Find your Coach
Request a demo

4 negotiation strategies: Get to “Yes” quicker

August 14, 2023 - 16 min read


Jump to section

What’s negotiation?

Two approaches to negotiation

4 main negotiation types

Top 9 negotiation tips

4 skills every negotiator needs

Stand up for what you want

Some days it feels like life is nothing more than one big bargaining session. Some instances are lower stakes, like convincing your coworker to lend you their favorite pen. Others have greater consequences, like trying for a better compensation package.

Most people aren’t comfortable with negotiations. Despite 73% of employers expecting to adjust their initial offer, more than 55% of successful job candidates fail to negotiate their salary, even when presented with a salary range

But learning to negotiate doesn’t only affect your bottom line. It’s a vital part of life. By improving your ability to bargain, you’re developing leadership skills that’ll help you succeed in all aspects of your life.

It’s understandable if you feel nervous at the thought of bargaining, but the only way to improve is through practice. Studying a few negotiation strategies before practicing your power of persuasion will help you feel more confident

What’s negotiation?

At its heart, negotiation is a compromise. Two parties come to the negotiating table, each with a desired outcome. They bargain and trade concessions until they arrive at a final agreement falling somewhere between their original expectations. 

In terms of negotiators, a favorable outcome often relies on their planning, persuasion, and listening skills. When they meet, stakeholders should approach the conversation with curiosity for the other’s position and a collaborative mindset committed to an equitable solution. 

When successful, a good negotiator gains most of what they want while improving relationships and communicating value. They leave everyone in a better situation than at the outset.

Two approaches to negotiation

Before learning about the negotiation types you may encounter, you should understand two key approaches and how to use them effectively.

Approach one: Distributive negotiations

Distributive negotiations, or a “zero-sum” bargain, are successful when one person’s gains equal the other’s losses. In other words, there’s a clear winner and loser.

Usually, distributive negotiations involve a single issue. If you’re negotiating a janitorial contract, you want to bargain for the most services at the lowest cost. The cleaning company wants to negotiate the highest price requiring the least resources. Bringing bargaining to a successful close represents a distributive approach to the negotiating process.

Practice these three skills when faced with a distributive negotiation:

  • Persistence: Keeping your best interests in mind, assert your position as respectfully and politely as possible.

  • Initiative: In these types of negotiations, making the first offer can put you in a position of strength. It sets the tone because you never know what the other party might agree to.

  • Strategic thinking: Because distributive negotiation requires concessions on your part, don’t be afraid to open with an offer that, while still realistic, goes above your expectations.

    It allows you to make concessions in non-critical areas without compromising on items essential to a successful deal. Similarly, don’t put yourself in a difficult negotiating position by revealing the minimum outcome you’ll accept. 


Approach two: Integrative negotiations

Integrative negotiation takes a more collaborative approach to striking a bargain. Often referred to as a “win-win,” negotiators work together to reach a mutually beneficial solution. This is the approach of choice when you’re handling multiple issues, such as negotiating a collective bargaining agreement.

Integrative negotiations would help a photography school and art gallery strike a collaborative agreement to cross-promote each other’s goods and services to their shared target demographic, resulting in an expanded market share. 

Here’s how you can make integrative negotiations a little easier:

  • Share your principles: Build trust with the other party by discussing your values and principles during the negotiation process.

  • Be open: Transparency and communication can create a positive relationship and help you find the common ground necessary to reach your negotiation goals.

  • Problem-solve through bargaining: Instead of treating negotiations as a competition, use them to solve each other’s challenges creatively.

The approach you choose depends on the outcome you want. Leveraging a distributive strategy is probably the best negotiation tactic when bargaining for access to a limited resource because it’s more controlled and selective.

And the integrative approach works best when you have the luxury of abundance. It allows for open and constructive bargaining, giving you the freedom to make concessions because of the increased likelihood of receiving something in exchange.

4 main negotiation types

Here are the four main negotiation types, each with an approach (distributive or integrative) that likely works best, depending on your particular situation.

1. Principled negotiation

Principled bargaining leverages each party’s values and interests to resolve conflicts and reach an agreement. The process ensures that the outcome meets both parties' needs.

A principled negotiation consists of four elements:

  1. Mutually beneficial outcomes: The integrative approach encourages parties to find solutions that benefit everyone.

  2. Interest-focused: Negotiators should identify and communicate their motivations, needs, and interests to ensure everyone feels the end agreement is fair.

  3. Emotional restraint: Principled negotiation aims to limit conflict by removing emotional considerations from the bargaining table and drawing attention to the issues at hand.

  4. Objectivity: Stakeholders agree to base their negotiations on quantifiable criteria such as market rates, industry standards, and expert opinions.


2. Team negotiation

Business negotiations usually require a team of people to reach a consensus. Members can perform one or more duties to support a successful negotiation:

  • Leader: Holds decision-making responsibilities for the negotiation team.

  • Observer: Scrutinizes the other team’s behavior during negotiations and reports this analysis to the leader.

  • Relater: Manages conflict resolution and building relations between parties.

  • Recorder: Documents negotiations to create a permanent record for reference.

  • Critic: Evaluates the negotiation process to help team members understand a concessions' effect on the business.

  • Builder: Pulls together all the aspects of the deal, including finances, into a cohesive offer or counteroffer to present to the opposing party.

3. Multiparty negotiation

Multiparty negotiations are one of the most demanding bargaining types. In this case, you’re negotiating with more than one group, which can pose a unique set of challenges, like:

  • Creation of coalitions: Different parties may cooperate to strengthen their position and encourage others to agree to their demands. These alliances can add another layer of complexity to the proceedings. 

  • Process challenges: Managing negotiations on multiple fronts can lead to miscommunications and a lack of governance. Parties can avoid these issues by choosing a leader to collaborate with each team and assist in brokering the deal.

4. Adversarial negotiation

Adversarial negotiations are contentious. In most cases, the party with the most aggressive stance usually succeeds in negotiating an agreement that serves their interests to the detriment of the opposition. Negotiations of this type can involve:

  • Hard bargaining tactics: This strategy rejects compromise of any sort. Taken to the extreme, it becomes brinkmanship.

  • Future promise: Parties agree to an immediate concession in exchange for a future benefit. If this occurs, ensure you document the agreement in a binding contract to protect your interests.

  • Loss of interest: In this negotiation technique, one party feigns losing interest in reaching a negotiated settlement and is willing to walk away.


Top 9 negotiation tips

Dealmaking is a skill. Here are nine tips you can practice to harness this proficiency:

  1. Research: Enter a negotiation knowing everything there is to know about your offer, negotiating partners, and industry or market factors. Use this information to get the best deal possible. 

  2. Be direct and add value: Be clear about your needs and expected outcomes. Illustrate the benefits you bring to the table and the consequences of failing to agree. 

  3. Use exact numbers: Don’t use a range of numbers in a negotiation. The other party can’t lowball you if they don’t know your minimal limit. Using a concrete number, such as $2,816 instead of $2,500, demonstrates you know the actual value of what you’re arguing over. 

  4. Be aware of nonverbal communication: Manage your body language and tone of voice so you don’t inadvertently give cues to the other party about the strength of your position. And monitor their nonverbal communication as well to understand the real meaning behind their words.

  5. Use open-ended questions: Asking open-ended questions helps you use new information to your advantage.

    Instead of asking, “Does your daily cleaning service include scouring the bathrooms and emptying the trash?” ask, “What does your daily cleaning service include?” This encourages the vendor to expand on their offering without limiting themselves to your expectations.

  6. Enter with a cooperative mindset: Negotiations should aim to generate mutual gain. With that in mind, bargain to achieve a win-win situation.

    When people feel like they’re on the same team and working toward a shared goal, this cooperation stimulates the release of oxytocin, a “happy hormone.” As a result, negotiators can feel at ease within the group, making problem-solving easier and more successful. 

  7. Identify acceptable concessions: Know what’s negotiable and what’s not. By establishing your requirements, you can compromise on other, less valuable tradeoffs and still negotiate in good faith.

  8. Establish a deadline: Deadlines can force action and encourage the opposing party to make a decision. You can never be sure whether another party’s timeline is concrete, but if you’re going to establish a deadline, stand firm.

  9. Prepare a “Plan B”: Should important negotiations fail, having a backup plan puts you in a position of power. You can afford to walk away from a take-it-or-leave-it proposition and still move forward.


4 skills every negotiator needs

Negotiating requires a group of skills that, when used together, helps you succeed. This includes:

  1. Acumen: Having business acumen means you know how to get to the heart of an issue and understand what makes a good business deal.
  2. Even temperament: Remaining calm during a contentious negotiation helps you defuse conflict and find an equitable solution.
  3. Thoroughness: Double-checking your facts ensures you establish a realistic starting position and negotiate using accurate information.
  4. Preparation: Planning ahead helps you address potential roadblocks and overcome objections.

Stand up for what you want

Dealmaking is challenging, especially when you’re new to it. But it’s a necessary part of life. Familiarizing yourself with negotiation strategies can help you feel more confident asking for a raise or persuading your boss you deserve a promotion.

Consider adding negotiation skills to your personal development plan. You’ll soon establish your negotiating style and start getting to “Yes” quicker than ever before.

Lead with confidence and authenticity

Develop your leadership and strategic management skills with the help of an expert Coach.

Lead with confidence and authenticity

Develop your leadership and strategic management skills with the help of an expert Coach.

Published August 14, 2023

Elizabeth Perry, ACC

Elizabeth Perry is a Coach Community Manager at BetterUp. She uses strategic engagement strategies to cultivate a learning community across a global network of Coaches through in-person and virtual experiences, technology-enabled platforms, and strategic coaching industry partnerships.

With over 3 years of coaching experience and a certification in transformative leadership and life coaching from Sofia University, Elizabeth leverages transpersonal psychology expertise to help coaches and clients gain awareness of their behavioral and thought patterns, discover their purpose and passions, and elevate their potential. She is a lifelong student of psychology, personal growth, and human potential as well as an ICF-certified ACC transpersonal life and leadership Coach.

Read Next

Professional Development
3 min read | September 2, 2019

Why We Need to Reframe Potential into Readiness

For years, we’ve been investing in employees who show “potential.” We separate out those who show potential from those who don’t, and then route hundreds of thousands — if... Read More
Research & Insights
8 min read | June 9, 2022

Love them or hate them, meetings promote social learning and growth

New research shows how synchronous interactions (aka: meetings) support employee learning and growth better than alternatives like email and chat. Read More
Professional Development
12 min read | September 2, 2019

How to make decisions like a multi-billion dollar corporation

Our teams make decisions all day long — sometimes as individuals, sometimes as small groups, sometimes as a unit. These decisions range from the truly mundane — what to order... Read More
Professional Development
9 min read | June 4, 2021

Getting a new manager? How to (stop panicking and) make the most of it

Josh Bersin has said that becoming a manager is the most difficult professional transition most people make. For team members, getting a new manager can feel equally... Read More
Professional Development
8 min read | September 2, 2019

Power lead your next conversation

Michelle Gielan is a national CBS News anchor turned positive psychology researcher and is the best-selling author of Broadcasting Happiness. Read More
Professional Development
4 min read | September 30, 2022

A new role for CHROs: Insights from the Gartner ReimagineHR Conference

Learn Guillermo Miranda's insights from the Gartner ReimagineHR conference on the changing role of the CHRO and how they can achieve success. Read More
Professional Development
5 min read | September 2, 2019

Solving the Leadership Development Dilemma

Organizations today face a common challenge: they are struggling to develop leaders of tomorrow. Read More
Professional Development
7 min read | November 10, 2022

Remastering people strategy to future-proof organizational success

People are at the center of every organizational transformation. Learn how European leaders are rethinking their people engagement initiatives to embrace the future. Read More
Professional Development
16 min read | May 22, 2023

10 examples of principles that can guide your approach to work

Here are 10 examples of principles that can clarify your approach to work, streamline your decision-making, and keep you on track to achieve your goals. Read More

Similar Articles

Leadership & Management 

What’s persuasion? Leverage these tactics to persuade your audience

Professional Development 

10 essential negotiation skills to help you get what you want

Professional Development 

Negotiation tactics & skill development tips to win the deal

Job Search 

Entry-level salary negotiation examples: Get paid what you deserve

Job Search 

Write a salary negotiation email to earn what you deserve


Finding common ground with anyone: A quick and easy guide

Professional Development 

How to negotiate: 7 tips for effective negotiation


Perfect is the enemy of the good: 4 ways to thrive in ambiguity

Leadership & Management 

Refine your approach with these 7 leadership theories

Stay connected with BetterUp

Get our newsletter, event invites, plus product insights and research.