Practical tip: Negotiating

Negotiating: With these 10 tips from business coach Corinna Schulmeister, you will leave negotiations feeling happier in future


Whether talking to your partner about where to go on your next holiday or discussing your salary with your boss – you take part in negotiations every single day, whether you’re aware of it or not.

Do you often get annoyed abut decisions that have been made that don’t take your interests into consideration and you wish you were stronger at negotiating? Do you ask yourself how you can reach your goals and while doing so still manage to keep a balance between assertiveness and empathy?

Use the following 10 tips to prepare yourself before negotiations, to help you focus on your goals, and to conclude negotiations in future in a more satisfactory way.

Because: “Everything in life is a matter of negotiation!”

Photo: Andreas Heddergott

Practical tip 1: Create a suitable framework

There are people who swear by using an elevator ride with their boss to instigate salary negotiations. I disagree and recommend that you provide an appropriate framework for every important negotiation. Give everyone involved enough time to prepare for the meeting, inform them about the topic in advance and create a pleasant atmosphere where you won’t be disturbed.

Practical tip 2: Turn up with “real” alternatives in your pocket

This tip will give you the most bargaining power, but it will take some time. In many situations, you have a choice and you’ll be carrying out negotiations with more than one party. In this situation, I recommend that you obtain offers in advance from the less interesting parties. Then, go to the party that is most attractive to you with “real” alternatives in your pocket. You will appear more self-confident and this will strengthen your negotiating position.

In general: “The more important a negotiation is for you, the more important your alternatives are.”

Practical tip 3: Define your goal and focus on it

Visualizing your goal is not only crucial for success in sports, but also in negotiations. Studies show that the clearer a goal is, the sooner it will be achieved. Analyze your alternatives beforehand and define what you want to achieve in the negotiations.

Also decide what your bottom line is, and decide you are not prepared to reach an agreement that falls short of that. Keep this in mind. Your main focus should always be on your previously defined and prioritized goal.

Practical tip 4: Leave yourself some room to maneuver

Only in very rare cases will the other party to the negotiations accept what you are asking for the first time. It is therefore important that you leave yourself some room to maneuver without taking you too far from your goal. How much room for maneuver you give yourself very much depends on the individual situation. About 5-15% is a good ballpark figure.

Practical tip 5: Be the first one to name a figure

Once you have defined what you want to achieve including your room to maneuver, make the first offer. It has been proven that the first number in the room has the strongest influence on a negotiation.

The next steps are always based on this first number. Use this psychological aspect to your advantage. Start with a number that is both ambitious and realistic.

Practical tip 6: Name a ‘crooked’ number

Although this trick is well known, it works. Crooked numbers are perceived by our subconscious to be more credible and gives the impression that our counterpart is informed and has thought about things beforehand.

If you name 65,000 euros as your annual salary, then you can expect a counteroffer of 60,000 euros. If you start with 63,500 euro, the typical counteroffer will likely be 62,000 euro. Start with a crooked number and you obtain better results.

Practical tip 7: Do some research on the interests of the other negotiation party 

Negotiations that successfully end in a win-win situation take into account the interests of both parties. The following story illustrates why this is so important:

Two sisters are arguing over an orange. The mother comes in and divides the orange into two halves without speaking a word with her daughters. That’s a fair deal, isn’t it?! Neither of the sisters is happy with their half orange: one of them needs the skin for her cake, while the other one wants to drink the juice of the orange. This example shows how important it is to know each other’s interests in negotiations.

Ask open-ended questions to explore the interests of your counterpart and show where your interests lie. The general rule is: “The more different the interests are, the easier it can be to reach a win-win situation.”

Practical tip 8: Develop creative ideas with your negotiation partner

Very often, only monetary aspects such as price or salary are negotiated, with people completely forgetting that many aspects might go towards fulfilling their interests. What about vacation days, home office options, a training budget, travel ticket subsidies or the gym?

And even if your employer blocks many of your creative ideas, you can still negotiate the window seat in the open-plan office. You shouldn’t give up too quickly. Even when you think you’re in what might seem to be a dead-end, agreement is often reached by taking a creative approach.

Practical tip 9: Make effective use of breaks in the conversation

Since (wo)man is a social animal, it is much more difficult for people to remain silent than it is to talk. For most people, longer breaks in the conversation are very unpleasant and difficult to endure. Use this knowledge to your advantage and deliberately make good use of any breaks in the negotiations.

The most effective break is after you have put out your first offer. Slowly count to ten in your mind and wait for the reaction of the other party to the negotiations.

Practical tip 10: Be hard when it comes to the matter at hand, be soft to your negotiating partner

The most successful negotiators are very focused on their goal, which they never lose sight of, pursuing it persistently with the help of creative approaches. At the same time, on a personal level, they make people feel liked and treat the other person on an equal footing.

You should make this golden rule your own: Stay hard when it comes to pursuing your goal but be soft when it comes to the interpersonal aspects. The general rule is: “The harder your demands, the more likeable you should be to your counterpart.”


About the author

Corinna Schulmeister is a TUM Alumna, certified trainer and business coach. Before making her passion for empowering people her main profession, she worked for international companies such as Aldi and Amazon. She took part there in numerous successful negotiations and now passes on her knowledge in practical trainings.