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Five Phrases That Don't Help in Negotiations

Jeevan Sivasubramaniam Posted by Jeevan Sivasubramaniam, Managing Director, Editorial, Berrett-Koehler Publishers Inc.



Five Phrases That Don't Help in Negotiations

Don Hutson and George Lucas have been in the negotiations arena for a long time -- as academics, as consultants, as professional negotiators, and as authors. They've learned a lot of things in the time they've been doing this work that they want to educate others about.

Words and statements in a negotiation are like a hammer. You can use them to build a house or to just beat the heck out of your thumb. Below are five examples where small twists to what you say can make a huge difference. Change the words and you can change your fate.

1."We need a 5% to 10% [or substitute your percentage range numbers accordingly] price increase." People think this shows flexibility, but in reality it indicates you are uncertain what you want and lack confidence that you deserve any increase at all. It's not like they're going to say,"Oh, I have to give you 10% more or I could not sleep at night!"

2."You did not understand me." This is actually a highly competitive comment that people use when they think they're clarifying things. The statement should be, "Perhaps I'm not explaining myself as clearly as I should be." The onus should be on you to insure you got the point across.

3."We can live with that price, let's tie the deal down." This sounds wonderful, but you may have just told the other side they left money on the table. Even if you like the number and it has been a collaborative encounter, you still want to ask a few questions in terms of what is included and not included so they other side does not feel they made the deal too fat.

4."We are asking for $[enter amount] but that number is negotiable." Of course all numbers are negotiable, but you just told them you do not think what you are selling is worth the amount you quoted. State your number, and per point #1 above, state it as one number and not a range. Also, state the number slowly, in a low and confident tone, while looking not only in their eyes, but almost like you're looking into the back of their skulls.

5."We can't possibly get you the item by [deadline date]." You think you're being clear, but in reality you just stated your inability to deliver by this date as a non-negotiable. Non-negotiables should be very few in number and generally tied to legal, ethical, and organizational policy issues. A better answer is to come back with, "That date is going to be a challenge, we could make that happen but only if you are willing to sign a contract today, pay for express shipping, and identify a contact person on your side we will have direct and open access to 24/7." With this response you may have just gotten the agreement of your dreams.

Thoughts? Responses? Other tactics? Chime in below.