Back to Insights

7 Negotiation Tactics to Bring to Your Next Discussion

The Scotwork Team


If we've said it once, we've said it a hundred times: negotiation is a skill that few can afford to ignore. Knowing how to negotiate can help us out of many tight spots and can help us advocate for the best possible outcome. Of course, this doesn't always have to be in the context of sales or contracts; you could be negotiating for better pay with a manager, or for a better price on a house you want to buy.

All negotiations should start with a discussion about strategies and tactics. This discussion should also happen long before you get anywhere near the bargaining table.

There is no right way to negotiate, but that also doesn't mean that there aren't proven negotiation strategies that can help you towards the outcomes that best suit your needs. A discussion of negotiation tactics can also ensure that you and any bargaining partner at your side are always on the same page.

Knowing which negotiation skills to use is just the first step to becoming a master negotiator. You also need to know how to feed them into a workable tactic as well. 

Keep it clean or get a bit dirty?

Before you even discuss what you intend to do as part of your negotiation tactics, you should consider whether you want to keep it clean or whether you are prepared to get a little dirty. There is always a time and a place for the latter. Choosing to be aggressive by resorting to some of the dirtier or more unethical negotiation tactics won't do anything in your favour. 

In fact, it could sour the relationship between you and the other party, preventing you from building the positive rapport you pull on in future negotiations.

Is winning really worth losing the chance to build these stronger customer relationships? Taking the moral high ground and deciding to keep things as above board as possible can be difficult to do, especially if your opponent decides to engage in some underhand tactics, but it can also help you to actively advocate for the outcome you want. 

What is your negotiation style?

Negotiation tactics are best paired with certain negotiation styles. Knowing which negotiation style best suits you and how you approach things can help make you a better negotiator overall. After all, you will know where your own strengths and weaknesses lie, and you can use them to shape discussions. 

If you try to use a tactic that doesn't mesh well with your preferred negotiation style, the difference will be obvious. Imagine dancing a waltz to a fast-paced piece of samba music. A truly skilled professional dancer might be able to make this work, but the vast majority of us would feel awkward and could end up stumbling through.

Tactics and style should come together to form one cohesive approach that helps you to navigate your negotiation, no matter what turn it might take. Understanding your preferred negotiation style will be a key first step in this journey.

7 key tactics for fair negotiations

So, what are some negotiation strategies that can be used to lead to a fair discussion during a formal negotiation process? Here are some of our favourites.

1. Make use of silence

Discussion keeps a successful negotiation moving forward. However, choosing to fall silent and let silence reign can also be helpful. We instinctively want to fill silence and can be left feeling awkward if we just sit there saying nothing.

This makes silence a powerful tool in negotiations. If you want to force the other party into speaking up or conceding to a particular proposal you have suggested, staying silent can work wonders. Though it can be difficult to stay quiet yourself, standing firm can deliver the results that you are searching for.

One of the key negotiation skills we talk about again and again is active listening. By listening carefully to what opponents say while you stay quiet can be illuminating. You may even learn something from what they are choosing not to say.

2. Frame your offers

Framing is one of the most important sales negotiation tactics that can be picked up. Any negotiator who wants to get ahead and advance their skills needs to learn how to accurately and enticingly frame their offers. 

When we frame a picture, we do so to highlight it and draw attention to a particular part. For example, if we were to choose to use a frame of a certain colour, it might accentuate that colour within the picture itself, or might play against some other visual motif.  

The same theory applies to framing a proposal. Of course, here you are not literally creating a frame to put your proposal in (though you never know, the other party may appreciate the gesture!), but rather, you are purposely wording your offer in a way that promotes a certain outcome. 

We see this all the time in the retail industry. If something is marked down 70%, we instinctively think it is a good deal regardless of what price it might be even with the discount. Though it is one of those negotiating tactics that has a lot of subtlety to master, it can be a great weapon to pull out of your arsenal when you need it the most. Knowing how to leverage the psychology of negotiation can help to elevate your skills to a whole new level.

3. Good cop, bad cop

This is a classic, but it does work, and its enduring popularity tells us that it can be effective. It works best in pairs, with one playing the role of "good cop" and the other negotiator becoming "bad cop." The good cop is agreeable and willing to work towards a beneficial agreement, while the bad cop is the opposite, proving to be argumentative and disagreeable. 

When pulled off, the other party should begin to trust and agree with the good cop. This allows the bad cop to ease off slightly, and reluctantly come round to the compromise placed on the table. However, this can be one of the more difficult negotiation tactics to pull off simply because it is so well-known. The other parties involved may quickly guess that you are slipping into these roles and may take discussions in another direction to try to head you off.

Interestingly, one study, originally published in October 1997, noted that this negotiation strategy did actually yield results but under certain conditions. Susan Brodt and Maria Tuchinsky discovered that this strategy could prove to be effective, but only if the bad cop is the one to kick off negotiations.

4. Anchor discussions

Another aspect of the psychology of negotiation that you might want to pull on is the anchoring bias. This involves your party being the first offer on the table. Even if better deals are then introduced later, the first will always be the one they are compared against. It can even prove to be a great way to frame your initial arguments, combining multiple tactics into one advantageous strategy.

Sometimes, you might highball or lowball an offer to deliberately swing around and offer something a bit more reasonable further down the line. Learning how to successfully anchor negotiations can pivot discussions in your favour, but it must be done carefully. If you offer too ridiculous a suggestion, the other party might be insulted and will become hostile as they try to counter-offer.

If appropriate, you can also cement the first agreement with a drafted form. Not every opposing side will appreciate this — and some may think that you are jumping the gun too early by doing so — but some may appreciate a draft proposal that they can return to time and time again. 

5. Rank your priorities

Everyone knows that a key part of your negotiation will always take place long before you get anywhere near the negotiation table. With good preparations on your side, you can be certain that you are putting your best foot forward and can face the other party with confidence. You can have as many negotiation strategies and tactics on your side as you like, but without preparation, those plans can quickly become unravelled. 

What do you want to get out of the deal? What is the highest priority for you to acquire or hold on to? You should know precisely what you want to get from the negotiation long before you are prepared to present your best and final offer.

What are you willing to compromise on? Demanding that you get everything on your list without a hint of a concession is never going to give you the upper hand. Ranking your priorities so that you know which clauses you can drop as you get closer to a solution. 

Who knows, you might even be able to suggest a win-win solution that benefits both you and the other party!

6. Know your BATNA

BATNA stands for the best alternative to a negotiated agreement. It may also be referred to simply as your best alternative, and it forms a critical part of your negotiation prep. Everyone wants to reach their best outcome, but the reality is that this is not the case. We can never predict what the other party is going to do, and new information might be brought forward that changes our position. 

Having an alternative agreement to fall back on is incredibly important. You might not get the final outcome that you initially hoped for, but you might be able to secure a compromise that leads to the closure of the deal. Closing can be harder than we necessarily realise. Though the average for sales negotiations across any industry is 20%, according to HubSpot, it can actually vary widely depending on the specific sector.

7. Ask for help

Never be afraid to ask for help. If you feel like your communication skills could do with a polish or the negotiation process is not headed in a direction that you like, you should turn to a more experienced and knowledgeable mentor who could help steer you in the right direction.

You should be learning how to develop negotiation tactics that work for you rather than just emulate what someone else is doing, but that doesn't mean that there is nothing to learn from other negotiators.

It can be a risky strategy, but sometimes it can be worthwhile to ask the sales professionals sitting across the table from you what to do. They can often be flattered that you would ask, and this can lead to a boost of confidence all around — you for asking and them for responding — and the chance to build and strengthen the relationship you are creating here.

Learn new negotiation tactics with Scotwork

The above tactics can all feed into a wider negotiation strategy that moves and pivots as negotiations unfold. You should always have a BATNA prepared and your prep work done, but you might decide to drop the cop routine when it falls flat, or you might be pipped at the post as you try to get the first offer on the table. 

You need to have several tactics under your belt that you can be confident to pull on when you need them the most.

Learning negotiation skills and best practices should be a lifelong process. There is always some new technique to learn, something new to master, and good negotiators will commit to hunting down this knowledge where they can. 

Scotwork's team of experts have over 45 years of knowledge and plenty of experience ready to pass on to you and your team. Get in touch today to find out more about how our consultancy could help you assess, develop, and deploy your negotiation skills.

Subscribe to our Blog

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply. We value your privacy. For more information please refer to our Privacy Policy.