6 common negotiation mistakes

by | Mar 12, 2020

Common negotiation mistakes and how to avoid them. Read this quick guide on how to conduct successful negotiations and not fall in basic traps.

Negotiations are part of the daily hustle and bustle for us business developers. In your personal life and a lot more at work, you regularly come across new conversation partners and naturally aim for successful interactions. 

It is often easier said than done because even the tiniest mistake can ruin your chances. But, we got you covered!

We have picked 6 common negotiation mistakes which you should avoid to keep your head above water in negotiations. 

1. Not setting clear goals

One of the most common negotiation mistakes is not being crystal clear with your goals. When approaching a negotiation, you must be prepared as that’s the basis to be successful!

It may not always lead to a successful compromise, but it will definitely help you move forward. If you jump into the discussion without putting enough effort into collecting information beforehand, you might lose a potential partner and the deal. 

The first step of every successful negotiation starts with you figuring out what you want to get out of the talk.

Get a clear idea of your needs and desires. Ask yourself what would be good to have, what you expect and what is not negotiable. Besides, figure out your best alternative and things you can forego. 

You may also note the concessions you are willing to make to the other side. What are you ready to accept based on your goals? It would help if you always had realistic motives when entering negotiations, but also not give up aspects that you set as an absolute must-have. 

If you don’t know what you want, you’re leaving the power to your interlocutor which most likely gets what s/he wants. Conduct research about your interlocutors online, find out more about their business, mission, market share, strengths, weaknesses and more.

If you do your homework, you will walk into your negotiation with a broader understanding of what awaits you. Although you can’t foresee everything, this preparation will give you a push from the launch hole.

2. Forgetting the human aspect

The second common negotiation mistake is forgetting you’re talking to humans and as such, they like to do business like humans. Now, I’m not suggesting you become best friends with every partner, client or employer. But still, you have to be realistic and understand that trust is an important aspect of any negotiation.

I get it, when you talk business, the conversation can become very transactional and not natural. That’s particularly true if you work remotely and you only have the chance to meet your interlocutor on the phone or video.

Nevertheless, there are some things you can do to facilitate building relationships. The first, and most obvious, is attending networking events. Not only to find a new business but also to meet old or potential partners.

Networking events are an incredible opportunity to get to know your interlocutors on a personal level and build solid relationships.  You will get a better idea of how people “tick” and learn about their motivations, values, and needs. It may prove surprisingly enriching for business negotiations or any form of professional conversations later on.

Wanna know a secret? While most people leave the conference center right after closing time, real networkers know that the magic happens during receptions and drinks! 

Don’t miss out on that. Besides building relationships you get to enjoy a good party, and that’s always nice!

Of course, in-person networking is a much easier story, but what can you do if all you have is your video conference app or phone? 

Start the conversation with small talk rather than jumping right to business. But don’t use boring weather talks. If you have adequately prepared and done research about your counterpart, you should have some more personal information. 

Use this knowledge in the conversation.  

Go further and try to learn more about their personal life. Ask them about their interests and hobbies, and you may even find some common ground.  Maybe you both like cultural events or the same sport. Who knows? Next time you might go for a match together!

3. Talking more than you listen

One of the common negotiation mistakes is to focus on the presentation of your business but forgetting to listen to your interlocutor. Besides the fact that you don’t listen to what they have to say, the main problem here is that you give away too much information. 

During a negotiation, you want to keep a balance between the information your receive and the ones you give away. So pay close attention to what the other person is telling you and measure what you say.

Moreover, it is essential to ask questions whenever you have trouble understanding your counterpart. In this way, you avoid misinterpretations which could result in a deal-breaker. Having an open ear during your negotiations will help you to identify their priorities and needs, not only on a business level but also on a personal level. 

Gathering extensive information during the conversation can also speed up the process. It helps you to get a better picture of what your opponent is willing to go for and whatnot. You can leverage the information to make your counterparts understand how you can help to solve their problems and support them towards their goals.

4. Fighting for your “win”

We are committed to achieving the best possible outcome for our business endeavors. Our interests are often at the forefront of negotiations. Although it is essential to strive for a win, the other party shouldn’t feel like they are losing against you.

The risk of putting your ego first is that it can hide potential opportunities. Or even worse, it lets you focus on battles that are not worth your time after all. Furthermore, if you are too much into your own benefits you will probably end up in a conflict or no agreement.  

An effective negotiation should be based on a win-win situation, where both sides leave the “table” with a satisfying result. 

So, keep a balance and make sure you establish the right value! 

5. Be driven by emotion

In the best case, you walk into negotiations, feeling confident and ready to interact. And at some point, something unpredictable happens and that dampens your mood. 

The result: you stop thinking objectively and you compromise your talk!

In these situations, it is helpful to take a step back and look at both positions. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes, but also look at your emotions. Take notes of them and figure out what is bugging you. Be mindful of your thoughts during the negotiation.

If you start reflecting on your emotions and thoughts and consider it as an exercise, it can help you later on in your negotiations. The more you practice it, the easier it will get to develop arguments based on rational facts and less on your emotional state. 

Put your emotions aside and find a reasonable balance between your feelings and a professional, rational approach to the negotiation. 

6. If you don’t ask, you don’t get

The last common mistake in negotiation is not asking questions because you assume that the other person will say no. This is a huge trap because it’s completely based on assumptions and on your fear of rejection.

When we are in a negotiation, especially if we feel in a weaker position, we are scared of asking for what we really want. But that’s just in our head. After all, we don’t know what the other party is ready to compromise on. 

How many of us go out from a salary negotiation not satisfied with the outcome? Let me tell you something, most of the time, the problem is simply that you didn’t ask for more!

That’s a pretty normal issue, after all, no one likes to hear those two annoying letters: NO! However, when we think this way, we are basically giving up on our desires without even trying.

Next time you’re in a negotiation, don’t assume things about your counterpart but rather clarify it with an appropriate question. It doesn’t cost anything to ask questions during your negotiations and you might be surprised at how much you can achieve.

Remember: if you don’t ask you don’t get!

Negotiations are your daily bread in business development. No matter if it’s a client, partner or manager, you will often have to convince someone of your ideas. Make sure you don’t fall into these common negotiation mistakes!

What mistake did we miss? Share with our community!


Katrin Lindenbauer

Content Writer at The BD School

I am curious about discovering exciting opportunities. In this way, I am working on creating meaningful content to motivate others to also seek for new interesting experiences.


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