Negotiation: Do we have a deal?

REWIRE-logo-THUMBAs the chief executive of a negotiation training company, Natalie Reynolds believes everyone can learn to be a good negotiator. Here she shares six common mistakes.

Mistake 1: Negotiation is all about winning

It isn’t. Not outwardly anyway. At the end of the negotiation, you want the other party to feel like they have “won”. If they feel like they have lost, the negotiation ends and they will be the client or customer who keeps coming back, asking for more, making late payments, not prioritising your requests or just being generally uncooperative.

Nobody likes to feel like a fool. So at the end of the negotiation, make sure you behave with grace and professionalism. Make them feel like they have won, even if you know that you have secured the deal of a lifetime.

Mistake 2: Avoiding negotiation is a clever strategy

I know, let’s just skip that negotiation part! No-one really likes doing it, so let’s just cut to the chase and save time. It’s just a game, right? Wrong.

A common mistake is to try to bypass the negotiation entirely, believing that both you and the other party will be grateful that they have avoided all that unnecessary awkwardness. The problem with this strategy is that, despite the old saying, people do look a gift horse in the mouth. If something is too easy, people start to wonder why that was the case and what might be wrong with the deal they have just (so easily) agreed to.

Mistake 3: Negotiating in silos

When negotiating a deal with lots of variables, it can be tempting to try to reach early agreement on some of the bigger issues. We routinely see people pairing off variables, negotiating them and then taking them off the table as “agreed”. They work their way through the issues, trading two at a time – until guess what you are left with? Those difficult and contentious issues you are going to really struggle to reach agreement on.

You can only assess how successful you have been in relation to each variable if you look at the deal as a whole. That fee you negotiated early on and took off the table as “agreed”? It doesn’t look so great once you realise you have accepted a raw deal on deadline and payment terms. Adopt the mindset that your deal is a “total value package” and “nothing should be agreed until everything is agreed”.

Mistake 4: It’s not you, it’s me

When we approach a negotiation, we often spend most of our time thinking of all the reasons the outcome is important to us. We get bogged down in thinking about deadlines, expectations, demands, targets, pressure from competitors, ambition or whatever it might be that matters to us.

We allow this to cloud our thinking and in doing so we ramp up the pressure on ourselves to do well.

This often results in anxiety, fear and nervousness clouding our judgment, planning and performance.

Smart negotiators realise the best way to diffuse the pressure of our own expectations is to simply acknowledge these pressures and then put them to one side. The real set of pressures and priorities that we should be thinking about exist in the head of our counterparty.

Even if they do come across as powerful and intimidating, they too will have deadlines, expectations from colleagues and demands from their boss.

Mistake 5: Underestimating the difference it can make

A routine excuse people give for not negotiating for that “bit more” or the “best they can possibly get” is that they have already got an “okay” deal and that they worry that the risk of negotiating or continuing to negotiate is just not worth the effort. Or they are worried that they might look greedy.

Before you decide to call it quits and just settle for what you have, remember that little things add up. Take the example of two 30-year-old workers starting the same job and being offered the same annual salary of £100,000. One accepts £100,000 and one negotiates for more, securing £106,000.

If they worked for 35 years, both receiving 4% uplifts each year, the employee that did not negotiate will need to work six extra years to be as wealthy at retirement as the one who did.

Or imagine the effect on your firm if you could get an extra 5% on every fee agreed worldwide just by negotiating more effectively.

Mistake 6: Being scared of rejection

Nobody likes to be rejected. It is because of this that I routinely see people falling apart and losing focus as soon as they hear the word “no” when they are negotiating. We have to learn to stop being afraid of no and instead start to reframe our relationship with it.

Try seeing “no” as an opportunity or a springboard to explore just what could be possible. View “no” as the starting point to building a solution that could lead to “yes”.


Natalie Reynolds is the founder and chief executive of advantageSPRING, a specialist global negotiation training company. A barrister by training, Reynolds spent 12 years in the public sector and central government before moving to work as a commercial director for a FTSE 100 company. Her book, We Have a Deal: How to negotiate with intelligence, flexibility and power is published on 3 March by Icon Books and is available to order now on Amazon at