Negotiation techniques from the world's top

This post is the second in a series on negotiation and the most pivotal business advice that helped me build an extremely successful Sales Enablement and Marketing Strategy firm.

In the previous post, I addressed the “5 Most Valuable Lessons I Learned From the World’s Top Negotiators [Part 1 of 3]” and gave you the Top 10 things you can use in negotiations that aren’t money.

Specifically, what are the things or ‘concessions’ that you can offer up that are of low value to you, but high value to the other party, i.e.:

  • Time
  • Exposure
  • Payment Plans
  • Rights
  • Volume
  • All other ‘moving parts to the deal’

If you missed it, I strongly suggest you read it BEFORE you move on to this post.


OK, if you’re still here, then you know I promised you the 24 Best Negotiation Tactics that I’ve learned working with the world’s top negotiators (and how to protect yourself from them).

In this post, you’re going to learn exactly what I now use to regularly close 5 and 6-figure contracts with the world’s top brands, and make over 3,000 small product sales direct to individual consumers each year.

As it turns out, ‘tactics and techniques’ is one of eight factors that determine a negotiation outcome, and it’s important to understand this context so you know how these tactics will fit into your broader negotiation…

So what are the ’24 Negotiation Tactics’ I’ve witnessed most commonly from working with the world’s top negotiators?

Negotiation is an awareness sport

These are 24 skills, tactics and strategies that our coaching clients learn in their business masterminds and sales workshops:

  1. Outs and BATNA. In the previous post, we talked about knowing your ‘best alternative to a negotiated agreement’ or BATNA. Knowing that you have options gives you leverage (see above). Letting the other parties know you have alternatives exercises that leverage when negotiating. Equally, you need to know the exact number your not willing to go above / below and be disciplined to stick to it.
  2. Be willing to walk. Knowing your outs and BATNA is valuable, but only if you’re willing to use them. You should never ‘need’ to gain agreement and you should always be willing to walk away from the deal if the conditions aren’t right. If you know that the other party absolutely needs a resolution, then they are completely at the mercy of your benevolence and not really in a negotiation at all!
  3. Call out the warts. Often negotiators will try to focus your attention towards the positives of their offer, and away from the negatives. Your job is to be aware of ALL of the elements and call them out. When both parties acknowledge all the resources on the table – ‘warts and all’ – you can create truly equitable deals.
  4. Get their number first. Someone at some point decided that asking people how much money they had was rude. Not me. I ask the budget question up front, sometimes within minutes. Knowing the other person’s resources is super important to not over charge, under charge, or waste your time in the wrong ballpark. The fact that most people get sheepish around the ‘money talk’ is a massive advantage to me. When I ask blatantly, the other party is so surprised they usually just tell me. Actually, I just changed my mind – don’t use this one.
  5. Use tension. People don’t like to feel tension. Top negotiators relish it. Tension creates momentum because people don’t like to stay in it. Silence, direct eye contact, being visually uncomfortable with an offer – these all create great tension. Learn to control tension – when you feel it, but mostly how to create it. Remember, people don’t buy unless they feel some discomfort about something.
  6. The ‘Flinch’. The ‘Flinch’ is an extension of tension. The flinch is best deployed when you’re in deep physical and unconscious rapport with someone – a state that once one, people want to stay in. When they make an offer (or counter offer) that is not meeting your minimums for agreement, you ‘flinch’. This break in physical rapport causes unconscious tension that people naturally want to release. Often, the other negotiator will counter their own offer with something more attractive. For extra kick, try adding in the ‘closed teeth suck’ noise – you know the one you use when you stub your toe?
  7. Good cop/bad cop. This is where you introduce another decision maker into the equation. You might say something like, “Look, I’m happy with this deal, but I need to get it approved by my partner”. To avoid letting a deal that’s close to agreement slip, the other party will often throw up whatever they have left for you to go ‘close’ your partner. FYI – When I use this technique, the partner I’m often referring to is my dog.
  8. Scope creep. This one is another common tactic used by top negotiators… Once a deal is agreed upon or close to a resolution, ask for some additional small things. I’ve seen some top negotiators ‘nibble’ almost twice the deal’s value after the first part was already agreed to. Remember, parties want resolution – and when they have it, they don’t want to lose it.
  9. Reluctant buyer/seller. This is where you behave like you’re reluctant to buy/sell. The perceived value goes through the roof when the other parties believes that you value it so highly that you won’t even exchange it for money! It’s usually just a good way for a strong negotiator to get more money.
  10. Direct squeeze. Another direct tactic – simply ask them to do better. Try something like, “Look Matt, if you really want this to work, you’re going to have to do better than that.” The value here is the negotiator pushing responsibility back to the other party, without conceding anything in this round.
  11. Create time constraints. If there are no real time constraints, create some. If there’s no urgency to act now, people usually won’t. Particularly with larger purchases, opponents will more often “want to think about it” than say “no” if you apply no urgency. Remember that “NO” is much more valuable to you than “I want think about it”.
  12. Concession counters. **PREMIUM** Where possible, try to always ask for a concession when you’re giving one. This ‘concession countering’ is a good habit, not only because you’ll stumble across additional value, but also for fatiguing the negotiation which often makes negotiators more willing to resolve quickly.
  13. Capping. Letting the other party know that you’re at your final offer can be risky, but powerful. On the one hand, if it’s absolutely below/above the other parties’ acceptable level, then you may lose the deal (always be ready to walk!). On the other hand, if the other party believes that you are at your limit of what you can offer, they may be willing to adjust what they’re willing to concede so that it meets your available resources. Be sure to NEVER use this tactic too early in the negotiation.
  14. Play the lowest hand. Top negotiators that I’ve observed all seem to underplay their intelligence, wealth, sophistication, and particularly – their negotiating prowess. By checking your need for validation and admiration at the door, you will often create a more flexible negotiating opponent. The more someone perceives you to have leverage / power, the more they will fight to balance any inequality during the negotiation. Play the ‘lowest hand’ you can get away with, but be careful: if they don’t believe you, it will have the opposite effect.
  15. Change the negotiator. A great tactic that upsets momentum (creates tension) is changing the negotiator mid way through the process. At a certain point, the other negotiator will feel comfortable that they have you ‘all worked out’. By changing the negotiator on your side (and arming them with all the information about the deal and other negotiator to this point), the other party will often make additional concessions to feel back in control of the negotiation.
  16. Playoffs. A strong negotiation tactic is to play off other parties against one another. For example, if you’re the buyer, you can let two suppliers know that you are looking at both, and let them fight each other for your business. This technique is often used by car and real estate sales people – “…you’re right, she’s a beauty, but I need to tell you that another family was looking at her this morning and will be back this afternoon to pick her up if she’s still here…”
  17. Credibility. This is the opposite technique to ‘playing the lowest hand’. This is when the negotiator will start stacking their credibility or expertise. This technique is great when creating side benefits in the deal i.e. “assuming we work together here, I’ll make sure that my next meeting with Richard Branson is in your office so you can meet him. You guys could really do some great stuff together…” Note: Make sure it’s credibility for things that are true. I’ve seen many inexperienced negotiators make the mistake of building up falsehoods which later catch them out.
  18. Splitting the difference. You give a number, they give a number, you say “…let’s split the difference”. This tactic is best used when NOT talking about money. For example, “What’s the best case scenario that could happen if we work together on this?… Okay, and what do you think could be the worst case?… Right, well in my experience, we usually expect something around the middle – wouldn’t you agree?”
  19. Social false equivalence.**PREMIUM** Social false equivalence is an extension of the ‘Jones Theory’ that suggests that because others in your street (world) have something, then you’ll also want it so you can ‘keep up with the Joneses’. A false equivalence is where you tie two things together that seem to be related, that really aren’t related (i.e. he drives an expensive car so he must be rich). An example of social false equivalence is the negotiator saying something like, “in the next 2 years, we know that one-in-three businesses are going to be using this, so the question isn’t if you get this, but when you get it.”
  20. Other false equivalence. Ive seen top negotiators use this tactic so seamlessly, the elements don’t even need to be related! In the movie, ‘Boiler Room’, there’s a scene where Ben Affleck is ranting to his sales team about getting to say “YES” (trial closing), and one of the examples he gives is, “if you were drowning and I threw you a life jacket, would you grab it? *yes* Good! Pick up 2,000 shares, I won’t let you down.”
  21. Double binds. Double binds are also known as positive alternative choice questions. Using this technique, rather than using open or closed questions, you’ll build in two options into the question – both of which being what you want. So rather than asking, “what do you want to do next?” or, “do you want to go ahead?” (closed question) – you ask, “Do want to use credit card or cash?”. Either the customer chooses one of your solutions (path of least resistance), or they have to correct you with what they really want.
  22. Low ball / high ball. This tactic involves offering a price / solution that is way too low or too high (depending if your the buyer or the seller) for the other party to consider. It means that the first real offer comes from the other party as a counter offer so you still ‘Get Their Number First’. Again, you may find that what you thought was ‘high balling’ is actually perfectly reasonable and in the same range they were considering!
  23. Create more than you concede.**PREMIUM** This is the biggest tactics that separates excellent negotiators from the average ones. Average negotiators pick a target, add 15% – 20% and concede dollars back and forth until they get what they (hopefully) get what they want. Top negotiators have a target RANGE, and rather than focusing on making concessions to get to it – they focus on creating new options and combinations based on the resources available. Not only will this create more options (the purpose of the negotiating game), but negotiators who can ‘create on the fly’ will have an upper hand over those that can’t.
  24. Focus. Top negotiators know that more ‘moving parts’ means slower processes. Simplifying negotiations to only ever focus on one or two points at a time is an important tactic to gaining more and faster resolutions. This is also true when a party brings up a new element, a skilled negotiator will be able to acknowledge the new element and suggest ‘parking’ the idea until the current focus is addressed.

BONUS: Keep your powder dry. Coming full circle here, always having more options is an important starting point in any negotiation. Top negotiators always keep ‘a little something’ back to either sweeten the deal after the fact, or bring out if something unexpected threatens the deal later on. Average negotiators bring out their big guns first, top negotiators always bring them out last.

(Related: To learn more about Negotiation and Advanced Communication strategies, check out ‘The Million Dollar Sales Pitch’ masterclass. For business owners, consultants or sales professionals – this masterclass is a must for connecting with and engaging your audience in a whole new way. It’s also on sale for the next few days so get access now before life gets in the way ;))

So there you have it!

These are the most powerful, usable and effective negotiation tactics that we often use in dealmaking and have observed in the top negotiators around the world.

Print them out, read them again. This is probably the most important thing you can learn to master in your business.

By now you might be starting to wonder…

“But, what do I do if the other negotiator starts using these tactics on me?!?!”

In the next post, I’m going to go through the best “Negotiation Counter Tactics To Protect Yourself” from the world’s top negotiators.

Keep an eye out for this final entry in the series [Part 3 of 3]…

Also, don’t forget to grab your copy of ‘The Million Dollar Sales Pitch’ sales masterclass. Save over 90% on this year’s best selling program.


– DC

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Discover Coaching Coaching Programs are tailored to each individual and align tactical, strategic and visionary leadership styles to reach both Professional and Personal milestones. DC is fully certified for the use of both proprietary (Neuro Linguistic Programming, TimeLine Therapy ®, Straight Line System) and authored custom programs (How to Boil an Egg, Million Dollar Sales Pitch, Mass Persuasion – Complete Sales Mastery, Coaches Collection).

David Cervelli is a certified NLP Master Practitioner and Coach with the ABNLP and ABH.

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