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4 tips for successful negotiating

Negotiations have been in the sports pages a lot of late. ASADA is negotiating with players and clubs; the AFL is about to negotiate the next broadcast rights deal; and an ex-Geelong player is about to sue his former club over an injury. So I thought it was an opportune time to look at my tips for effective negotiation. First, there are two types of negotiations:

  1. where you want to retain the relationship
  2. where it’s a one-off, so you’re only interested in the best outcome for you


Dealing with the former is harder. It’s always trickier to negotiate with someone you know, whether a friend, your daughter, your boss – so regardless of whether you’re negotiating a car sale, bedtime, or a pay rise, the outcome needs to be win-win. As long as both parties win out, you’re not actually negotiating – you’re just working out the best outcome for each party. We have a saying at work which sums up the win-win focus of relationship-based negotiations: no one gets paid too much or too little for too long. You always need to consider the impact of the negotiation on the overall relationship. You don’t want to hit up your employer for a pay rise if there’s any doubt on your ability to deliver value – you’ll just put a lot of pressure on yourself, and open your performance – maybe your position – up to scrutiny. When negotiating with work, you can look for other ways to prove your worth – not just with your direct role, but helping the company as a whole. Any way you can demonstrate your commitment to the overall cause, and your understanding of what your employer is trying to achieve, will work out well for you at negotiation time.

4 tips for successful negotiating

1. If you can’t negotiate, get someone to do it for you.

Whether negotiating a new contract, or buying a house at auction, negotiation is not everyone’s skill set. If you cave in or fail to press for what you think is reasonable, you may be better off getting an expert to negotiate on your behalf. An example is getting a property advocate (or even a friend with experience) to bid at auction on your behalf. But you can work on improving your negotiation skills. An old boss of mine used to go to the Victoria Market purely to hone his negotiation skills against professionals. He argued that if you could negotiate there, with people who did it for a living, you could negotiate anywhere.

2. Ask questions.

Some say you shouldn’t answer a question with a question, but it’s a legitimate strategy when negotiating. Many people feel that when negotiating, they need to have all the answers – but not necessarily. The other party will often have a clear idea of what they are able to do/afford, and questions can help draw that out of them. So as Kenny Rogers suggests in The Gambler, hold your cards back and let them show theirs first. Use questions like: ‘I’ve been on the same salary for two years – what do you think is a fair salary for me?’ ‘What do you think my competition is getting paid down the road?’ ‘What are the guys in the other department getting paid?’

3. Do your research.

Come armed with the facts, so you know the market value of the negotiated item. A good example is using an energy comparison site like Energy Watch to get an idea of costs in your area, then ask the question of your current provider to see if you can get a discount.

 4. Be prepared to walk away.

This is the ultimate negotiation tool. Being able to walk away from that car sale or that payrise (hopefully not your daughter!) means you have the power in the relationship, and is the best bargaining tool when the negotiation is not to your satisfaction.