Like the arcade game whack-a-mole, negotiations stick their heads up everywhere in life — and sometimes it can feel like you’re whacking away without a hammer. It’s not always easy to get the best deal, but if you follow these 12 tips, you’ll get a solid edge during any negotiation.

These simple tips use common sense and psychology to give you a major advantage. And if you control the negotiation and guide it in a positive manner, you can also psychologically affect the mood of your partner and encourage them to make a favorable deal.

Here’s how it works:


Before the Negotiation

1. Relax. It’s easy to get freaked out by negotiations. However, don’t let yourself get stepped over in life because you’re afraid to ask for something you know you deserve. Know how to sell yourself and increase your value. You’re a champion, after all, and anyone would be lucky to do business with you.

2. Do your homework. What do you want? Before the negotiation, know what you’ll accept and what you won’t. Research your options. If you’re negotiating a starting salary for a job, shop around the Internet and see what other companies offer as starting wages. Sites like PayScale or Glassdoor let you research salary information.

You can also consider talking to a recruiter or networking with someone else in a similar position on LinkedIn. These sources will usually give you unbiased information.

3. Be open about your worth. Once you know what you’re worth, you have other options. During the negotiation, you can push for a better deal or walk away if you’re getting a bad one. Psychologists Fisher and Ury called this creating the Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement (BATNA). If you aren’t getting what you want, you have other options. Having a good BATNA will reduce your dependence on one offer.

Knowing your BATNA will also help you put the best cards in your hand. You can play these during the negotiation to increase your perceived value.  Openness about your BATNA showcases your honesty, and negotiators typically respect sincerity and assertiveness.

4. Rest Up. When people push themselves to prepare for negotiations, they often forget to get enough sleep. Countless studies have showed that insufficient sleep can affect your ability to function. Lack of sleep increases your risk of getting side-tracked and can harm your performance in negotiations. 

5. Set the stage. If you can, try to control every aspect of the location and time of the negotiation:

  • Be the decider. Be the one to suggest a time. It puts the power in your hand. This creates a power imbalance in your favor and also lets you cater the remaining factors to your advantage.
  • Pick a sunny day. It seriously makes a difference. In the past 80 years of data, 26 world markets experienced far greater returns on sunny days versus cloudy ones. Good weather clearly makes people want to invest. If you get stuck on a lousy day, talk about it! One study showed that the negative vibe produced by a rainy day was alleviated simply by discussing the weather.
  • Rise and shine. Set the time as early as possible, between 9 and 10 am. Not only will this give your negotiation enough time to resolve, but it will also provide a lasting image of you in the other party’s mind. When they go home, they will certainly remember the first person they met that day. If you can’t be the first, be the last. This will also increase their memory of you.
  • Watch your wording. Keep it light and casual. When setting up the negotiation, don’t call it a “negotiation.” Instead, call it a “meeting” or a “brainstorm.”
  • Bring coffee and donuts. Bringing coffee and pastries allows you to mimic non-verbal communication. If you’re both doing the same thing — eating — you’re not so different, right? Tasty treats can also increase the glucose levels in your partner, making them less aggressive.


During the Negotiation

6. Use appropriate language. Okay, you’ve prepared your BATNA, you got a good night’s sleep, and you’ve gained the advantage by taking a powerful role in planning the negotiation. Now what?

  • Do some small talk. When the negotiation begins, start by chatting about vacations or something light. Set the tone as friendly to create a less aggressive atmosphere.
  • Be assertive. Use confidant language. Avoid phrases like “Umm would it be okay if…” or “I think that…”
  • Use open-ended questions. Yes or no questions greatly limit the answers you’ll get. If someone asks “Well, what do you sell?” don’t just say, “I sell tree-houses.” Instead, keep it open-ended by saying “I sell dreams. Have you ever thought about owning a tree-house?”
  • Listen. Gain all the information you can about the needs of your partner. After all, their concerns and priorities often differ from yours. Let them have the little victories, especially if it paves the way for you to gain significantly in other areas.

7. Use appropriate strategic bargaining. During a negotiation, you need to assess every aspect. Don’t become fixated on one area and ignore other possible gains. If you’re negotiating starting terms of employment, don’t just focus on salary. Consider other benefits such as commission, working from home, raises, paid vacation and health benefits.

Your partner may want to start you off on a lower salary. If that happens, try bargaining for a higher commission rate. Assess all the aspects together — don’t negotiate one and then the others. Craft an inclusive deal that benefits your priorities.

8. Anchor your offer. Perhaps the best piece of advice on this list is anchoring your offer. Suggest a rate first, and make it as high as reasonably possible. This anchors the negotiation on one end. If you say, “I want my starting salary to be $90,000,” your employer will have to counter. Maybe their range was between $80,000 to $85,000. In this case, the worst you can do is the best they can offer — $85,000.

9. Getting past “no.” If they rejected your offer, ask them why. Gain a full understanding of their approach and try to pivot around the stumbling blocks. Saying something like “It seems like there’s nothing you can do?” will out them in a position where they feel the need to explain themselves or offer something better. If there’s a reason why, you might be able to address the issue more favorably. 

10. Understand the power of the pause. If you can, don’t accept their first offer. This might make it seem like you were bluffing. If you must accept, use an appropriate pause. This can make it seem like you’re thinking about rejecting the offer. They might even jump in with a higher offer right away just to get past the tension.

11. Perfect the follow-up. Congrats, you closed the deal. Now get it in writing. Send an email immediately outlining the terms of the agreement.

12. Draft the document. Not only will it get things moving faster, but a document also lets you determine the defaults in your favor. These include penalties for backing out which may not have been previously discussed.


Start Negotiating

The art of negotiation will come will practice. It’s easy to get off the ground and start flexing your bargaining muscles. Just call your phone company, and try to get a better plan!

Stick to your guns and share your negotiation success stories in the comments! 

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Sarah Landrum is the founder of Punched Clocks.

2 Comments on 12 Tips for Master Negotiating

  1. Lewis Lin
    December 15, 2015 at 7:51 pm (6 years ago)

    Sarah, this is a nice set of salary negotiation tips! If you’re looking for salary negotiation scripts for over 60 scenarios, you might want to check out my book, Five Minutes to a Higher Salary:

    Keep on writing,



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