The Secret to Negotiating a Better Deal

Years ago, my boss suddenly resigned. I was pretty sure his boss would offer me his job, but it didn’t happen immediately. He told me he wanted to think it over and consider his options.

A Pen and Contracts - Photo courtesy of ©, Image #5206508

Photo courtesy of ©

Frankly, I was disappointed. From my perspective, it was a no-brainer. I was the logical choice!

I could have reacted in several ways:

  • I could have pouted.
  • I could have written a memo, detailing my qualifications.
  • I could have launched a campaign, asking people I knew he respected to recommend me.

Instead, I smiled and said, “No problem. Take your time.”

I then maintained a positive attitude and worked hard. A few days later, he made his decision and offered me the promotion. I was thrilled.

In this brief transaction, I was acting on a piece of advice I had gleaned from Dr. James Dobson’s book, Love Must Be Tough, an unlikely but powerful negotiation resource:

He who needs the other person the least is in control of the relationship.

Love it or hate it, this is the best negotiating advice I have ever received. I have put it to use in countless situations:

  • It works in buying a car, real estate, or other property.
  • It works in negotiating the salary and benefits for a new job or a promotion.
  • It even works in parenting and other interpersonal relationships.

The trick is to really put yourself in the position where you don’t need the other person as badly as they need you. How do you do that? Three suggestions:

  1. Be a “don’t-wanter.” Never fall in love with something you are trying to acquire—at least not at first. Be a little aloof. Don’t get emotionally attached. Kick the tires. (I learned this concept from Robert G. Allen, author of numerous financial books)
  2. Don’t get too eager. I have usually found in negotiations that the first person to name a number loses. Let the other person go first. Pace your responses to theirs. If they take 24 hours to respond, you should take 24 hours to respond.
  3. Give yourself options. This is the most important suggestion. The more options you have, the more you will believe you don’t need any particular offer. For example, want to sell a car at the best price? Generate multiple offers. It will change your negotiating posture and put you in a position of strength.

This may sound manipulative or even unethical, but I don’t think you can afford to ignore the very real psychology that is at work in serious negotiations. You do so to your own determent.

And if you are ultimately committed to negotiating win-win relationships (as I am), you can still do so. You can just ensure that the other party doesn’t win at your expense.

By the way, if you want to beef up your negotiating skills, I highly recommend Roger Dawson’s very helpful book, Secrets of Power Negotiating.

Question: What is your best negotiating tactic? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • Dave Hearn

    We’re looking into buying a house right now, so this is some timely advice.  Thanks!

    My best tactic: Like you said, you can’t be too emotionally attached.  Walk away.  (Works well with buying a car)  There are always other dealerships, there are always other cars.  Be prepared to walk away…  

    …the salesman will usually “chase” you one way or the other if he wants the sale.

    • Black Seo Guy

      Dave..I do lots of real estate one of the hardest things to do is to walk away form a property your loving. But you just can;t show your cards if you want a good deal.

      “Black Seo Guy “Signing Off”

      • Jim Hardy

        I believe that say do not make decisions based on emotion. They have to be a business decision.


      • Robert Ewoldt

        This is such good advice.

    • Joe Lalonde

      Hope the house buying goes well. It’s an emotional experience for sure.

      • Caleb McNary

        When I bought a house last year, my wife and I kept reminding ourselves, this isn’t the last good deal, or the last house we will ever like, it made the ups and downs of closing much easier.

        • Joe Lalonde

          Caleb, that’s a great mindset to have when looking for a house. It looks like you and your wife knew how to deal with the situation.

          Trouble can come when you have differences in how one spouse or the other doesn’t know how to deal. Some people see things and think that they must have it and make it known. Others play it cool and collected and don’t show their hand. The difficult part comes when you and your spouse have the opposite type of personality. I’ve seen people pay more for a house and a vehicle because they mentioned how much they loved it to the seller/realtor while the other person was trying to play it calm.

          • Caleb McNary

            Ha! Good point. My wife is usually the cool and collected one. I finally came around, though.

          • Jim Hardy


            I agree. You have to keep a calm head.


    • Gregory C.

      So true, when I bought my first house I got a great deal, but only because I was able to walk away from a few places I really enjoyed, just because I knew the price wasn’t right.

    • Robert Ewoldt

      Buying a house can be a very emotional experience… it pays to slow down and do all the due diligence.

  • Leah Adams

    Great advice. Love the Dobson quote. That is so applicable to so many things. Think I grab that one and use it in a message I’m writing. thanks.

    • Michael Hyatt

      I like the Dobson quote, too. I am always afraid someone is going to react negatively to it, but it is just so true!

      • Caleb McNary

        I think the quote is easy to take out of context and take it to mean manipulation. But, I take it to mean that the person who has the correct perspective on how much we are supposed to rely on each other. If we rely on someone too much, we give them control that was never supposed to be theirs. Its a fine line for sure.

  • Chris Cornwell

    I am currently in a situation where I am confident that I have not been empowered to properly lead. I do what I can with what I can. I am confident that pride is governing the journey of others and a misguided decision is about to be made.

    Without being confrontational, is it possible to be the first person to say something, and then put to practice what we’ve read here?

    • Michael Hyatt

      No, I think you can put the proposal out there. I was often in this situation with one boss. I always presented him with two options. If we make the decision this way, here are the likely results. If we do it the other way, here are the results. I always tried to quantify everything and make it compelling, but I made it clear the choice was his. I didn’t reveal that I cared too much about the outcome. (In that sense, I remained a little aloof and not too emotionally invested in the outcome.)

      • Chris Cornwell

        Thanks Michael. I will continue to pray about how to proceed. Your insight helps!

  • W. Mark Thompson

    Based on this post, I did some things right and could have done a couple of things a little differently last time I bought our car(s). I think we did okay. Probably because I really didn’t feel like that was our only option. Didn’t really NEED it. There is a car lot on every corner around here. Good advice.

    • Jim Hardy

      I agree. It is better to walk away and clear your head and then go back if it is the right thing to do.


  • David Barry DeLozier

    When I’m buying (especially houses, cars) knowing everything I can about fair market value, competitor’s incentives, seller’s position, etc. cuts through a lot of “puffery” and earns respect.  When I’m selling (particularly my services) a satisfaction guarantee works well.  “Let me do this and if you don’t like it, you don’t pay me.”  I’ve earned a number of long-term clients that way. 

    • Michael Hyatt

      A guarantee can be huge. Take the risk out of the sale!

  • Katarina

    I read Dr.James Dobson ‘s book two years ago – stumbled across it actually but i have found his advice to be highly practical

    This advice is going to be useful as i will be negotiating something similar jobwise in a couple of weeks

  • Craig Grella

    So true, the one with “juice” was always in the position of power, at least that’s what I learned from my previous life as a literary agent in Hollywood. I got to see some interesting negotiating styles, which included the screamer – the one who would yell and scream at your offer no matter how high it was; the favor asker – the one who would try to buddy up to you to get a few extra concessions; and my personal favorite – the one who always did their homework to find out what the other side needed and what they were likely willing to give away to get it. I always liked a book “You can Negotiate Anything” by Herb Cohen. He subscribes to the win-win attitude as well, which is sometimes hard to accomplish in a negotiation where both sides don’t necessarily subscribe to that philosophy.

    • Jim Hardy

      Thank you for the book suggestion.


      • Craig Grella

        My pleasure Jim, hope you like it.

    • Michael Hyatt

      I like your description of negotiating types. If you have a blog, this would make a great post. Thanks.

      • Craig Grella

        I do,, and thanks for the idea, it might make a really funny post if I can relate that to negotiating with the kids.

    • Uma Maheswaran S

      Craig! Thanks for the book “You can Negotiate Anything” by Herb Cohen. I will be looking for that.

  • Tamara Taylor

    Do you think this theory stands for work in a church, too?

    • Michael Hyatt

      Even more so.

      • Dave

        It definitely is for those working in church.  Church can be just as political an atmosphere as any office place.

        Great advice, Michael.  Only wish I had read it about 20 years ago!

      • Brandon Robbins

        I agree. 

  • Susie Davis

    Fabulously helpful.
    Fits in line with ‘guarding your heart’ … and not letting hopes, dreams and aspirations get lodged in the wrong place.
    Thanks so much!

  • Kdowden

    If you are the “amateur” who is negotiating with a “professional,” you should do your best to be as informed as possible about the item you are trying to acquire. Not only should you be knowledgeable about the product, but you also need to learn the common sales tactics that are used to get the buyer to pay more.

    A couple of years ago, I purchased a van from a local dealer. I researched all the information about the van, and the tactics used by car salesmen to hook buyers into paying the most.

    Additionally, as you said Michael, I went to the lot determined to not get emotionally attached to a vehicle. This gave me an upper hand of sorts, because I knew I could walk way at any time without regret.

    Finally, being able to pay for the purchase with cash enables you to avoid a lot of the negotiating traps, because it eliminates the need to finance, which removes some of the stress off the buyer and places it on the seller. Cash sets a firm limit on what you can afford. Plus, our desire to protect our cash will force us to make better deals.

    So, when the salesman threw several “bling” options at me, I was able to resist the typical sales tactics and purchased the van at a great discount to me.

    • John Nemo

      Great point on the “cash” idea when buying a car. Right after college, when she needed her first car, my wife literally had a check from her father in hand for $6,200 to buy a car. We took the actual check to the dealership, and even though the car we REALLY wanted was priced at $8,500, the dealer told us “Just come on by and we can talk.”

      We haggled for 3-4 hours (I put the full story in the comments here) and using her dad’s check as a powerful prop, I’d wave it in the air and say, “Look, this is LITERALLY how much money we have to spend. Taxes, title, fees – it can only add up to THIS much!”

      It worked like a charm!

      • Jim Hardy

        Great advice John.


  • Jen Schmidt

    My husband coined that same sentiment by statement by Dobson and phrased it, “The Law of Least Interest.” He is always using this in life lessons with our teen sons, so when I just read the quote, I had to call him and asked if he actually made up the phrase. He responded, ” I always thought I did, but you can google it just to make sure.” We had a good chuckle knowing he was in good company with men we respect. ;)

    Jen from Balancing Beauty and Bedlam

    • Michael Hyatt

      I like labeling this as a law. It definitely operates as a law! Thanks.

  • Jamsmooth

    Yay now Michael is giving dating advice!

    • Brandon Robbins

      This advice does seem to fit into the dating scene as well, doesn’t it? ;)

    • Michael Hyatt

      WIth five daughters, I have had HOURS of practice—not only welcomed, I might add. ;-)

  • John Lambert

    Great insights here Mr. Hyatt.  I used to be a top internet sales man for a few car dealerships before I went to the mission field.  It was great training for me in interacting with people.  Another way of saying what Dr. Dobson said is, “Want it,… but not that bad.”  You have to be in the game enough to make the other person want to be motivated as well, but your aloofness and coolness at key moments can work to your advantage.  People who were in desperation to buy, who NEEDED this car, and had little options because they had not done their homework were the ones who got the worse deals.  I would learn a valuable lesson during this season, “You don’t get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate.”  Thankfully, most of the people I negotiated with had been online and done their homework.  They were prepared and if they were really in the market, we could easily make a deal.  I also learned walk a fine line on the other side of the fence of “wanting their business, but not that bad.”

    • John Nemo

      Great points, John! Especially about being aloof and cool at key moments. Being able to seem ready to walk away, no matter how much I’d battled and no matter how long we’d negotiated, almost ALWAYS worked in getting the car sales guy to lean my way.

    • Jim Hardy

      Really good point John. You are right. you have to do your home work or you can get taken to the cleaners.


  • Mari-Anna Frangén Stålnacke

    What gives me freedom to be unattached to possibilities is praying for staying in God’s will. If something is not God’s will for me I simply don’t want it. Whether it is a lucrative job opportunity, a huge publishing deal or a tempting marriage proposal. So I am happy to say “No problem, take your time” while I pray and leave the matter to God.

  • Lorraine

    My best car buy happened when I was ready to walk and look at more dealerships. The salesman asked the standard, “what can I do to make you happy with this car/deal?” I was ready–told him I wanted the then-lowest rate on my car loan, heated front seats, and a hold-the-groceries net in the trunk. I got them. Of course, I’d already looked at and turned down other similar cars so I knew what car I really wanted and the normal asking price/sales price, and I shopped at the end of the month for “last year’s car” when the new cars were on their lot.   Now I wonder if I’d done even better if I’d read the books you and your readers are recommending.

    This column, Michael, is going to stay with me. Thanks!

  • Ron Dawson

    Great advice Michael. Years ago I learned the concept of BATNA – the best alternative to a negotiated agreement. (Google it). In short, having something you can turn to that is just as good as that which you are negotiating for. If you go into a negotiation without one, you’ve most likely already lost.

    • Michael Hyatt

      Great concept, Ron. Thanks for sharing it.

  • Chris

    Good article.  I completely agree w/Dr. Dobson.  It has me intrigued enough to buy the book. 

  • Lincoln Parks

    This is all so true and relevant. Making sure you are not emotionally attached is what makes it happen for me during Negotiations. My prospect see’s that I am willing to let them go and walk away from the table without blinking..It works almost all of the time for me..

  • Anonymous

    Needed this.  We’re in the process of selling our house and buying bigger in the middle of the worst real estate market in my lifetime.  (If anyone out there is relocating to GA, let me know!)

    Loved Dobson’s book when I read it about 17 years ago.  Might be time to reread it.  Hadn’t thought of connecting it to buying and selling.

    Thanks for this article.

  • Jason Lawrence

    The most important aspect to negotiating i have learned through numerous job raises and selling appliances is to not be afraid to walk away. I know it is cliche but you are right about placing yourself in positions of power. at a job this means you must make yourself indispensable. you accomplish this by making it seem that no one else could do your job better than you and maybe you should have more responsibility. extreme competence is required for this. when you go home don’t leave your job keep thinking about it. and never fall into the trap of thinking small. for example one day i made the announcement to my fellow workers that i was going to sell 15000 dollars of appliances in one day. this was at a  store where appliances were the department that always lost money. they laughed at me. i sold 20000 that day. one week later i was awarded salesman of the year(i had only worked there for 3 months.) it requires careful planning and intense working. then you seem much more valuable than you may be. 

    • Michael Hyatt

      This is a great example. Thanks for sharing it.

  • Dan McCoy

    This is all great advice. Once engrained in your brain these tactics help you control your emotions in all the negotiations of life. What most don’t realize is that we negotiate in nearly everything we do. Be it our relationship with our wives or our friends, or things we buy, decisions are made with emotion. The only thing you can control in a negotiation is YOUR on reaction and emotions. As you state being needy will make you a looser. It’s ok to want something but when you need it, you loose.

    I have to disagree with one thing, and that is thte concept of win-win. Win-win is built on compromise and when you are working with a win-win negotiator, it usually means their approach is that someone or more than one party is going to have to compromise or give something up to “win”. The absolute worst approach to walking into a negotiation is to go it thinking about what you are going to give up to get the deal.

    It’s critical to have a valid mission and purpose when you walk into a negotiation. The key is that that m&p must be set in the OTHER persons world. Your purpose could be something like “Help them to see that area of their business that could be improved by my widget” Your focus walking into the negotiation is now one that puts your mind into thinking about things in in terms of what helps them. It allows you to create value for them and dollars follow value. Some of the best deals I’ve had the privilege to negotiate have sort of fallen into my lap because I was focusing on myself.

    For more info, I suggest checking out Jim Camps, book, “Start With No”. You can actually download his book in audio format free on his website. I’ve had the priviledge to be mentored briefly by Jim and it’s redefined the way I think. This mindset helped shape the value creation and production that will be the subjection of my first book. My new blog launches Monday and I am excited to be writing this book online and gathering feedback to shape what gets inked.

    Thank you Michael Hyatt for leading on purpose. You great thoughts have allowed me to stay focused on a mindset that has changed my life.

    • Brandon Robbins

      This blog is such a valuable resource to me. Mike’s advice & insight has had such a great impact in my life. Glad to see others in the same boat. :)

    • Jim Hardy

      Thank you for sharing the website.


      • Dan McCoy

        You are welcome Jim.

  • Michael Bernt

    By trade I am a buyer and customer of Nelson where I first started following your daily messages – I find your values and knowledge valueable so firstly I wish to thank you for your time in sharing!
    In line with “needing the other person”, I have learned that “silence is golden” – too many times we talk too much and talk our way right out of a deal. Secondly, with regards to “win-win” – not sure if some people understand this concept but in my mind it means everyone has to make a buck or they can not stay in business – moreover if you squeeze too hard not only will the other party not wish to do business with you but you will have a poor relationship and when you need product you will be low person on the totem pole.

    • Michael Hyatt

      My dad taught me to ask for the sale or name the number, then shut up. Most people start negotiating with themselves.

  • JD Eddins

    I especially appreciate the second piece of advice about pacing yourself and trying to match the other person’ s level of enthusiasm. I recently sold my old car.  I already had another one sitting at home, so I didn’t need to make a certain amount on sale.  Really I just needed to get it sold quickly.  I know I could have negotiated a better deal if I had been more patient, however the cost in time was more valuable to me than the money.

  • Jean-Paul

    In the words of my favorite author and speaker – Dave Ramsey – “You have to have walk-away power.” Beyond that the only way I can feel good about a deal is if it’s a win-win for both parties – plain and simple.

    • Brandon Robbins

      “You have to have walk-away power.” That’s great! I agree. I had not heard that before, but it is all so true. Thanks for sharing it.

    • Uma Maheswaran S

      Thanks for the quote Jean. Making win-win is a great skill.

  • ThatGuyKC

    This is genius! I’ve fallen victim to being the one who needs the other person most. Definitely going to keep this in mind as we’re looking into buying a house soon and my career is in a season of change.

  • David C Alves

    Sorry that I’m the only challenging voice here. I really appreciate you and point people to your blog constantly. You are a virtual mentor of sorts. But a thought struck me . . . 

    I can see where you felt a “check” (perhaps in your spirit) over methodology. A growing sense overtook me as I read. Finally the question came: How Jesus would negotiate? Whose interest would have been foremost in his mind and would he flirt with deception to act uninterested in an outcome? These I applied to myself because I desire to negotiate as He would have. In which case, I would probably allow for the other to benefit. This sounds amazing . . . I know.

    But we did just that when a church asked $170,000. for their building. We elders prayed for several weeks. Then we counter-offered at $175,000. The silence on the other end of the phone was actually amusing when I gave them the figure. Once they realized we were offering more because the Lord told us to be generous with them, word spread throughout the community. Our church has been held in high esteem among all the churches and community. Of course, that’s not why we did it, but it ended up a win-win when we let them win first. 

    Someone could argue that we’re out $5,000. but I don’t think you would.

    • R. Wayne Powell

      How would Jesus negotiate? …Wow.

      Lord, how would you? You gave it all. Laid it out there. Take it or leave it. But, you won’t let folks leave. You woo, you challenge, you beg sometimes, or maybe even walk off. But, you never give up. Obviously you’ve got more power in the relationship, but you let us have power to choose.

      At my church, I’m going after men.  I challenge them sometimes. I taunt them sometimes (although I’m getting away from taunting.) Sometimes it’s Wooing.  I’m even close to begging sometimes. It’s challenging. We feed ‘em steak. We also feed their souls. Whatever it takes.  And I’ve learned that “folks do what they want to do”.

      This post makes me think about “not wanting them too much”.   About laying it out there and letting God do the work. 

      Thank You, Michael. Definitely food for thought.

      • Jim Hardy

        Thank you for sharing. You provide some good things to think about.


      • Uma Maheswaran S

        That’s thoughtful insight Wayne! Thanks for sharing.

    • Michael Hyatt

      That is a great story. Thanks for sharing it.

      I do not think that what I am suggesting is deception. What I am saying is that you don’t have to reveal everything you know. There is a world of difference ethically.

  • Jim Smith

    Great blogg today Michael.  It’s very easy to become offended when things don’t necessarily line up the way we may initially anticipate.  Great insight.  Thanks

  • JeffreyJDavis

    Michael – great post, succinct and well written.  There is nothing unethical whatsoever about using intelligent negotiating technique.  Creating (real and perceived) lack of need is probably the key tool, as you reference.  I also recommend doing an objective analysis of the other party’s BATNA (Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement).  What if you don’t come to agreement, what’s the impact on them?

    Great tips though, I will be sharing this post.

  • Eric

    These are some great ideas. The key truly is being in the driver’s seat. If you’re in the passenger seat you have no control where you’re headed.

  • Andrea

    Wished I had this advice two weeks ago…I just took a new job, moving from freelance consulting to an actual job with benefits! 

    One of my pieces of advice, don’t look just @ money but at the other things that are important to you. For me, that was time off, while I couldn’t get them to move up much on actual dollars I was able to get an additional week off per year. This means more to me than the money did.

  • Joe Lalonde

    Loved it. I’m a bargainer at heart and this touches home. My best bargaining/negotiating tip is to be willing to walk away. At that point, the other person has to make a decision on whether or not he needs you.

    • Brandon Robbins

      Very true. 

  • PVT

    Loved your insights today as well as some of the comments, Michael.  My father taught me the fine art of negotiation (one of his master skills) by letting me negotiate for a car as a young woman.  Usually young women mean a sale waiting to happen for car salesmen, but I did my homework thoroughly (another of Dad’s master skills) and walked in with a friendly but professional demeanor, found a used car that I already knew the history on (father-in-law’s of the owner of the dealership) and listened to the seasoned salesman’s pitch as he practically drooled over this sure-fire commission.  After thoroughly looking over the car, we went to his office where he enthusiastically quoted me the “deal,” I countered a fair price (another thing Dad insisted on) which he chuckled over, at which point I pulled out my check book and pen, opened both and said, “Mine is a fair offer for this car in this market and I can write the check right now — are you sure you don’t need to consider it?”  Then I stopped talking and waited.  After a few minutes of his trying to charm me into backing off my position while I said nothing, I closed my checkbook, handed him my business card with my phone number circled on it, and said, “Well, if you change your mind by tomorrow close of business, give me a call because that’s when I will head another direction.”  I shook his hand and left.  That was late in the morning and he called by 6:00 PM that night and I had my car at my price.  I have bought all the cars for our family in the ensuing 40 years and applied Dad’s four rules successfully in many other situations as well.  1) Do your homework thoroughly — you owe yourself and the other person that consideration. 2) Be friendly but professional — this is a negotiation not a war or a silly game.  3) Demonstrate you can act on your offer (e.g., pull out the checkbook).   4) Then stop talking and wait, with an explicit reasonable timeline in mind and articulated — which may mean walking away but with a way for them to reopen the door in a timeline of your choosing.  Dad and I also believe you must honor your end of the offer –if you find something else in the meantime before the deadline, call them and tell them. Thus, I prefer to  keep the deadline fairly short and generally don’t look elsewhere in the meantime when I have an active deal on the table.   It works — I got a marriage proposal (vs. “going steady” in a commuter relationship) from my husband of 38 years the same way! :-) 

    • Jim Hardy

      Wow. Thank you for sharing your story.


  • Alex Humphrey

    Fantastic stuff, Michael.

    I have found the same thing to be true. When I am desperate for a job, client, or product I always find myself getting a raw deal. But when I go in knowing I don’t need this job, or this client, or this product but it would be nice to have them then I usually find myself in a much better deal (for both parties).

    Thanks for the reminder! I am shortly on my way to a job hunt to supplement my income a bit and I know this advice will help me considerably!

  • Tonia

    This really hit home with me today. Especially point no. 2

    “Don’t get too eager. I have usually found in negotiations that the first person to name a number looses. Let the other person go first. Pace your responses to theirs. If they take 24 hours to respond, you should take 24 hours to respond.” I worked for an insurance agent for many years; some of the best advice he gave me was to present my proposal or information and then BE QUIET! He always said that the first person to speak will not come out the winner. I have applied this to many different areas in my life and 99% of the time this is true! 

  • Karen Zeigler

    I’ve heard it put a little differently but same idea.  “He who cares the least has the most power.” Spiritually speaking as God’s creations He (meaning God) should be our only need.  When we are confident in that fact and trusting him then it’s easy to walk away because we are sure that He can and will supply all our needs (job, car, house, whatever).  But when we are in the middle of dealing with worry and the “what if’s” of the future and not walking in His peace we tend to come off desperate or needy.  Although I can’t quote a scripture close to the quote I do think that the root of the statement is pretty Biblical as I read the statement.  Good stuff as always. Good reminder when we find ourselves needy over some position, person or object that  we should check in with our Creator to have our needs met first.  Then if it is His pleasure and good purpose then he will assure that we have that position, person or object. 

  • Isokari

    First of all appraise the subject matter, make up my mind as to the value, then really behave like a “no-wanter”.  A friend at a car auction suggested this tactic and now it has been confirmed.  I will deploy these tactics you postulated, Michael!  Thanks a billion.

  • Author Rich Nilsen

    Very true. So in other words, be prepared. You need to prepare ahead of time to put yourself in this favorable position before negotiating.

  • Tjohnsoncamera

    My best tactic is to really know the market and the customers for this market.  Then I add a little something that no one else has to my product being offered. This is the key, the differentiation key.  I try to be as smart as I can with this. If the customer is sold on the new add on, I have a huge advantage.  It shows that I know what I am talking about, makes me the expert, and makes it easier to buy from me. This also protects my price and gives me the confidence to hold my ground.


  • Jack Lynady

    Love that line “He who needs the other person the least is in control of the relationship”. It’s similar to “He who makes you angry…controls you”. Good stuff.

  • John Nemo

    Great post and great topic!

    The best tactic I’ve learned as a customer is the ability to show the seller I’m willing to get up and walk away, no matter how long negotiations have gone on. No matter how much time, blood, sweat and tears I’ve put in. Because rarely is someone (especially a seller) who has also spent that much time, blood, sweat and tears negotiating with you going to WANT to let you get away!

    My wife needed to buy a car. After spending 3-4 brutal hours negotiating with a used car salesman and being put through the ringer (“I have to go talk to my boss” and all the rest), I was hungry, tired and frustrated. I had a pounding headache and just wanted it over with. Still, I got up to leave and said “no thanks,” even though we were now only $100 apart. He chased me through the parking lot. Literally ran after me. He couldn’t believe I’d walk away after all that time and effort.

    “You’re going to walk away over $100?!” he yelled at me, incredulous.

    “You’re going to LET me walk away over $100?” I shot back.

    He threw up his hands, made a big spectacle then told me to come back inside because he’d give me the price I wanted.

    I’ve done the same thing countless other times in all sorts of settings – with ticket scalpers at Minnesota Twins games, with extended warranties (especially for cars!), with home repair quotes, with Internet/TV service.

  • Anonymous

    Skill in negotiating is definitely key to successful transactions; Business and personal.  Michaels advice is very sound and simple – but not easy.  It takes time and practice to develop the self-control to maintain the calm through the negotiation. 

    I don’t have any great secret advice to give – except, to practice on small negotiations so that you will be calm, confident and poised when the time comes for the important things; like jobs, homes and cars.

  • Brett Cooper

    This was very helpful, thanks. And I appreciate that you made a point of noting that with this advice we can arm ourselves in order to insure a win-win rather than a win at all costs or another’s win at our expense.

  • Burl Walker

    Sadly, this is a strategy many take into marriage communication.

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  • Ashleigh Allen

    Very interesting idea. I see how that would really help to clarify what it is you want out of a negotiation and even understand better what the other person’s goals are. In college I read a great book about principled negotiation called “Getting to Yes” that I believe touched on some similar points, especially the importance of not getting overly attached to one solution or emotional about the thing you want. Thanks as always for the insightful post!

  • Laurel Holmgren

    Mr. Hyatt:

    I was completing a job interview and was told that I must take a drug test before the offer would be made. I shrugged, grinned, and said, “I’m a teetotaler; I’m not worried about it,” as I walked away. I enjoyed that job.

    Laurel Holmgren

  • Tracie Bertaut

    Two tips when negotiating – 1) Have a plan or “script” and rehearse; when talking by phone, it may help to have it in front of you.  This way you make sure you’ve said everything you wanted to say.  2) Be quiet.  When you’re done talking, remain silent, especially after you’ve made a point about something (I expected the salary to be higher based on my experience; I thought the sale price would be lower since the roof needs repairing, etc.).  We often rush to fill silence and give away our power.  

    • Jim Hardy


      Thank you for sharing. Ed Brodow give ten tips.

      Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want.
      2. Shut up and listen. 3. Do your homework. 4. Always be willing to walk away. 5. Don’t be in a hurry. 6. Aim high and expect the best outcome7. Focus on the other side’s pressure, not yours. 8. Show the other person how their needs will be met. 9. Don’t give anything away without getting something in return
      10. Don’t take the issues or the other person’s behavior personally.

      • Uma Maheswaran S

        “Don’t take the issues or the other person’s behavior personally.” – That’s a great advice Jim.

    • Uma Maheswaran S

      That’s true Tracie! Thanks for the tips!

  • Brandon Robbins

    Good thoughts here, Mike. Thanks for sharing this. I think it’s often easy to express how much we need or want a particular opportunity or deal, hoping the person or people who can make it possible will understand. However, this often puts us in an awkward position and we usually come out with less than we had hoped, probably because we are seen as willing to take whatever we can get.

  • Brandon Robbins

    In addition, expressing how much we need or want something can make us seem desperate, which is often an automatic turn off.

  • Chris Lema

    Years ago the best advice I read was to be sure to investigate to determine which items the other party wanted that I didn’t care about, and determine what I cared about that they didn’t. In other words, by giving each other the ground that neither of us worried about, we would be able to “enlarge the pie.”

  • Jim Hardy

    Great advice. I think most people react with emotion and do not think things through. This kind of action just causes a worse reaction.


  • Keith

    A good tactic is “fear of loss”, works better than what the gain is for that person!

  • michael kilpatrick

    Interesting – we are currently hiring several people and it is interesting how the dynamics you mention are working out through the process.

  • Alan Kay

    Great advice that’s really critical and sometimes hard to remember. Not ‘needing’ the work is a good discipline. 
    I also try use this thinking when I’m developing proposals to my clients. When we try to stress how much we want the work by eagerly addressing their every need, we miss the point that they may not have expressed the need appropriately (how could they? They’re asking you for your ideas becasue they don’t know how to do it themselves). This sometimes prevents you from being creative, or downplaying the unique skill that you bring to the work. 
    By showing that you are keen to serve them, but not slavishly, you can differentiate yourself. Seems to me, Michael that’s what you did for that boss many years ago.      

  • Adam Dennis

    This is great advice. I am currently searching for a different job an this was very timely. After reading this, I could see how I had made mistakes in the past. Very much appreciated. Thanks!

  • Shane Sanchez

    This post is full of timely wisdom. Personally, it’s been really easy to have ethical negotiations feel like unethical manipulation. At times I almost have a reservation about taking the “I don’t need that” approach for weariness that I may lose the chance or that I may begin selfishly manipulating the situation. This post is a great motive and strategy plumline when engaged in thoughtful negotiation. I definitely threw this post, like many others on this blog, into my pulse favorites.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you for this advice! That quote from Dobson is so powerful and your post was really encouraging as I am in the process of negotiating a job deal right now. Thanks!

  • Uma Maheswaran S

    “Don’t get too eager.” – It’s a much needed advice for me. I have failed at this in many instances. I have personally experienced failures in negotiating  due to my eagerness and over-enthusiasm. Thanks for the book suggestion and the powerful quote.

  • Tresha Thorsen

    ooooh luv it luv it. comes at a good time as well :)
    one thing that also helps me: i hold to the fact that it is our natural, inherent inclination to act with principal and stand for honesty.
    what this does is show me red flags immediately when i sense impure intention, self absorbed ego, and downright unprincipled behavior. and no problem. i’ll take my business elswhere then. it can be hard to squelch my own impatience. yet…it is vital when we refuse to allow ourselves to be manipulated, used, taken advantage of or treated wrongly. awesome post. thank you.

  • Robert Ewoldt

    Michael, this is great advice. I especially like the advice about not getting too eager.

  • Cynthia Ann Leighton

    Thank you! Need to know this. And apply!

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  • Anonymous

    One of my uncles is an amazing negotiator. When he goes onto a car lot, he flat out tells them, “I will NOT go back and forth with you on the price of a car. If you want to play that game, I will go somewhere else.” It works and he keeps his word. The second they try to play the let me go ask my manager game, he walks. He negotiates and bids for a living, so he’s good at it. Dr Dobson’s advice is fantastic. I will be remembering that.

    Please feel free to stop by: Trailing After God

  • Daren Sirbough

    I’m a musician and so I am always negotiating a price for my time. I believe my best negotiating tactic is my honesty and the open ended approach. The fact that I want them to feel like they are able to leave the negotiating table at any time without feeling pressured is my way of getting the price that I desire and keeping the relationship intact after negotiation. I charge highly but fairly for my service and it keeps them coming back to re-negotiate.

  • Duke Dillard

    Thanks for the post, Michael. I would highly recommend “Getting to Yes” as a must-read for negotiating. Also for those who prefer visual the movie “13 Days” is a great case study for negotiating. In spite of these excellent resources I am still a horrible negotiator. I have not found that books are that helpful. I need mentoring. You should do a post on negotiating and personality (in the whole sense of the word) and how to overcome weaknesses. Although from your other post regarding Andy Stanley and strengths, I wonder if I just need to hire someone to negotiate for me rather than worry about that weakness?
    (I did not read every comment so please forgive me if this was already mentioned.)

    • Robert Ewoldt

      Practice makes perfect, right? Maybe you just haven’t had enough practice negotiating. Or perhaps you’re giving in to your negative Narrator :)

  • Susan

    Playing it cool is always a good tactic. You absolutely cannot show that you’re willing to accept any deal so long as you get to close the transaction. It gives you that distinctive air of desperation, and even if you manage to close the deal, you still would have come off worse if you didn’t get it according to your terms.

  • TNeal

    Living within 45 minutes of Mexico (closer if you didn’t use the bridge), I learned the art of walking away from a deal every time we took guests in our home to the market. I needed a good price more than the particular product. I enjoyed the give-and-take of bargaining. To this day, I apply those Mexican market lessons to purchases. Thank you, Mike, for the additional insights.–Tom


    Financially speaking, always know what your bottom line is – what’s the least you will take/the most you can offer/afford

    AND – in purchasing always deal in cash.  This is one I learned from Dave Ramsey.  Having real $$$ in your had is powerful when negotiating – especially if it’s not going your way and you put those $$$ back in your pocket and walk away – that’s empowering to know you don’t have to take whatever offer is on the table, b/c there are others to be had

  • Stephen Lynch

    It’s a play off of “give yourself options” but my negotiating tip is the power of no. I’m a big fan of the win-win as well, and having the awareness and ability to say no to offers that don’t benefit both sides is a good use of the word.

    Knowing your pricing and where it has room to be flexible is also important to know, but playing the no card keeps us from over-committing our finite resources and keeps us on track with our vision, dreams, and goals.

  • Christopher Sparling

    I am a lawyer in Toronto.  Most of my cases are construction cases which involve many separate issues.    The best approach is to understand and explain each of the issues and assess each of them rationally.   Concede the weak issues – at least that they are weak and may not succeed – thereby creating trust – that you know what you are talking about and will concede rather than posture – but hang in on the good issues.   Put a likelihood of success to each issue.   If the cost of repairing a defect is $10,000 but the likelihood that the court will decide that it is a defect is 20%, admit that your case on this issue is weak, but not impossible and offer $2,000 or, if the likelihood is 90%, explain why and offer $9,000.