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Three Ways to Improve Negotiations

Preparation, listening and knowing how to close are three keys to successful negotiations.

Two business men sitting at a conference table engaging in effective negotiating.

By Ken Jaegge, SVP, Group Producer Management and U.S. Marketing

Going into a negotiation with rigid expectations can lead to failure. Use the following tips to establish an effective negotiating style that makes everyone at the table happy.

1. Prepare

Negotiating begins before you sit down at the table. Being prepared will give you an advantage over your counterpart, but what should you know in advance?

First, identify your goals. What is your “magic number”? What are your non-negotiables? Setting your target and boundaries ahead of time will give you better control in the moment.

If you’ve done business with your counterpart before, determine their negotiating style to help craft your approach. Are they methodical and diligent? Explain your proposal using numbers and data. Do they value relationships and communication? Build rapport to make the negotiation feel like a partnership. Or are they hasty and assertive? Get straight to the point to show that you appreciate their time.

2. Listen with intent

The most successful negotiators think on their feet and are willing to adjust their proposal based on their counterpart’s verbal and nonverbal cues. Be attentive to the other party’s desires and concerns, and address them appropriately. Active engagement not only mines valuable information for yourself but also assures others that you’re invested in their success.

3. Close the deal

Make sure your counterpart says a number first. If it’s your target, the negotiation is done, and your counterpart feels victorious. If it’s not your target, show dissatisfaction by using a displeased tone and demeanor to make it clear to your counterpart that their offer is unrealistic.  From here, work toward your “magic number” using the Ackerman model (countering with 85% of your target, then 95% and finally 100%).

Now for the most important step of closing a deal: Once you’ve gotten a “yes,” stop talking. Don’t discuss any further details of the transaction other than to get it in writing.

Successful negotiations don’t always end with one party having more than the other. More often, they are filled with discoveries that satisfy all involved.

Watch a replay of our latest webinar, “Negotiating Like a Pro,” to learn more ways to become an effective negotiator. Visit Ascend With Argo to learn more about the program’s education, support and insights for early-career producers.


Voss, C. (2016), Never Split the Difference, Harper Business
Navarro, J. (2008), What Every Body Is Saying, William Morrow Paperbacks

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