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17 Terrific Negotiating Tips

17 Terrific Negotiating Tips

By Emily Huling, CIC, CMC

We are continually negotiating. It may be a small issue - where to go for lunch. A larger concern - setting business goals and strategy. Or a matter with immense long-term impact - policy terms, coverage, and rates. Since most of us don't have time to read the volumes written on negotiating skills, here are some pointers for productive and positive negotiating.

  1. Know what you want as an outcome. Money, time, guarantees, additional services, upgraded product, etc. Whatever it is, it's imperative to know your requirements and your negotiable points.
  2. Do in-depth homework on the issues being negotiated. Be able to refer to facts, figures, history. Proof trumps hearsay.  It's hard to argue with solid evidence.
  3. Be prepared. Have your list of facts and questions at the ready.
  4. Find out as much as you can about the individual. Get a feel for what's at stake for him or her.
  5. Ask about the decision-making process. Who has the authority and how will the decision be made?
  6. Look beyond the present. How will the outcome play out in the future? It may be a good move now, but what will the effect be in the future? If it's a sacrifice now, the long-term payoff could be tremendous.
  7. Use language of personal responsibility, not accusation.  Say "I need" instead of "you need to."
  8. Seating arrangements. Sitting on opposite sides of the table indicates a more combative exchange. Sitting on the same side of the table or on adjoining sides signifies a more collaborative exchange.
  9. Talk less, listen more. Let the other person talk about her position, while you really listen to what it being said.
  10. If you are face-to-face, pay attention to the other person's body language. Is it aligned with the words you're hearing? Is nervousness apparent even though the words are persuasive?
  11. Mind your own body language and expression. Have a pleasant expression, but don't smile excessively. Avoid nodding your head. Show you're paying attention with your eyes.
  12. Learn when and how to appropriately interrupt. A simple, "I hear what you're saying and I'd like to share some ideas" is an effective way to interrupt.
  13. Consider the emotional impact to the other person.
  14. Be open to their proposition. Put yourself in their shoes.
  15. Help the other side sell it to their higher authority. "It sounds like we're in agreement. How can I help you sell this to your boss?"
  16. Continually summarize the conversation and confirm agreements. "So if I understand what you're telling me...."  Getting a periodic assessment of the idea exchange will help close the deal more easily.
  17. Expect a positive outcome, both in the specifics of the agreement and the relationship.
  18. Emily Huling, CIC, CMC helps the insurance industry create top-performing sales and service organizations. She can be contacted at She's a frequent presenter at industry conferences, on the national faculty of the Society of CIC, and is the author of "Great Service Sells, Selling from the Inside," and "Kick Your 'But'." For information on her products and consulting services and to subscribe to her free monthly newsletter, visit

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