Seven Business Leaders Share How to Become an Expert Negotiator

Whether you’re attempting to settle on a price with an important client or trying to reach an agreement with a potential business partner, negotiation plays an important role in business. However, it isn’t a skill that comes naturally to everyone, and some may struggle to find a balance between achieving what they want and ensuring the other party does too.

Mastering the art of negotiation takes practice, but keeping the following tips in mind can help you improve your skills faster and achieve the best outcomes. Below, the business leaders of  Rolling Stone Culture Council draw on their years of experience closing deals to share their best advice on becoming a master negotiator, no matter your industry.

Start With Common Ground

Rooting the conversation in the shared goal and where agreement already exists is the single greatest way to create more of it. From there, as Ted Lasso says, “Be curious, not judgmental.” Seek to educate the other side where you differ, and seek to understand them. Understanding is key to reconciling different approaches, and it creates more common ground. – Scott Curran, Beyond Advisers

Do Your Due Diligence Beforehand

It’s critical to have a deep understanding of what you’re selling and the value you bring to the table. Do your due diligence beforehand so you know a fair starting point and your absolute limit. That lets you approach the situation confidently and with a fair solution in mind. Too many don’t do the pre-work and go in just to “win” — you might give up too much for an unsustainable outcome. – Dustin Eide, CanPay

Find a Way for Both Parties to Win

I come to negotiations with a simple premise: I want us both to win. Otherwise, we are beginning from a place that is fundamentally adversarial. While that may suit some industries, I believe it is out of place in creative endeavors, nonprofits and the arts. In most cases, an arrangement can be found that is a win for both parties. When that isn’t possible, the deal should be redesigned. – Jed Brewer, Good Loud Media

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Show That You’re Interested and Paying Attention

Listen. Watch body language. Show that you are authentically interested in what they are saying. Write the bullet points down if you can. Oftentimes, both parties are asking for the same thing but are using different words with similar meanings. I would ask if they would be agreeable to this, this and this, and what if we did x on this point. You will both win. – Susan Johnston, New Media Film Festival®

Lead With Education

I start with education. By educating the prospective client during the introductory meeting, I can show them the full value of our services and pricing. Being a good negotiator requires understanding the prospect’s needs. Putting yourself in the other person’s shoes helps you find solutions that work for everyone. Also, knowing what you want and having backup plans gives you confidence in negotiations. – Jason Hennessey, Hennessey Digital


Outline What You Want to Achieve

Take the time to carefully outline what you hope to achieve and what you will give in the process. Keep in mind that, in most situations, both parties are seeking common ground. Therefore, it’s necessary to be specific and thorough in your approach and be prepared to fully accept and adapt to the outcome, regardless of what it may be. – Michael Klein, Sunset Amusements

Practice Empathy, Patience and Listening

You need empathy, patience and the ability to listen. Empathy allows you to put aside your preconceived notions and put yourself in the shoes of each party. Patience makes you realize that Rome was not built in a day; sometimes you need to wait a bit. Listening ensures that you really understand what is not being said or what is between the actual words being uttered by either party. – Zain Jaffer, Zain Jaffer Foundation

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Whether you’re attempting to settle on a price with an important client or trying to reach an agr…