This article originally appeared on Forbes.
It’s amazing how some people seem to be innate negotiators, while others can’t seem to get their counterpart to agree to even the smallest of commitments.
Expert negotiators have a way to command authority, but at the same time deal with people tactfully and assertively. Truth be told, we all have the potential to be excellent negotiators. While there are people who are hard-wired to be natural bargainers, we should all keep in mind that negotiating skills can be learned, practiced, and perfected.
I recently read the negotiation book Never Split The Difference (written by an FBI hostage negotiator) and combined with my previous experience negotiating deals for my company Flux Ventures, I would like to present my favorite tips to negotiate any deal and win it.
1. Be prepared
Being ready may sound like common sense, but you’d be surprised at the number of people who get tangled up in negotiations without really knowing much about the people at the other side of the table or the product or service that is up for discussion.
This is a bad situation to be in.
Before entering into negotiations, always do your due diligence. Find out beforehand how much other parties have paid or are paying for a certain product or service. Try to dig up more information about the person in front of you, and find out what he or she likes so you can subtly bring it up during the conversation to win their trust.
Doing research also allows you to reveal surprises during the negotiation. A surprise can be a powerful tool that can put the people across the table off-balance, which, more often than not, presents you an opportunity to pounce and try to get all the concessions that you want out of that deal.
2. Always play firm but nice, never hardball
The ability to play hardball should always be in a negotiator’s bag of tricks, but that doesn’t mean you have to act all tough and uncompromising the entire time.
Keep in mind that these negotiations, while maybe a one-time deal, could lead to more fruitful talks in the future. To make that business relationship more likely, you should keep things sweet so that there would be no ill feelings whichever way the negotiation goes. Remember that the best deals are win-win situations.
A good way to start the negotiation is to lessen the guards of your counterparty by making small talk and building rapport with them.
3. Watch your tone and body language
Remember that most of the message in any conversation is not conveyed by your words but rather the tone of your delivery and body language.
When in negotiations, your default tone should be a positive, or even playful, one. While talking, you need to relax, and if you’re a bit of a fast talker, you have to slow things down. Most importantly, keep that smile on your face. Few things are more effective at disarming people than a genuine smile.
4. Never talk yourself down
It is a common mistake among newbie negotiators to moderate their request as a knee-jerk response to a refusal or an outright rejection. When you fold like that, you are essentially negotiating against yourself—and won, much to the delight of the opposing party.
When your counterparts issue a refusal to a proposal you made, you must insist for an explanation as to why they are objecting to your request, then make a counter-offer. Until they make a counter-offer of their own, don’t do or say anything. Keeping silent is another powerful tool in negotiation.
5. Don’t make or take the first offer—even if it’s to your liking
Let’s say your counterpart made the first offer, and by some stroke of luck, it meets all the needs you have set out to fulfill. Your first instinct would be to take it straight away, right? Not to be greedy or anything, but don’t you think you still have the time and the leverage to ask for concessions that will get you the best deal possible?
When you get to the pricing talk, first let the other party propose a number and then counter with a higher anchor —one that is much higher than your target price. That way when you do the back-and-forth in pricing, you can still come out on top.
But remember that all good deals must have the ROI (return on investment) on sight. For instance, if you are running a digital marketing agency and can’t provide positive ROI for your clients, you won’t be able to get into business with that person in the future.
Negotiation is much of an art as it is a science. Great negotiators are able to understand the pain points of their counterparties and provide an offer that is too good to refuse. Having the right mindset and doing due diligence before entering the negotiating room is key to ensure that you bring your A-game to the table.
To become great at negotiating, you need to start making deals. So start shaking hands, generating leads and booking those meetings. Only by practicing is how you will become a master negotiator.