How to Negotiate like a Pro

How to develop your negotiation skills so you can get the results you deserve.

As a commercial skills trainer and coach, I always remind people that developing your negotiation skills doesn’t just happen overnight. Just like learning a new language or training for a marathon, it takes commitment, ambition and hard work to achieve the extraordinary. 

The great news is that negotiation is like a muscle – the more you use it – the stronger it will become. So based on more than 13 years developing and delivering commercial training programmes around the world, here are my top tips to help and inspire you to raise your negotiation game – whether youre negotiating with customers, colleagues, family or friends. 



If you fail to plan, you plan to fail 

Preparation is absolutely key to negotiation success, so before every negotiation, make sure you write down a list of what you are hoping to achieve. Then, write down what you are prepared to offer in return – after all negotiation is about finding an overlapping position with the other party.  As part of your preparation, anticipate any curve balls you think may come you’re way and plan how you will respond.  This will help you manage and control the negotiation conversation during the meeting itself. Remember – in negotiation forewarned really is forearmed! 


Whether you think you can or think you can’t – you’re right!  

These wise words by Henry Ford clearly show the power of a winning mindset. We’re often our worst enemy when it comes to negotiation – talking ourselves down before we even get to the negotiating table.  So before every meeting, remind yourself what’s great about you, your company and your relationship with the other partyBoost your confidence by thinking back to a time when you successfully turned around challenging situation. Finally, visualise what success looks like – this could be signing your name on a new contract or walking through the door of your new house. 


The minute you settle for less than you deserve, you get even less than you settled for!  

Master negotiators understand that you need to be appropriately ambitious throughout the negotiation process if you want to secure the best possible outcome. So always start the negotiation ahead of your ideal as you are unlikely to get a “yes” to your opening offer. It’s important to prepare your highest, high and low offers before each negotiation – contrary to popular belief I don’t advise preparing a walkaway position as I believe your are more likely to end up there if you do. Instead think of your “low” offer as the bottom of your happy zone and your highest as the highest believable position. You will be amazed at the results. 


You cannot negotiate with those that say what’s mine is mine and what’s yours is negotiable – JFK 

It’s crucial to remember that communication lies at the heart of every negotiation.  You therefore need to draw on you empathy to understand what makes the other party tick.  By putting yourself in their shoes and creating wins for the other side, you are far more likely to balance the playing field and find an overlapping position agreeable to both parties.  Remember, people like doing a business with people they like – so your goal should be to build a relationship based on trust that leaves both parties feeling like winners. 



A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity, an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty  


Finally, as this quote from Churchill shows, you need to be resilient and solution-orientated if you want to achieve a win-win outcome. By adopting a glass half full attitude, you are far more likely to bring different variables to the table and avoid what I describe as the 3 Ds of negotiation – deadlock, disagreement and disappointmentRemember to dial up your EQ and draw on your resilience to help you bounce back from any obstacles in your path. Instead focus on taking the learnings from any setbacks so you can move the conversation forwards and close the negotiation like a true professional. 



Nicole Soames is CEO of Diadem Performance, a leading commercial skills training and coaching company, and author of ‘The Negotiation Book’