Shoot For The Moon (Within Reason)

Isa Gautschi
Authored byIsabel Gautschi
Sean Campbell
Authored bySean Campbell

Asking for a raise, advocating an idea, seeking information, making a sales pitch, collaborating… Without realizing it, most of us engage in negotiations every day, multiple times a day.

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It can be a struggle to articulate what you want in a way that will result in the desired outcome. So, we interviewed an expert on negotiation tactics for tips on improving both daily interactions and big asks.

In this episode, Cascade Insights CEO Sean Campbell chats with Kwame Christian, a business lawyer and the director of the American Negotiation Institute. Christian hosts Negotiate Anything the “the top-ranked negotiation and dispute-resolution podcast in the nation.” He is also known for his popular TEDx Talk, Finding Confidence in Conflict.

Kwame Christian, director of the American Negotiation Institute, host of the Negotiate Anything podcast, & business lawyer

“My definition of a negotiation is anytime… somebody in a conversation wants something,” Christian said. Obviously, this applies to much of our daily lives.

Unfortunately, many people don’t realize when they’re in the midst of a negotiation. “One of the biggest barriers people face in negotiation is that they have very poor negotiation awareness. They don’t know that they’re in negotiations,” Christian explained. “Imagine if you’re a boxer and your form is perfect, everything’s great, but you don’t know when a fight starts. That would be very problematic. So, one of the things that I want people to understand is that negotiation is all around you. As you raise your awareness, you’re going to see opportunities to either get more of what you want, avoid things that you don’t want, and strengthen relationships in every conversation you have.”

One of the most important negotiation tactics to master is knowing when to speak and when to listen. “Negotiation is an information game,” Christian said. “The more knowledge and information you have, the better able you are to create deals that are favorable for both sides and could work.”

Whoever has the most information should do the most talking. “Whenever they have more information than you, you sit back and let them make the first offer. Whenever you have more information than them, then you make the first offer,” Christian stated.

In salary negotiations especially, Christian advised letting the employer make the first offer. To illustrate, he gave this example:

“[They ask] “Hey, Sean. What would you like to make?” Then you say, “I’d like to make $100,000.” They’re like, “Oh, absolutely. Let’s do it.” Then you know you’ve made a mistake. That didn’t hurt. There was no question. Now you know that you were well within the range. In that situation, the employer has more information than the prospective employee. They know the budget, they know the industry better than you in most circumstances. So, you don’t want to make a mistake by speaking first.”

But, when you are coming to the negotiations with the most information, Christian emphasized that you should make the opening offer. This technique is called “anchoring.” “In a nutshell, anchoring is starting the negotiation with the most aggressive ask that you can reasonably justify,” Christian explained.

Opening with the best-case-scenario ask requires the immediate consideration of your most desirable outcome. “When it comes to negotiation, the first number that is stated is going to serve as a reference point for the rest of the negotiation,” Christian continued. “Everything else is going to be compared to that initial anchor. Study after study has shown that the higher you anchor, the more favorable your outcomes.”

Keep in mind, your request should still be in the realm of reasonable possibility. Wild, over-the-top requests are likely to derail the negotiation. So, shoot for the moon (within reason).

Become a Master Negotiator

  • Listen to the full episode for how to reject the idea but not the person, the importance of confidence, when to use positive vs. negative incentives, and other negotiation tactics.
  • Check out our episode on how to get good outcomes when Delivering Bad News.
  • Download Christian’s free negotiation guides.

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