had a college class on "Negotiation and Conflict Management." Getting to Yes was one of the required texts for that class. It is research-based and short. So adding my voice to the chorus of recommendations. Our other text was The mind and heart of the negotiator. It is a much meatier book and also reasearch-based. I highly recommend it as well.


Should have been titled A Non-Negotiator's Guide to Negotiating: Become a Negotiator


I recognize a lot of the same things that pop up when pyramid schemes are exposed. They're filled with men who think they can somehow extract huge value with their personal deal making skills. It is striking how few women do that.


The book "You can negotiate anything" is also a pretty good resource. Its an older book. Includes techniques I have not read elsewhere. Its actually more of a social engineering approach to negotiation, but it works like a charm.


This book was published last month in UK

http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Yes-Book-Better-Negotiation/dp/0...


Well written, the mindset is more important than negotiating skills.


Well written, but the title isn't at all accurate (this is hardly a guide) - more appropriately "Two Things to Consider Before and While Negotiating".

I think having the proper mindset is important as well, but the mindset as she describes it seems more about managing expectations than about being an effective negotiator. This advice may help your approach but once a negotiation begins this content won't be very helpful.




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