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7 Clever Tricks That Will Make You a Better Negotiator
Last Updated April 11th, 2018

How can you improve your negotiation skills even if you HATE to negotiate?

Here 7 of my best tips to help you get what you want…

#1 Ask Yourself These 2 Questions…

You might think that in order to negotiate better you have to strong-arm people.


You walk into the room and DEMAND to get a better deal.

Ummm… no.

There’s no clever thing you can say to “force” anyone to do anything. Deals happen, when both sides WANT to make the deal. That’s what it means to create a win-win situation.

That’s why the “aggressive” approach doesn’t work. Plus, most people aren’t comfortable doing it anyway.

So what should you do instead?

If you want to strike a deal, the first thing you MUST do is this:

Put yourself in the other person’s shoes.

Okay, but what does that mean exactly?


I suggest you ask yourself these TWO questions:

  • Why are THEY looking to make a deal in the first place?
  • How can you align your incentives with theirs?

Think about what the situation looks like from THEIR perspective. Then, you’ll be able to come up with a real win-win offer.

Let me give you an example.

Heidi Roizen wrote about a specific negotiation she had with Steve Jobs. They were negotiating the royalty rate for a software product.

Heidi’s first offer was 15%…

…but Jobs told her:

“Come back at 50%, or don’t come back”

At first, she was stunned. There was NO way she could make 50% work.

But then she talked to a colleague… and had a light-bulb moment.

She realized Jobs wanted to see 50% on the contract. But not for monetary reasons. The reason he wanted to see that number was “political:” He had promised people internally he’d get that rate.


There was no way she could afford to pay 50% of her gross revenue. But she figured out a way to make a contract that said “50%” at the bottom.

Here’s how she explains it:

I had to make the business make sense financially. I just needed to make my 15% look like his 50%.

To do so, I reduced the nut to split by first deducting the cost of packaging, of technical support, the salaries for some developers on my side of the business to implement fixes, and when I still couldn’t get the math to pencil out, I added a $6 per unit ‘handling fee’ thanks to some inspiration from an infomercial on the Home Shopping Network. My new “Hollywood net” number read 50%, but fully-loaded it was pretty close to the 15% of gross I needed to make the deal work. Magic!

Everyone was happy and the deal got inked.

This goes to show:

Once you realize what people REALLY want, you can make more beneficial deals for everyone.

I talk about it in this video (plus, I share 2 more tips…):

#2 Should You Make the First Offer (or Wait)?

Did you watch the video above? 😉

If you did, you’ll already know that you should always ask for MORE than you actually want.

Look, this is just smart: Whether you’re negotiating a raise, buying a car, or “negotiating” with your significant other…

You should always leave yourself some wiggle-room.

That way you can make sacrifices… and still get what you want.

Now, one common question is, though:

Should make the first offer or wait for the other party to say a number?

The answer might surprise you…

Because, contrary to popular belief, you SHOULD make the first offer: You’ll be more likely to arrive at a favorable result.

There’s fascinating science to back this up, too. I wrote about it and explained the psychological reason you should make the first offer.

#3 The “Good Vs. Really Bad” Technique

This next negotiation tip is all about framing.

I’ll explain.

Negotiations are always about options. For example:

  • Buy vs. don’t buy
  • Take the train vs. drive by car
  • “Hire me” vs. “hire someone else”

To negotiate better you need to think about HOW you present these alternatives…

The clever technique I want to share is all about CONTRASTING a “good” option with a “really bad” option.

I made a video about this where I give you a good example. Oh… I also talk about the “apples to oranges” technique. Watch it here:

#4 Why I Sent $50 to a Stranger

In his book Unlabel: Selling Without Selling Out Marc Ecko talks about sending people “Swag Bombs.”

For example, he’d send gifts to radio hosts to get featured on their programs.

Yeah, you could call it a bribe, but it was tremendously effective.

Because here’s the thing:

Often the first step in a negotiation is to get people’s attention.

You need to get your foot in the door, show them that you’re serious, and make it clear there’s something in it for them…

So how do you do this?

Simple. Try to create some goodwill BEFORE you go into your negotiations. This will show people you’re not trying to steal their time or pull a fast one on them.

Just recently, I took this idea and used an old-school direct mail tactic when I was trying to buy a new domain…

I shared the story in my vlog here:

#5 Avoid The Biggest Negotiation Mistake

One of the secrets to negotiation is so simple it sounds silly.

Yey, it’s maybe the #1 negotiation mistake people make.

What is it?

People go into negotiations and they don’t even know what they want!

So, that’s the very first thing you need to get clear on:

Before you start negotiating, figure out what it is you want.

Once you know that, the real negotiation begins.


What do you do In order to GET what you want?

As counterintuitive as it sounds, the answer is:

You need to be willing to walk away.

Because the reality in most negotiations is that the side that cares LESS… wins.

I’ll explain.

Thinks of someone who can either sell their house or go into foreclosure. They NEED to sell. That’s not a good position for a negotiation.

That’s why many people in real estate look for houses in foreclosure. They’re often a great deal because the other side doesn’t have many options.

The question is:

How can you put yourself in a position where you’re willing to walk away?

You need to create options for yourself!

Whenever you’re in a negotiation and your life depends on it… you’re likely to get the short end of the stick.

But it’s different when you have options. Then, you can happily walk away. You won’t feel like you’re missing out.

The best part?

When you’re willing to walk away (because you have options)…

…the other party is more likely to reveal their REAL willingness to pay. Meaning, you’ll get the best possible deal.

So, the 3 steps to being a better negotiator are:

  1. Know what you want
  2. Create options for yourself
  3. Be willing to walk away

Make sense?

Here’s my next tip. This one’s super practical…

#6 Why You Should Always Meet People In Person

A new study recently found that people are 34 (!) times more persuasive in person than by written messages. I wrote about it here.

Think about that.

Your chance of getting to “yes” is 34 times higher if you meet people face-to-face.

And if you can’t meet in person… a phone call or video chat is likely much better, too.

The good news is:

The takeaway here is straightforward… If you want to negotiate better, meet people in person!

#7 Know the Perfect Time to Schedule Your Meetings

But when should you set your meetings?

As it turns out, there IS a right and wrong answer to this question.

Researchers from the Columbia Business School analyzed more than 1,000 parole decisions made by experienced judges.

What they found was fascinating. It proves that being “hangry” is not a myth…

Watch this:

So remember:

For you important negotiations, meet people face-to-face…

…and DON’T schedule your meeting right before lunch!

Now tell me this:

Which of these negotiation tips did you find the most useful? And have you used any other negotiation tactics you can share?

Leave a comment.

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12 comments Leave a comment
Alexander Jarvis

Negotiation is most important for any deal. It’s also important for a startup. As a startup fonder, I’m impressed to your post. You really wrote awesome, Derek.

Jake Blake

in Business and marketing negotiation is key.Actually negotiation is an art in which some people are so good that you have to quit at the end.I am a marketer but my negotiation skills are so weak.

Dave Dayanan

Thanks for always giving your best articles that can help Derek. El Hombre…

Annette Hohnberger

Fantastic article Derek. I like how Heidi was able to make Steve Jobs number of 50% happened in a very creative way. Thank you for sharing this article.


Donal J Trump strong armed people, esp. North Korea with all those nuke, fire and fury threats and guess what he almost got it done, way better than previous potus’s so I guess what if nothing works out then if you can afford to be like DJT then surely you will get it done a lot quicker ;p.

Addy Brown

A negotiator has to take to attain a successful negotiation includes deciding to negotiate in the first place. Female candidates often are hesitant to make requests because of potential repercussions.


Hi Derek. Thank you. Great stuff. You are a smart man. One comment though. In video 2, you (subconsciously I think) sway your hips (no mean-ness on my part intended here) which I found visually distracting. I couldn’t look away because I wanted to read the subtitles also. Thanks for being man enough to listen. All the best.


This is great write up, thanks for this mind blowing tips , sure will use 🙂


You might check out “Never Split the Difference” by Chris Voss. It was excellent and had some great tactics on negotiations. They are actionable and not just a bunch of philosophical views. Think you will have a new perspective. Thanks for posting.


It was more than excellent! Thank you

I use the contrast principle (number 3) very often, and other ones occasionally.
I’m gonna try them all with much more awareness from now on.


This is great, especially the part about aligning yourself with the other person. It’s not always a win/lose situation if you can truly understand how both people can benefit from the deal. Good stuff.


Super great write up, Derek! Got a lot from this. Thanks…


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