I got a phone call from a Fortune 500 CEO whom I had never met. After decades of begging the government to relax their regulatory grip and let his industry experience the joys of competition, his wish had been granted–and his bottom line had plummeted.

He wanted me to talk to his top executives for two hours and zero in on negotiating strategies.

A bit overwhelmed, I said, “I’m very flattered but frankly, I don’t know if I can talk for two hours on negotiating.” The I realized I was actually negotiating with myself. As my brain finally reconnected, I cut myself off.

“Well, let me sleep on it and I’ll get back to you.” Later that evening I began to write down some of my negotiating experiences and saw that my problem was going to be holding the speech down to two hours. I’d already brushed up against the first and second laws of negotiating that morning in my conversation with the CEO:

1. Never accept any proposal immediately, no matter how good it sounds.

2. Never negotiate with yourself. Once you’ve made an offer, if the other party doesn’t accept it, don’t make another offer. Get a counteroffer. It’s a sign of weakness when you lower your own demands without getting your opponent to lower theirs.

Here are some more rules of the road:

3. Never cut a deal with someone who has to “go back and get the boss’s approval.” They can take any deal you are willing to make and renegotiate it.

4. If you can’t say yes, it’s no. Just because a deal can be done, doesn’t mean it should be done. No one ever went broke saying no too often.

5. Just because it may look nonnegotiable, doesn’t mean it is. Take that beautifully printed “standard contract” you’ve just been handed. Many a smart negotiator has been able to name a term and get away with it by making it appear to be chiseled in granite, when, in fact, they would deal if their bluff were called.

6. Do your homework before you deal. Learn as much as you can about the other side, Instincts are no match for information.

7. Rehearse. Practice. Get someone to play the other side. The switch roles. Instincts are no match for preparation.

8. Beware the late dealer. Feigning indifference or casually disregarding timetables is often just a negotiator’s way of trying to make you believe he/she doesn’t care if you make the deal or not.

9. Be nice, but if you can’t be nice, or if you’re too nice, go away and let someone else do the deal. You’ll blow it.

10.A deal can always be made when both parties see their own benefit in making it.

If you’re looking for more business, sales, negotiating and life tips, make sure you get a copy of my upcoming book the Mackay MBA.  Click Here to get a sneak peek now!


About the author Harvey Mackay

Seven-time, New York Times best-selling author of "Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive," with two books among the top 15 inspirational business books of all time, according to the New York Times. He is one of America’s most popular and entertaining business speakers, and currently serves as Chairman at the MackayMitchell Envelope Company, one of the nation’s major envelope manufacturers, producing 25 million envelopes a day.

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