7 Most Common Negotiation Mistakes

We all make mistakes in negotiations. My big one is pushing too hard too fast. But there are some mistakes that I see reoccur over and over again. These are the most common negotiation mistakes I see across multiple industries.

Mistake 1: Not Asking for More Than You Expect to Get
This is the golden rule of negotiating! And yet so few of us actually apply this rule.

“Always ask for more than you expect to get.” should be tattooed on the inside of your hands so you never forget. These types of simple golden rules are so basic that sometimes we forget about them and take them for granted and often we don’t even think about why it is they are so important.

Mistake 2: Not Preparing
Many people view negotiation as a gunslinger’s paradise and that you can just ‘wing it’ in negotiations. The attitude of ‘shoot first and ask questions later’ has become far too prevalent in the mind of those who view negotiation in the business world. If you want to leave money on the table and potentially ruin your negotiations and relationships, then the gunslinger approach is for you. But, if you want to maximize returns, develop strong relationships, and create win/win situations for all parties involved, then you need to plan for that. Do you know what you want? Making money is certainly a goal, but do you know how and why? Do you know what you want to ask, when you want to ask it, how you will ask it and why you’re asking those questions? Don’t sacrifice preparation.

Mistake 3: Not Listening
This is the most common skill that negotiation pros say to master on the Negotiations Ninja Podcast say is the most important skill to master. Don’t craft you response while someone is speaking, don’t interrupt, stop thinking about your dinner plans. Shut your mouth and listen. Actually listen. Lean in and paraphrase back what you heard to ensure you have full understanding of what was said. Then, think about your response before you respond and if you require any clarity on something (at all – regardless of how small), ASK FOR CLARITY. Never assume something that you do not completely understand.

Mistake 4: Giving Ultimatums
To quote Star Wars, “Only a Sith deals in absolutes.” Please don’t respond with, “That’s an absolute statement, Mark.” I know, just enjoy it for what it is. Absolutes and ultimatums reduce creativity and create stalemates. Don’t deal with them. Once you create ultimatums you’re telling the other party that EVERY SINGLE ALTERNATIVE other than what you need is off the table. That’s stupid. Don’t do that.

Mistake 5: Not Being Able to Walk Away
The ultimate leverage you have and the true source of power is your ability to walk away from the deal. Never put yourself into a situation where you do not have multiple alternatives you can turn to. If you have and are cultivating alternatives, then you get the ability to negotiate strong deals and say “no”. Also, don’t forget that not making a decision is actually a decision to not choose. Even if you don’t have an alternative, make sure that you put yourself in a position where you do not have to make a decision. Give yourself time and don’t succumb totime based pressure.

Mistake 6: Not Reading and Understanding the Contract
Read and seek to understand the contract! If I could count the amount of times that I’ve dealt with someone that has gotten caught signing something that they didn’t agree to/didn’t understand, well….I’d have a big number (It’s happened to all of us, so don’t be embarrassed). Then, when that person realizes that they get less/own less/have to wait longer or they have to pay more/do more/move faster the line you hear most often is, “Well, in the spirit of the original agreement…” Look, just because you negotiated something verbally doesn’t mean that’s what the contract will say.

Read and seek to understand the contract!

Mistake 7: Not Taking Notes
Why aren’t you taking notes in your negotiations!!!This may be one of my biggest pet peeves. You’re not going to remember. Write it down. When you lose track of what the other party has committed to you’re going to lose.