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10 Common Negotiation Mistakes

Pitfalls to Avoid When Sealing a Deal

My biggest challenge at times is Listening. Which one of these 10 applies to you?


10 Common Negotiation MistakesDon’t assume something’s non-negotiable.

All successful managers need to negotiate, whether it’s to hammer out the terms of a contract, to gain people’s agreement in a meeting, or to agree deadlines with team members.

You will struggle in your career if you can’t negotiate effectively. For example, you might lose business or the respect of your team members. Or, you might fail to solve problems that better negotiators can breeze through.

In this article, we look at 10 common negotiation mistakes – in no particular order – and discuss how you can avoid them.


Check out our negotiation articles to understand more about how to hone your skills. There are a range of approaches, such as Distributive Bargaining ,Integrative Negotiating  and Win-Win Negotiation , and other useful tools, like the Conflict Layer Model  and Lewicki and Hiam’s Negotiation Matrix , can help you negotiate more effectively.

Mistake 1: Failing to Prepare

Even if you have a clear idea about what you want from a negotiation, you still need to prepare and rehearse your arguments carefully.

When you prepare, you feel more confident, which is important in any negotiation. If you can demonstrate your knowledge of the subject in question, the other party will take you seriously. And you’ll be less likely to forget something if you’re fully prepared – it’s important to include everything in your negotiation as it’s extremely difficult to get new demands accepted after the negotiation has taken place.

If you’re entering into group negotiations, sit down with your team beforehand and decide who is going to say what. Practice your “pitch,” and clarify your arguments, perhaps usingrole play . Discuss what the other side is likely to say, and what you’re prepared to compromise on. Make notes, and bring them to your meeting.

Mistake 2: Not Building Relationships

There may be occasions when you have to go into a negotiation “cold,” so you’re unaware of the other side’s wishes. But try to establish a relationship with the other party if you can. Just making small talk can build trust  and give you a better insight into his or her goals, ambitions or even fears about the negotiation process.

There might be some tough talking ahead, but you’re more likely to reach a satisfactory agreement if you establish a good relationship early on.

Mistake 3: Being Afraid to Offend

Trying to secure the best deal for yourself, your team or your organization can be daunting. You may be scared of saying the wrong thing, settling too early, or haggling. Perhaps you find rejecting other people’s proposals embarrassing or stressful, especially if yourleadership style  is more consensual than directive.

You can address these feelings by remembering that there’s a difference between negotiating and arguing. Unlike an argument, where each party makes the case for or against something, the aim of negotiation is for both sides to reach an agreement. As both parties want different things, you can only arrive at this point through discussion of what you are and are not prepared to do – it’s just part of the process.

Mistake 4: Not Listening

You need to listen to the other person to be a successful negotiator. If you talk over him, or ignore what he’s saying, it’ll be harder to find areas of agreement. You’ll also likely “put his back up!”

When you have good listening skills, you can learn about what the other person wants, identify whether you have any shared interests, and work out how far apart your positions are. Use active  and empathetic listening  techniques to understand her motivations and interests.

Mistake 5: Not Knowing Your “BATNA”

The term “BATNA” (which stands for “Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement”) originated in researchers Roger Fisher and William Ury’s 1987 book,”Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In.”

Essentially, even though your aim in negotiation is to get what you want, you need to decide what your next-best alternative is. This means that you know when it’s best to cut your losses and walk away.

Decide on your BATNA before you enter negotiations, and also make sure you know what a “good” outcome is, even if you don’t get exactly what you want.

Having a clear BATNA means you can push harder during negotiations, and potentially get a better deal than you expected, because you’ve kept your options open.

Mistake 6: Caring too Much

You need to care about the outcome of the negotiation, but not so much that you make a bad decision because you feel unable to walk away. In other words, keep your emotions in check, treat the process as a game, and decide when to call it a day.

If you can turn your back on the negotiation, you’ll also be in a stronger bargaining position should the other party decide to try again. This is because the onus will be on him to improve his offer.


Part of this is making sure that you have plenty of alternatives to choose from. You’re in a weak position if you have only one choice.

Mistake 7: Assuming Something is Non-Negotiable

Imagine the following scenario: a star basketball player has signed a multi-million dollar, four-year contract with a top team. It’s a watertight agreement that will keep him – and his revenue and sponsorship potential – at the club for the term of the contract, complete with expensive penalty break clauses.

But he loses form in his first season and a rival team shows interest in him. Suddenly, the “cast-iron” document with his club is negotiable, and the penalty break clause is up for discussion. It’s not an easy deal to complete but, the next season, he’s with a new club and all parties are happy.

This example shows that nothing is off the table in negotiation, and it pays to take your context into account. If you think of everything as negotiable, you’ll have a lot more options!

Mistake 8: Focusing on Price

Business negotiations are often about money. But if you go into a negotiation process fixated on price – because you want to reduce it or protect it – you risk backing yourself or the other party into a corner.

Price is, of course, important, but it’s often just one aspect of a deal. Consider what else you could negotiate. For example, perhaps you can agree an exclusivity clause, add additional services, or improve the terms of your contract.

Mistake 9: Trying to “Win”

Reaching an agreement might be more difficult if you expect to win outright, even if you’re entering the negotiation from a position of strength.

The most effective negotiation is where both sides leave the table feeling that they’ve gained something. They may not have everything they wanted, but they have enough for the deal to be worthwhile.

It’s important not to be greedy. If the other party compromises, and the deal is acceptable to both of you, you could jeopardize it if you play “hard ball” and put future negotiations at risk. In other words, know when to stop negotiating!

Read our article on Win-Win Negotiation  for tips on how to find a fair compromise when negotiating.

Mistake 10: Giving an Ultimatum

If you use the words “This is our best and last offer” in your initial negotiation, there’s nowhere else for the discussion to go.

The chances of finding a compromise are much slimmer when you issue an ultimatum like this, because you back the other party into a corner. This approach can also come across as aggressive and domineering, although it’s sometimes necessary to do this when the other party continues to try to “chip away” at your position.

Be aware, however, of the difference between giving an ultimatum and setting a deadline. Experienced negotiators often use artificial deadlines to encourage the other party to reach a decision, or to break a deadlock.

The downside is that it puts you under time pressure. The upside is that both parties are focused on reaching an agreement within the timeframe, which can speed up the process of finding a compromise.

Key Points

Effective negotiation requires preparation, and a clear understanding of what both you and the other party want to achieve.

While you want to secure the best deal, negotiation is about compromise and reaching consensus rather than “winning.”

Consider what alternatives to your original aim you’d be prepared to accept – including walking away from a deal – and remember to steer clear of ultimatums.

Apply This to Your Life

Recognize that a lot of good day-to-day management is about negotiation and compromise. Try the techniques in this article when you manage your team, as well as during a more formal negotiation process. For example, could you benefit from listening more, or being less focused on “winning”?


One of my employees at work is always positive! He’s always smiling, never complains, and has a great upbeat attitude. It stands out big time. Now I know why. He lives by this writing by Charles Swindoll he shared with me he has up at his desk. – Hughes it

The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, the education, the money, than circumstances, than failure, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company… a church… a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past… we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it. And so it is with you… we are in charge of our Attitudes.
Charles R. Swindoll

Instant Results

Instant Results – Hughes it or Lose it?

Here in Ohio, we’ve had some snow and ice. Because I am teaching my two teenage daughters to drive, I want more snow and ice. The best way to learn how to drive in snow and ice is to go to a big open parking lot and slide around.

When you are sliding on ice, it’s important to keep the wheel turned in the direction of your slide and your foot off the brake. It’s scary when you’re sliding until the wheels catch. You keep sliding for a while even though you are doing everything right.

This is true in other areas of your life, too. In sales, you can be doing everything right and still not yet achieving the results you need. You are spending a third of your timeprospecting. You are nurturing the relationships you need inside your dream client by feeding them value. You are following up consistently. Maybe you are even spending some time each week on your personal and professional development and improving your business acumen.

Because you are sliding in the wrong direction, you might think you need to change everything, try something new, or do something that would seem to make more sense. A lot of the time, you just need to keep the wheel turned long enough to get some traction.

This morning I received an email from a consultant who promises his clients “instant results.” Most of the results you want and need couldn’t be obtained instantly. You can’t get rich quick, and you can’t lose weight fast.

Longer term, sustainable results are the results of doing the right thing, which always includes a few fundamentals that most people find unpleasant, over a long period of time.

  • Do you have your steering wheel turned in the right direction?
  • Have you kept it that way long enough for the wheels to finally grab and begin to move you in the direction you want to go?

3 Ways to Find Your Selling Rhythm and Beat a Sales Slump

Hughes this Article From Sales Gravy To Help Yourself When You Are In A Sales Slump!

3 Ways to Find Your Selling Rhythm and Beat a Sales Slump

If you are a sales person in the midst of a sales slump, you know you have to get out of it, and fast.  After all, selling is how you make your living and without sales you are without income.  While we will all go through sales slumps from time to time the key is to minimize them when they do occur, and get out of them fast.
Get Out of a Sales Slump Fast

We all have sales slumps: Those times when you just can’t find your selling rhythm.  When you can’t seem to close the sale despite your best effort.  When each sale that you do get seems much harder than than it ever was before.  When you are working harder than ever but your volume is down and the pressure is on.

This phenomenon is not unique to sales.  In economics it is called a correction, a recession, or even a depression.  In sports it is a slump or a cold streak.  In life it is a “rough patch” or a rut.  It poker it is a bad run.

If you are a sales person in the midst of a sales slump, you know you have to get out of it, and fast.  After all, selling is how you make your living and without sales you are without income.  While we will all go through sales slumps from time to time the key is to minimize them when they do occur, and get out of them fast.

The problem is, sales slumps have a way of self perpetuating, with the lack of sales eroding our confidence and expectations of positive results, which in turn makes it even more difficult to return to the good form we have lost along the way.

How does a sales slump start?

Usually a sales slump starts by chance, an unfortunate set of circumstances or bad luck that costs us a sale or two.  Why it continues has to do with the self perpetuating nature of a slump.  When those bad circumstances cost us a sale, rather than recognizing the short lived circumstances as the cause, and that it should not last as an impediment to future sales, we quickly start to develop a negative expectation based on them.

The external circumstances tend to become internal circumstances because our reaction to it internalizes it in our mind where it becomes an expectation going forward.  So what happened to start the slump remains in our mind after the circumstance itself has gone away, and continues to cause the slump even though the circumstance in no longer present.  We are having a sales slump because of the expectation created by a limited circumstance or run of bad luck remains in our mind long after the circumstance itself.

This is encouraging in that there is most often nothing external creating the sales slump, and if we can restore a positive expectation we can get out of the sales slump.  It’s not that this is easy, but since it is internal and entirely controllable it is something that we can get out of quickly.

Here are 3 steps to get out of a sales slump.

Keep swinging

Going into July of 1942 Joe DiMaggio, one of baseball’s greatest hitters, was in the midst of a massive hitting slump.  His season average was  .268 meaning he was failing to get a hit almost 3 out of 4 trips to the plate.  In his career he had never batted under .330.

This is what Joe said about getting out of his slump:

“I’m also convinced the only way to get out of a slump is to stay in there and keep swinging.  Nobody can help you.  I’ll bet at least 100 players gave me advice during the season and no two had the same idea”

I think that this is good advice in two ways.

First, you have to keep swinging, or in sales keep getting in front of prospects, keep presenting, keep up all the activities that lead to sales.  Often, the tendency for slumping sales people is to stop doing the things that make sales.  Out of a sense of futility they stop engaging in sales activities.  “What’s the use,” they think, “I can’t seem to make a sale no matter what I do.”  This extends the slump because by taking yourself out of sales activities you are decreasing the odds that you will find the success that will get you out of the slump.  The more you are in front of customers the greater the odds of a ‘normal’ mix of customers- some that will buy and some that won’t.  By limiting the number of prospects you see, the chances are much greater that you could get a few bad ones and none of the goods ones.

I also like how DiMaggio rejected the advice of the 100’s of players that gave him advice.  This is important advice for salespeople trying to break out of a sales slump.  If you have been successful then you know what to do to be successful again.  You just need to keep doing it.  If you change what you are doing based on the various advice of everyone who wants to help, you will end up with a way of selling that may not work for you, and one that would probably be so disjointed as to not have the cohesion required to bring success.

Image if DiMaggio had taken the advice of those 100’s of well intentioned players and made the changes that each of them suggested.  The result would not be the swing that made him great up until that point, and the swing that saw him finish the season batting back over .300.  If your “sales swing” has made you successful it will again if you, like Joe, keep swinging the way you know works.

Break your patterns

Sometimes a sales slump is as much about about mental fatigue as it is about anything else.  Break this fatigue and refresh yourself by changing your patterns.  This piece of advice may sound contrary to my first suggestion that you keep on swinging without making changes to what has made you successful in the past, but it really isn’t.

I’m not telling you to change the way you sell, but to change some one thing that will indicate to your mind that things are changing:  Wear your watch on the other wrist, get a new haircut, have oatmeal for breakfast instead of a banana, take a new route to work, or listen to loud music instead of talk radio.  Often times the breaking of one pattern contributes to the breaking of other patterns, including that of poor sales performance.

Give yourself a reset

When you are in a sales slump, the pressure really starts to mount.  When you are faced with a situation where you have not sold in awhile it becomes very difficult to see how you will get out of the hole you are in.  Let’s say you normally close 5 out of 10 prospects.  You start a month 0 for 10 over the first week and know that to get back to the 50% conversion that you are accustomed to you will have to sell your next ten prospects in a row, or 15 out of your next 20.  The can seem impossible and cause you to give up hope in turning things around in time to reach your goals for the month.

Rather than let the pressure of getting out of the sales slump diminish your motivation, give yourself a reset.  By this I mean reset your sales statistics to zero for zero and start the month over.  Reset your goals from today forward as if the first week never happened and go forward with a fresh start.  Now you have eliminated the overwhelming challenge of digging out of the hole you are in and put yourself in a position to move forward without all the pressure at your normal rate of success.  Sometimes you just need to take the pressure of, allow yourself to forget the slump by putting it behind you, and start with a clean slate.

If you are a sales manager you can occasionally do this for members of your team who are slumping.  Take the pressure off by giving them a reset, and let them know that you are forgetting their sales slump and evaluating their performance going forward.  I’ve seen many salespeople respond very positively when the manager takes the pressure off by letting them start over, often times reaching new heights in performance.

In the profession of sales we will all occasionally find ourselves in a sales slump.  When that happens a true professional will recognize it early and then take the steps needed to minimize the slump, and turn it around fast.  I hope these suggestions help.

You Own It

You own it… – Hughes it

by Anthony Iannarino

You own it.

You own the decisions you make about what you choose to do with your time. You also own your decision as to what you choose not to do. You are as responsible for what gets done as you are for what doesn’t get done.
You own the decision about when you do what you do. You also own a decision not to do something at some particular time. You are responsible for when something gets done, and your responsible for the things that you don’t get done.
You own the commitments you make to other people. You also own the implied commitments that you made without having said anything. You own the explicit promises you make and the promises that were implied or inferred.
Your success is yours, too. You own it. But if you own your successes, then you also own your failures. What goes right is yours, and so is what goes wrong.
The results you produce are yours, good or bad. If they are not what you want them to be, then you have to make the necessary changes to produce the results you want.



As some of you know my job is the hiring and training manager for SFI’s call centers in Roanoke Virginia and Johnson City Tennessee. I recently visited The Security Force call center in Raleigh North Carolina and made a video to motivate their employees.

Whether you work in customer service or not I am sure you will say… “Hughes it.”

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