Before attending any negotiation, no matter how humble it may be, find yourself a “best alternative.” If you don’t get what you want, the best alternative is what you will be left with. Use this as a source of reasoned, calm progress in your talks. That way you always have something to fall back on in the event things don’t go your way. This will help keep you from looking and sounding desperate.
If your counter party is doing all the talking, chances are you’re going to walk out of the negotiation feeling like you were rushed into a decision you don’t particularly like. It is vital you seize control of the conversation from the outset. Ask most of the questions. Start most of the exchanges. Set the tempo. This is vital even if it makes you uncomfortable.
If you are not prepared to walk away, it’s not a negotiation. Ultimately the only thing you have total control over is your participation in the exchange. If your counterparty is belligerent or unreasonable, you have to reserve the right to walk. Occasionally, your counterparty will concede something to get you back to the table, and that might be enough.
Once you put your offer or counteroffer on the table, take that time to quietly wait. It is very easy to allow your nervousness to keep you talking, and sometimes what you say will talk you right out of a deal. When in doubt, wait.
Never Bid Against Yourself
When it comes to money, payments, terms and so forth, never be the first to mention a number. Sometimes your counterparty will make the first bid, and sometimes it will be far higher than you expected. In those situations, offering a much lower amount first could cost you.
Negotiation is an intense activity. You only have the capacity for a certain amount of optimal attention during the process. Use that time well and then adjourn. The last thing you want to do is make a bad deal because you’ve exhausted yourself first.
As with most things, improving at negotiation requires practice. Take your time and watch your progress. You will be surprised at how much easier it gets.