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Start with “No” when negotiating

4 min read

Modern Money

This guest post is written by Jim Camp, CEO of Camp Negotiation Systems, who has trained and coached over 100,000 people through thousands of negotiations in more than 500 organizations. He is founder of J. Camp University, which offers Camp Method “Start with No” Credentialed Negotiation Skill Courses to organizations and individuals who wish to develop professional negotiating skills. His best-selling book, “Start with No,” published by Crown Business, has been translated into 12 languages. Find out more at

Want to win new clients, negotiate a big contract, or sell a new service? Invite the other party to say “No.” Get comfortable hearing “no” and saying “no.” Once you do, you will possess the best business and negotiating tool available.

If you are like most financial professionals, you were taught negotiating strategies that were designed to get the client to say “yes”:

  • You learned how to dress and speak to impress.
  • You mastered the art of presentation to showcase your offerings.
  • You had charts and case examples to sell your services.
  • You learned how to be persuasive.
  • You learned how to close a deal quickly.
  • You learned how to compromise and arrive at a “win-win” solution.

There’s a better way: Start the conversation by inviting the other party to say “no.” In other words, if you don’t like what’s happening in the negotiation, say “no” and we’ll go from there. Conversely, if I don’t like what’s happening, I’ll say “no” and we’ll go from there. Inviting the word “no” at the beginning of a transaction puts the other party at ease and instills trust (giving you a strategic advantage).

When you use this counterintuitive approach, you will get the best deal for your side every time. Here are nine more negotiating strategies:

Never think about closing. Do not think about, hope for or plan for the outcome of the deal. Focus instead on what you can control: your behavior and activity during the negotiation.

Prepare. Before you go into the meeting, learn everything about the other party, the competition and your own position.┬áDon’t let yourself be surprised.

Identify problems standing in your way. Before the meeting, write down every problem you can think of that might come up so you can bring them out into the open. Always “out” the elephant in the room; don’t pretend it’s not there.

Leave all emotions outside the door. Turn your mind into a blank slate. Exercise self-control so you have no expectations, fears or judgments. Above all, overcome all neediness, the No. 1 deal-killer.

Let them feel “more OK” than you. This is the “Columbo Effect.” Do not dress to impress, name drop or get on a grandstand. Let the other party feel at ease with you, and perhaps even a bit superior.

Get him or her revealing problems. Don’t talk — listen. When you do talk, don’t give them ammunition and things to object to. Instead, ask great questions that begin with what, why, how, when, and where. Find out what the other party wants so you can help solve their problems.

Build a mission and purpose rooted in their world. Every negotiation, whether it’s a phone call or a formal business meeting, needs a mission and purpose. Yours is to help them see how your three or four top features will help them achieve their key business goals.

Build a vision for them. Get the other party to see that giving you a good deal is to their advantage. Without a solid vision — the one you are building for the other party — they will take no action and there will be no decision or agreement. Spend all of your time getting information about their world, understanding the anticipated challenges and problems, so you can present yourself as the solution.

Do not try to be friends. The other party is not your friend. You are not seeking loyalty or a long-term relationship — symbols of neediness. What you want, instead, is respect and a fair agreement that accomplishes your mission and purpose, and fulfills their vision (the one you have just built for them).