Do You Make These Mistakes When You Negotiate?


You don’t get what you deserve. You get what you negotiate.

Negotiation is Everything. We negotiate everything all day long, every single day of our lives.

And if you don’t have a strategy for negotiating you’re going to get exactly what you negotiate for…uncertainty.

As an entrepreneur you must do one thing everyday in addition to negotiate. Everyday you must manage uncertainty.

Getting ahead of problems, staying ahead of problems, managing risk, avoiding overwhelm…all of these are the job of an entrepreneur. And the way you handle all of these is to manage your uncertainty.

So how do you manage uncertainty?

You assess and you act. And when you’ve done that enough times you start to create plans of action so you don’t have to constantly reinvent the wheel.

When a problem arises you know what to do because you have a plan, you have a strategy.

Well, the same goes for negotiating. If you don’t have a plan for negotiation you won’t get what you wanted. Why? Because you didn’t figure out what you wanted.

You have to know what you want in order to get what you want.

All this month I’ve been laying out the specific strategy and principles I negotiate from always.

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In A Galaxy Far, Far Away…

In 1989, just out of college, I started a frozen yogurt business in Southern California, where I’m from. Sounds like a no-brainer, right?

Always-sunny-Southern-California. Frozen yogurt at the height of the frozen yogurt craze. What could go wrong?

Within 2 years and $250,000 of my parents money later, I was sleeping on a park bench in MacArther Park.

What could go wrong…went wrong.

I didn’t have a strong plan. I didn’t manage uncertainty. Most importantly, I learned some brutal negotiating lessons. Lessons I’ll never repeat. Why?

Because after that experience I created a strategy I have never once deviated from. I have negotiated from this strategy every single time since then.

Have I always won with this strategy?


Because my strategy protects me from losing. The first rule of my strategy is Win-Win or No Deal. So if I don’t see myself getting what I want with insurance of a win-win, I walk away. I don’t negotiate.

I learned a hard lesson with that first business. But here’s the secret…I learned that lesson. I learned to create a strategy and never deviate from it. In this way I manage uncertainty in every risk I take and every deal I negotiate.

The Mistakes People Make in Negotiations

This week’s post is all about the mistakes I’ve made and I’ve seen others make and how to avoid them yourself. You won’t repeat the past if you see the pitfalls in the distance.

The Biggest Mistake

People don’t get what they want because they don’t know what they want.”

—T. Harv Eker

The biggest mistake people make in negotiating happens before they even begin negotiating.

They don’t take the time to figure out what they want from the negotiation before it begins. If you don’t sit down and do some critical thinking about what you want, what you don’t want and what you’re willing to surrender, you will leave a negotiation weaker.

You have to know what you want before you begin a negotiation. If you don’t you’ll walk away thinking, “Why did I just agree to that?”

I’ve had that experience and I know you’ve had that experience as well. But you can avoid that experience simply by figuring out what you want beforehand.

Having a strategy helps you avoid that mistake.

If you always have a foundation from which to negotiate anything you will always negotiate from a place of strength.

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Second Mistake

Decide you’re going to negotiate. This is so simplistic it almost sounds like a Zen koan. But here’s the key, when you decide you’re going to negotiate you begin a negotiation from a place of conscious decision-making.

If you don’t make a decision to negotiate you’ll be taken for a ride and you’ll end where the other person wants to go. See what I’m saying?

The other reason to decide is because when you decide to negotiate everything becomes a negotiation.

Does that sound bad? Negotiating gets a bad rap but like I started this post… everything is a negotiation, always. Everybody is always negotiating.

Deciding to negotiate is simply deciding to be honest and aware of what is really happening. Deciding to negotiate is simply admitting that everything is a negotiation anyway.

Now you’re going in to every single day with your eyes wide open.

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Third Mistake

Not Creating Affinity Pre-Negotiation. What the hell does that mean?

Remember last week when we explored Robert Cialdini’s 6 Principles of Persuasion?

the 5th principle is the Principle of Liking. You’ll get a lot farther in your negotiation if you both like each other.

How do you get someone to like you?

  • We like people who are similar to us
  • We like people who pay us compliments
  • We like people who cooperate with us in reaching mutual goals

It’s easy to find affinity, common ground, with someone by paying them a compliment or telling a joke.

A few years ago, I was in a meeting room with a bunch of guys I was getting ready to negotiate with. I noticed a picture on the wall of one of the guys clearly on a fishing trip and holding a giant Marlin he had just caught.

I looked at him and asked, “How did you Photoshop that Marlin into the photo?” It took about 5 seconds and then the whole room exploded into laughter.

That joke did two things. It broke the clear tension in the room and it created a rapport between myself and the man in question. The negotiation went very smoothly.

By the way, if humor isn’t your thing paying someone a compliment is an act of humility and grace. Don’t underestimate the power of a compliment.

Create affinity with your negotiating partner. Not to take advantage of them. That’s not the point. Creating affinity allows you to see each other as human beings, with desires and needs.

Fourth Mistake

Not Having a reason ‘why’. When you’re negotiating terms or price you will get farther when you have a reason why. People like to feel helpful but they need a reason to be helpful. Especially if they’re trying to get the same thing.

And there is a magic word you can use when asking for something. That magic word is…


In 1978, psychologist Ellen Langer did a study of people waiting in line to use a copy machine. It’s a pretty famous study so I won’t go into too much detail. You can read a synopsis of it here.

The study was about people cutting in line. It showed that people let the line cutters in 93 to 94% more of the time if the line cutter simply provided a reason for cutting. When the line cutter didn’t provide a reason but simply asked to cut in line that number dropped to 60%.

The most successful phrase of the study? –

“Excuse me, may I use the xerox machine, because I’m in a rush?”

The person’s request was honored 94% of the time! Don’t underestimate the power of ‘because’ because ‘because’ is powerful;)

Fifth Mistake

Undervaluing competition. It’s a mistake to not value what you’re negotiating. What I mean is, look at what you’re negotiating and then find out its value in the marketplace.

Are you negotiating the price of a rare watch or an old watch?

Is it rare and old or just old?

What I mean is…Do your research. Find out the value of what you are negotiating. Is there competition for that item? If there’s no competition and you’re the owner of the item you’ll have a harder time negotiating.

If there is high competition for your item then you’re in a stronger negotiating position. Either way, find out before you start negotiating. Do your research.

Maybe you find out during your research that your item is rare but not in demand. So maybe it’s not the time to negotiate. Remember, Win-Win or No Deal.

You’re allowed to wait until the conditions are optimal. This is the essence of managing uncertainty.

And if, for some reason, you can’t wait you can avoid these mistakes to create an optimal negotiating environment in your favor.


The Wrap Up

These tips promote healthy negotiations in your favor:

  • Know what you want Before you negotiate
  • Decide to negotiate
  • Create Affinity with your negotiating partner
  • Use Because’
  • Know the Value of what you’re offering

Not doing these things will weaken your position in a negotiation. And they’re rookie mistakes.

An entrepreneur’s biggest job is managing uncertainty. You can take most of the uncertainty out of the negotiation before it even starts by preparing and doing your research.

And remember, Life is Negotiation.

We negotiate all day long for everything, even parking spaces and our kids’ attention. So get conscious of that fact and get prepared.

Negotiation isn’t a bad thing. It’s a fact of life. We must all do it so get good at it. And how do you get good at it? By creating and using a strategy every time you negotiate.

Having a template you can rely on and refer to, will give you confidence going into every negotiation. But you don’t have to create one, you can use mine 😉

Speaking of Negotiating, how are you at negotiating your inbox? Click here for a FREE PDF with 3 specific tools for managing your inbox and reducing overwhelm.

Are you a good negotiator?

What’s your most favorite negotiating story?

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