How to Have Fun in Your Next Negotiation

The key to negotiating is finding the win-win for both parties.

By Carole Mahoney

We negotiate every day, don’t we? Whether it is with our partners over dinner, our kids over bedtime, or for business in our day-to-day jobs.

But let’s face it—negotiating in sales just isn’t a fun time for most of us. In fact, it can be downright scary.

According to data from more than 2 million sales professionals, only as little as 13% have strong negotiation skills. The ability to negotiate effectively is the third-worst skill sellers and business owners have worldwide. If you weren’t scared before, you might be after hearing that!

Learning the Attributes

Why does the idea of negotiating cause so much fear and anxiety in us? And what can we do to get better and more comfortable with it, both for ourselves and in developing the negotiating skills of our sellers.

There are 11 different attributes we measure in sellers and leaders to understand how best to help them become better negotiators. They are:

  • Seeks win/win
  • Willing to walk
  • Manages appropriate amount of patience
  • Able to listen and ask with ease
  • Controls emotions
  • Goal-oriented
  • Problem solver
  • Doesn’t need to be liked
  • Rejection-proof
  • Selling value
  • Able to discuss money.

The most important one out of all of those is the ability to seek a win/win.

I recently read Fotini Iconompoulos’ book, Say Less, Get More: Unconventional Negotiation Techniques to Get What You Want. In it she states seeking a win/win is when we can view negotiating not as a means to get what you want (when we don’t go in with the attitude “It’s my way or the highway, baby!”)

Doing that makes negotiating competitive, a win/lose situation. And that is when the fear and apprehension set in. After all, no one wants to be a loser.

When fear is leading us, it feeds our need for approval, and as a result, our brains go into fight-or-flight mode. Our reptilian brain, or amygdala, takes over and suddenly our emotions are an elephant running rampant with us as a rider holding on for dear life.

But instead, when we look for the win/win, we go from being competitive to being more collaborative. This is what Fotini calls the “our way” of negotiating.

Learning to Collaborate

So how do you stop the runaway elephant to be more collaborative with your buyers and customers (heck, even your neighbors and family members)?

The first tip Fotini shares is to take a pause. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? It may, but pausing is actually one of the hardest things to do when our emotions are high and the blood is pumping.

Yet when we do pause, we slow down our breathing and our heart rate, which then allows our brain to also slow down. When that happens, rather than reacting, we are finally able to be present with our emotions, which is what helps us to get past them.

When we pause, it gives us a few moments to consider some quick questions like how much time this conversation needs to be, how much do we really know about what is going on, is the other person willing to get creative with us, and how much do we really need each other.

The most common thing we think about negotiating in sales is the price—the money piece. But a sales mentor once shared with me: There are other ways for customers and clients to pay you.

It is important to remember in a negotiation that there are other forms of value clients can offer in addition to the money piece. It can be the terms of execution, the timeline it happens in, or even referrals and introductions to others for new business relationships.

Learning to Listen

I’m writing this column in the fourth quarter of the year, which means it’s not just the holiday season for a lot of us, but also the negotiation season.

Whether it is renewing contracts or closing new ones, the more complex they get, the harder it is to know what to share. Fotini writes that sharing preferences and priorities is safe, but when it comes to sharing the weight of importance of those things, it will depend on how much you trust the other person not to use that information to take advantage of you.

So, when you need to ask questions of buyers and customers that might seem sensitive or probing, share the “why” behind the question first. It might sound something like, “In order to help you decide which option is best for you right now, would you share with me, on a scale of 1 to 10, how important these things are?”

When you start to take on the win/win negotiation mindset, you will come to realize that selling and negotiating isn’t something we do to others, it is something we do with them.

That collaborative mindset will tend to put others first, which they will sense and make it easier for them to trust you. And that is what will make your negotiations not only easier, but more fun.

Mahoney Offers Tips on YouTube for Sales Leaders and Sellers
Unbound Sales Growth columnist Carole Mahoney provides tips for sales leaders and sellers on YouTube. Past topics have included how to get over fears and have better conversations, how to become a top salesperson, and cognitive behavioral tips to sell on value. To watch these videos and future ones, visit Mahoney’s Linktree webpage and click “YouTube” in the drop-down menu.
Have a Sales or Marketing Question for Mahoney? Let Us Know!
Is there a sales or marketing issue that you have wondered about for a long time? Do you wish you or your team had a technique for better closing sales or promoting your business and its products and services? Unbound Sales Growth columnist Carole Mahoney can help. Email WWJ Editor Thad Plumley at and he will arrange for Mahoney to answer your question in a video at

Carole Mahoney, as the founder of Unbound Growth, has coached Harvard Business School Entrepreneurial MBA students on sales and been featured as a top sales coach by Ambition and Sales Hacker. You can contact her directly at