Negotiations can be tricky. While they should be about getting the best deal for all sides, using the wrong words or tone can quickly ruin what should have been a profitable discussion.
It is in your best interest to find out what mistakes destroy negotiations so you can learn to avoid them – or so you can be understanding when someone across the table makes that error. Here are nine terrible negotiation mistakes people often make:
- Speaking for the Other Parties. Using the word "you" can feel accusatory, and during a negotiation, emotions can run high. Your intent will not matter if you use the wrong words. Focus on speaking for your company, in both the language you use and in your intent. That will keep you from souring a deal by inadvertently insulting people at the table.
- Discussing the Company's Profit Margin. Your company's exact profit margin is a dangerous topic of discussion. The more other parties know about it, the more they can press you for more money in trade. You lose a lot of power by discussing exactly what you can offer.
- Random Comments to Fill the Silence. Negotiations are not a non-stop exchange of ideas. People need time to think and process information. Do not rob people of that moment of silence. Let people consider what just happened and what they learned. Keep your mouth shut if you have nothing relevant to say. Let someone else make that mistake.
- Closing the Door on an Offer. One of the greatest mistakes you can make during a negotiation is to close the door on an offer. You never know how the situation will develop. Definitively rejecting an offer can severely limit negotiations moving forward because what a company or client offers usually indicates their needs. Overtly rejecting their offers can send the signal that you do not care about their needs.
- Making Too Many Assumptions. You need to make some assumptions when going into a negotiation, such as what the other party is willing to give up or offer. However, it is possible to make too many assumptions, or to consider those assumptions as absolutely true. Treat them as they are – calculated guesses. If they correct you, do not try to outsmart them. Accept the correction and adjust your expectations and offers accordingly.
- Keep your language clean and clear. Swearing can make you look highly emotional and difficult to deal with or worse, make you seem unreasonable. Negative emotions will surge up, especially when negotiations go sour, but you need to hold your tongue. Do not escalate the situation. Keep calm and focus on getting a good deal.
- Saying or Implying That Negotiations are Almost Done. Implying or saying outright that negotiations are done might be an attempt to make people feel better about a long meeting, but it often has the opposite effect. You could end up accidentally implying that you are personally done with discussions and that you just want to wrap the meeting up. Avoid saying that and you should be fine.
- Saying "Yes" Before You Are Actually Ready. Any time you agree to an offer or statement, you lock it down. When you do that, negotiations change, and if you do not mean that you’re in agreement, you could end up souring negotiations if you end up having to take your word back. Do not say yes or agree to an offer unless you are sure nothing short of an earthshaking change will make you go back on it.
- Making an Ultimatum. Absolute statements or ultimatums are rarely profitable additions to a discussion. They corner everyone at the table into making a choice. Do not force a choice just to finish negotiations. Those meetings can and will take a lot of time, as many decisions and micro-choices have to be made. Give negotiations the time they need to breathe and you will find more of them turning out well.
While those are far from the only mistakes that will ruin negotiations, knowing about them should help you close more deals. Generally speaking, to have a good experience at the negotiating table you need to consider the other party as people, and not look to cheat them out of anything. Look for a mutually beneficial outcome, and you will become a better negotiator.