5 Tips to Negotiate Effectively

June 10, 2024

All that we do in our lives involves negotiating things. When I set aside the fear of being rejected, my life changed significantly. Since then, I have achieved many things. Every time someone tells me 'No,' I see it as an opportunity to figure out how I can turn it into a 'Yes' and what I can do to achieve my goal.

In this article, I will share 5 key tips for negotiating effectively that I have learned and practiced over the past few years. Before delving into these tips, I want to start this article with an anecdote that perfectly illustrates how you can achieve unexpected things when you dare to negotiate.

A few months ago, I had to travel to Chicago, and while I was there, I thought about making the most of my time. So, I was trying to enroll in some courses at the University of Chicago. After researching, I knew I wouldn't be able to take an executive course because they were really expensive. But I wanted to do it. That's when I thought about how to turn things in my favor. I thought: What if I tell my story to the professors? I can share my achievements and background, and perhaps, just perhaps, they'll let me attend the class as an auditor.

This was my strategy:

  • I made and prioritized a list of professors; I wouldn’t try talking to those who were only there for a semester or teaching a single class first. I had to approach those with the most decision-making power.
  • I learned everything I could about them and understood how my story could resonate better. I went, introduced myself, shared parts of my profile, and knowing their profiles, I knew my story would somewhat inspire them.
  • I gave them more than one option. The first option was to audit their classes. I received several “Yes”, but if I heard a no, I tried to get them to explain why. It was often because of university policy for those courses, they couldn't offer that option.
  • If the audit wasn't possible, I asked for my second option: to be referred to another professor who could allow it. What happened next? They referred me or even sought to help me in other ways, such as sharing class materials (that was my third option). And there you go, that's how by asking (or better said, negotiating), I was able to get what I wanted.

People truly find value in helping others and try to do so whenever they can. But it never hurts to increase your chances by following these tips:

1. Don't be afraid to receive a NO 🎰

See 'No' as an opportunity. You may have to work a little harder to get a 'Yes.' Along the way to getting that 'Yes,' you might find something you perhaps weren't looking for or didn't know you wanted.

2. Be strategic 🤺

Get to know your 'opponent' (or at least try)

Plan your speech and craft the story with the information you know or is given. People love stories, but to create the right one, you need to know your audience thoroughly. Before starting the negotiation, find out everything you can about the others.

Ask the right questions

If you have to make a call at 8 in the morning on a Monday, don't ask, 'Is it a good time to talk?' because they'll say no. Change your client's predisposition and ask, 'Is this a really bad time to talk?' They'll say no, it's not a bad time. That's your signal to proceed with the call. Continue your call by asking open-ended questions. 'Why did you choose this plan?' instead of 'Are you happy with your plan?

3. Speak openly about your weaknesses 😨

If I have a weakness or limitation, or if the other has one, and we bring it to the table from the beginning, we start the conversation with transparency. When negotiating, you need the trust of the other party. Whether it's something simple or difficult to negotiate, it's best to demonstrate that you are someone they can trust.

By communicating your limitations, you help set realistic expectations from the start. This prevents future misunderstandings and contributes to a more effective negotiation. Additionally, by understanding the limitations, both parties can focus on finding viable solutions that benefit them.

I'll illustrate this point better with an example. As an early-stage founder, it's common to have a MVP that doesn't fully meet the client's needs. In my first startup, we negotiated with a significant real estate client in Brazil, our first paying client with no leverage. To negotiate effectively, we had to acknowledge the product's limitations but emphasize the potential impact of the solution on their operations. This brought transparency and trust to the table, setting expectations for both sides. However, whenever possible, overdeliver. I'll explain the benefits of this in the next point with another example.

4. Find a middle-ground solution ⚖️

Don't force what you want. Sometimes, a middle option is the best choice. By seeking common ground and compromising on a middle-ground solution, it fosters a more positive and lasting relationship between the parties involved.

In finding a middle point, both parties can get something they desire, leading to overall greater satisfaction. It's a win-win. Additionally, pushing for what one wants may result in a negative perception. Seeking a middle-ground solution demonstrates a more fair and respectful attitude, preserving one's image and reputation in the process.

Going back to my previous example, we were securing our first paying client, a major player in the Brazilian real estate sector. Despite conceding on price due to their leverage, our over-delivery in results allowed us to renegotiate terms later. The key lesson: everything is negotiable in dynamic scenarios. Balance priorities, stand firm where it matters, and, most importantly, deliver to be able to renegotiate (or charge, in this case 😅).

5. Embrace the silence 🔇

We need to be quieter, especially in important situations. People often fill the void because it's uncomfortable. If you're negotiating something and they present an argument against doing what you expected, you can still turn the situation around.

Listen to the complete proposal, and when the other person finishes speaking, stay silent. The first person to say something is more likely to give in during the negotiation. I guarantee it because it has happened to me. Hold on, even if you have to be silent for 3 or 5 minutes. That's the toughest part, but you'll genuinely have a bit more power in the negotiation, and the other person will either completely yield or at least ask you to find a middle ground (which still favors you).

I use this tactic selectively, especially in M&A, fundraising, or salary negotiations. If your minimum is “Y”, state it confidently without justification. Let the other party share their thoughts, then find common ground. Remember, in negotiations, the first to speak often concedes.

If you let your ego and fear dominate you, you'll miss many opportunities compared to those who dare to ask for what they want. Keep negotiating!

Maria Eduarda Herriot

I'm a second-time founder and currently holding the CCO position at @Bel, a proptech that organizes all real estate data and connects all the stakeholders to unlock the Brazilian real estate market’s full potential. I specialize in negotiating partnerships with big tech clients, fundraising process & M&A operations.