How to Get Everything You Want from Business English Negotiations
You’re in the middle of a negotiation and you got the worst offer ever.
You’re looking at your boss and thinking things like, “You’re kidding right? That’s ridiculous. Are you crazy?!”
Stop right there. Just pause for one moment to breathe.
In a negotiation, a discussion where you and someone else are trying to reach an agreement, you need to think very clearly and speak carefully. You can’t just say anything that you feel or think.
It’s a good thing that all of those comments were just in your head. You gave yourself a moment to breathe before actually responding out loud. After a moment of calm, rational thinking, you reply using your awesome business English:
“I’m afraid I had something different in mind. Perhaps we can discuss the details a bit more before settling on this number.”
Now you’re negotiating. You were careful, logical and polite—and you’re letting your boss know that your thoughts, desires and needs matter. You know what you’re worth to your boss and to your company, and you want to get what you truly deserve.
No matter who you are, you have likely been in a negotiation already. This is because there are so many types of negotiations in the workplace (and in our personal lives, too).
For every type of negotiation, the goal is the same: to get what you want.
How to Get Everything You Want from Business English Negotiations
So, what kind of negotiations might you find yourself involved in? Let’s look at a few of the most common types of business negotiations.
Buyers and sellers often negotiate about price, quality or delivery of products and services.
Along the supply chain, producers and distributors negotiate about the same things.
Management often negotiates with worker’s unions about pay, benefits and job stability, etc.
Even governments negotiate, either within themselves (for instance, to pass a bill) or amongst one another on topics such as immigration and environmental well-being, to name a couple of examples.
Of course, there’s also the most common type of negotiation—salary negotiation. This could be for your starting pay or for promotions and bonuses. These are tough. Why? What are you negotiating?
In a salary negotiation, you’re determining the value that you bring to the organization.
What You Should Know Before the Negotiation
Negotiating, bargaining, bartering, give-and-take. No matter what you call it, all negotiations are the same.
Here’s what the negotiation is really about: relationship building.
Yes, you do want to get what you want. But you also want to strengthen your relationship with the other person in the negotiation. You don’t want to offend them. You want them to leave happy too.
Many times, the people or businesses you negotiate with are potential long-term partners. This could be your employer, distributor, producer, loyal client, etc. For these reasons, focus on relationship building rather than winning. That’s why you didn’t say those first comments (“You’re crazy, right?!”) when your boss made a bad offer in our first example. You instead chose a more professional response.
This often supports both parties’ goals in the long-term.
What can I negotiate?
It’s not always about the money.
In a negotiation, there are always multiple things at stake. Things at stake are all things that you can negotiate. You can ask for more or less. You can ask to have these things adjusted to make you happy or to make things fair. For instance, price, quality and time, to name a few, are all factors in a negotiation.
If you can’t get the price you want on a certain product, perhaps you can get it delivered more quickly to your home. Or perhaps you can get a discount (a lower price) if you buy more items at one time.
Even in salary negotiations, there’s much more to consider than just base salary.
In addition to your base pay, you can negotiate the quality or timing of your bonuses, stock options, vacation days, flex time, profit-sharing, signing bonuses or educational reimbursement. You can even ask for a specific schedule (Every six months? Every three months?) to evaluate your performance and have the opportunity for a raise.
This is important to note as one poll found that one in three Britons would prefer more vacation time for the same pay rather than more pay for the same hours.
What should I research before the negotiation?
Are you selling a service or product?
Fully understand what you’re offering and how that compares to competitors. Are you offering a product with a higher or lower quality than that of your competitors? Does your pricing match this? What other benefits do your customers get?
Are you selling yourself in a salary negotiation?
Fully understand the job you have been offered (and make sure you officially have a job offer before entering salary negotiations). You’ll need to fully understand the daily responsibilities, the requirements and qualifications listed on the job posting, the expectations from your team and management, etc.
With this knowledge, you can easily research salary ranges for similar jobs in your industry and geographic region by asking friends or looking up information at GlassDoor.com, Salary.com or Payscale.com.
Next, fully understand the company. How do they assess employee performance? Do they have a specific way to handle promotions or pay raises? If your friends work there, ask them. Otherwise, Glassdoor.com also lists reviews about different companies’ work environments.
Key Phrases for 8 Stages of Any Negotiation
Okay, you’re ready. With your interview and your pre-negotiation research, you know everything you need to know about the contract and the other negotiator.
You’re not ready to relax yet, though. You still need to learn key phrases for each stage of the negotiation process. Put down your video games and comic books—here are the eight parts of any negotiation.
The other person may ask you: “What price [or salary] were you expecting?”
Here are some questions you can ask in order to respond:
- “How much have you budgeted for this [product/ service/ position]?” How much they budgeted will tell you how much they planned to pay you.
- “What’s the going rate for this product [service]? The going rate explains the price of similar products or services.
- “What’s the typical range for others in this position?” The typical range shows you the scale, from lowest to highest, salaries that others are earning for the same work.
- “Let’s chat more about the position [product] before discussing salary [price].” This gives you time to learn more about the real value of the product or how much work the job requires.
Why are you asking these questions? With all of your research, you probably know most of the answers. So again, why?
Simple. You want the other person to say a number first.
Get them to say the first offer. They want you to offer the first number, too, but with these stalling sentences, you’ll be able to get them to speak first.
That’s what this entire section is about: Stalling them (delaying them) until they make the first offer.
2. Give ranges
After they’ve said the first numbers, ask for a better number (it can’t hurt, right?). They are expecting you to do this. Always begin with a range of prices (or salaries) instead of one number.
- “My expectation is in the range of…”
- “We would like to propose…”
- “I was thinking…”
Before entering the negotiation, you need to have three numbers in your mind.
Your opening range is your highest, most optimistic option. You can start with these numbers. Negotiations will probably push this number down. Your target range is what you prefer and what is fair for what you’re offering. Your bottom range is the least you would be willing to take.
Your walk away range is below the minimum you will accept, no matter how charming the other negotiator is. Just as the name suggests, if the numbers fall in this range, you will walk away.
Make sure not to tell the other party your bottom or walk away range! Otherwise, it’s likely that they’ll offer you the lowest numbers possible.
But wait, remember earlier? We said that there are multiple things up for negotiation—not just money. If the price or salary you want is not being offered, then you may be ask for other benefits to supplement this. In this case, you can respond to the low offer by saying:
- “That number may work, depending on other factors.”
Use this phrase to explain that the price might be okay, if we negotiate on other things as well.
3. Explain why your ranges are well-deserved
This is where the negotiation gets serious. You know what they’re offering (part 1), they know what you’re expecting (part 2)—now it’s about why you deserve a better offer. Why do you deserve what you’re asking for?
- “For my unique skills, I would expect…”
- “We have conducted research that shows that…”
- “Let me reassure you that…”
- “This is a very competitive (reasonable) price for the quality of…”
If you haven’t done it already, now is the time to get confident.
In addition to the above statements, use numbers! A tip from J.D. Roth, author of the “Your Money” column and the Get Rich Slowly blog, is to present your accomplishments by attaching a time and date to them. Cliff Oxford, founder of Oxford Center for Entrepreneurs, has another great tip: explain the past but sell the future.
Okay: “At my previous job, I automated reports which helped run operations more efficiently.”
Great: “I automated reports which saved 40 hours per month or $500 a day. The savings are being used to expand our location in the next year.” (Source)
Okay: “My entire team met their sales quotas.”
Great: “I increased department sales by 20% and doubled productivity in six months. Our team has been chosen to train new sales employees so that these benefits can be seen company-wide.” (Source)
Never make your negotiations about your personal life. Don’t bring up your wife (“She won’t let me come home with that low of an offer.”) or your expenses (“I need to pay off my student loans!”). Only talk about the relevant experience you have that proves that you deserve what you’re asking for.
Let’s go back to the point of being confident. You can’t express any uncertainty or weakness here. Be sure to avoid the following words:
- I think
- Could you
Yup, get rid of them. These words express insecurity and doubt. Part 3 (and the whole negotiation) is all about confidence.
After all, why apologize for being awesome?
4. Be flexible
Another name for negotiating is “give and take.” This means that, at some point, you will have to give something up.
The key is to never give anything away for free. If you are going to lower your price, make sure you get something in return for it, for instance, a longer contract.
- “Our main concern is…”
- “Our intention is…”
- “It is important that we consider…”
- “For that price, how about adjusting/ changing [another element].”
These statements allow you to highlight what is most important (main concern, intention, important to consider) to you in this negotiation. Listed at the beginning of this article are a ton of things other than base pay that you can negotiate for, so take another look at those.
What if you’re not negotiating for salary? Instead, let’s say that you’re buying or selling a product or service. Rather than simply price, there’s quality, quantity, the timing and frequency of the delivery, exclusive sale or exclusive rights to the product (exclusive means that you’re the only person or business allowed to sell this product or service) to consider.
You know what you want. But now you need to know what the other person wants too. The top four statements make your intentions clear. But what about the person you’re negotiating with? What are their intentions?
- “Can you flex on this?”
- “Is this going to be a deal-breaker?”
Deal-breaker is a factor, such as starting date or delivery time, which cannot be changed. It is something very important to them. They might be willing to walk away and leave you with nothing if you demand to change this factor.
5. Change your offer
I know, I know. You did your research earlier. How could you miss anything?
Some new information could have come up in the middle of negotiating. Other things, such as exchange rates, change often and are hard to predict.
Emphasize that you’ve had time to do additional research to learn more about the contract responsibilities, or external factors such as cost of living (for salaries) or foreign-exchange rates (for overseas products).
- “Additional research has shown…”
- “I didn’t realize the full responsibilities of this contract.”
- “Now that I have more information…”
- “I believe we should revisit pricing [salary].”
- “That number is no longer appropriate.”
No matter the reason, you’re not alone. Plus, now you know how to change your offer! Ultimately, everything is on the table (able to change) until the negotiation has ended.
6. Anticipate objections
Now, things won’t always go perfectly. The other person may have some objections to your proposals and numbers.
- “You’re not qualified enough.”
- “You’re asking for too much.”
- “The economy is awful.”
- “Every new contract begins at this amount.”
- “Every starting employee earns this.”
Every single person you negotiate with will say something along these lines. It’s probably not true (or maybe the economy is awful but that doesn’t change the fact that you’re worth what you’re asking for).
How do you fight these objections? Revisit Part 3. Be confident. Tell them what you’re worth. Repeat as necessary.
Another helpful thing you can do is to create a chart. For your product or service, list the benefits and disadvantages of working with you. Next to that, list the benefits and disadvantages of working with competitors.
For your salary, list the responsibilities, qualifications needed, salary and benefits, training and growth opportunities and intangibles (such as a positive work environment). Next to that, list the same items for the new position you’re negotiating for.
7. Be quiet!
Don’t be afraid of silence.
Even a long period of silence.
Especially a long period of silence.
Career coach Jack Chapman, author of “Negotiating Your Salary: How to Make $1000 a Minute” states that “the most likely outcome of silence is a raise.”
Seriously, practice this first. Silence can be deafening. Next time you go to Starbucks, stare at the barista for a full minute before asking for your coffee—you’ll know exactly what I mean when I say silence is deafening.
8. Close the deal or walk away
The goal of every negotiation is a win-win, where both parties walk away happy. They’re happy they got you, you’re happy you got the money (and everything else) in exchange for your time, product or service.
- “This looks good.”
- “I can work with this.”
- “This is acceptable.”
- “That sounds great.”
The last thing to do is to ask for a final offer in writing before signing any contracts.
Easy! Right? Not so fast.
The other way for negotiations to end is just as this article started.
- You’re kidding right?
- That’s ridiculous.
- Are you crazy?!
Just like in the introduction of this post, you might end up thinking any of these things. Don’t say them out loud, but pay attention to these thoughts.
Some negotiations end in deadlocks—no progress is made because neither party is happy. Walking away from negotiations is hard to do. However, sometimes it’s necessary.
You’ll never truly be negotiating unless you can walk away from the deal. If you have to walk away, remember that negotiations are about relationship-building and the long-term.
- “After careful consideration…”
- “After much thought…”
- “I’ve decided to pursue another…”
- “Regrettably, I do not believe we will come to an agreement. I know a great person/ company that may meet your current needs.”
If you leave by saying one of these polite and professional phrases, then the other person will respect you. Respect is important. There’s always the possibility for a future relationship.
Practice Makes Perfect Negotiations
All of this might sound a little intimidating! That’s normal.
Thankfully, there are plenty of places to practice your negotiation skills before “the big one.” Try one of the following strategies to practice your negotiation skills before going to your boss.
- Call your landlord and negotiate for a lower rent or another benefit such as free parking.
- Sign up for a membership at a club, gym or other facility and negotiate for a lower enrollment fee.
- Negotiate the price of any product or service in your home, from internet service to furniture.
- Contact your school admin and negotiate for more scholarship funding.
These scenarios are great to practice negotiating and can save you thousands of dollars. Now that’s win-win.
Joyce Fang grew up all over the United States and currently lives in Yokohama, Japan working as a freelance business plan writer and graphic designer. She has earned a Japan-focused MBA and has worked across almost every industry including finance, hospitality, retail and event management. She loves traveling, food, rugby, hot yoga and her dog, Gator.