What makes a good negotiator???

I’ve heard and read this question answered multiple times over the years. Many times, I think the person answering is just describing themselves – or who they think they are… So, I’m going to approach the answer to this question differently. What works for me to find common ground may not work for you. I’m going to describe the traits I observe consistently in OTHER world-class negotiators, my counterparts in successful negotiations over the years. They earned my respect, oftentimes by being a challenge…

  1. An unwavering belief in their value, both as a person and in their side’s value proposition. Some would call it confidence, but confidence can be false (“fake it until you make it”) and that’s EASILY identified and defeated. Or purely personal, vs about what they’re representing. A great negotiator NEVER gives high value to get something of low value, they ALWAYS know and protect their high value.
  2. The ability to work together toward “growing the pie”. Building a bigger deal, then claiming a larger piece.
  3. Preparedness, those who prepare better do better. Most people think expert negotiators have to be flexible, and they do. But expert negotiators use flexibility to supplement their thoroughly prepared plans.
  4. The ability to disagree respectfully and enlighten others about the reasons they hold their position.
  5. The knowledge that “Perfection is the enemy of progress.” -Winston Churchill. I haven’t been in 1 big deal yet that was the same a year later as it was on the first day. Take care of the big stuff and known knowns and be flexible on the small stuff or things that may occur later.
  6. Having tact, the ability to tell someone to go to heck in such a way that they look forward to the trip. Put simply, do you “have” to do something, or do you “get” to do it?

Just one from me: The ability to turn off the voice inside their/my head. To quite the distractions and see the negotiation for what it is, as well as into the future for what it may be. See, I told you what works for me may not work for everyone.

Best Negotiation Techniques to Practice

Like all tools, negotiation skills get rusty, or out of good working order over time. Or just as often, people become reliant on a few negotiation tactics that work for them… “When you’re building a house and all you have is a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail – and that makes for a pretty poorly constructed house…” – Abraham Maslow. Effective negotiating requires the expert knowledge of both planning and tactics. Both identifying when the other side is using tactics (as we teach, a tactic discovered is a tactic disarmed) and knowing how, when, and why to use MULTIPLE negotiation tactics yourself:

  • Time
  • Timing
  • Competition
  • The power of work
  • The level of authority
  • 3rd party experts
  • Nibbles

Just to name a few.

That’s where Negotiation Training by TableForce excels. Not only do we educate our clients on how to become a successful negotiator through planning and preparation, but we also enable the practicing of their new/enhanced skills in a safe learning environment. Perfect practice makes perfect! Every day we get better or worse, can you be a better you tomorrow than you are today? Only through practice.

Side note: TableForce strongly encourages people to practice negotiating in their personal lives. If a person is comfortable and confident negotiating at a home improvement store, or with a contractor, they’ll likely become VERY comfortable and confident negotiating in their business life.

Once these negotiation tactics and techniques are mastered your career will surely improve – no one ever got fired for being too good of a negotiator… Learning to be an effective negotiator not only improves deals with your outside partners (sales or purchasing) but also internally, with your boss, peers, and team. One of our clients estimated that 62% of their negotiating time was spent on internal negotiations.

As an example, if you’re able to negotiate an extra $1000 on your initial salary, with 3% raises over 50 years that compounds to over $115,000 in extra income by the end of your career. Now do we have your attention?

If you can be an effective negotiator externally AND internally, the sky is the limit with your career. Successful negotiations don’t typically happen because of relationships, but strong relationships can be built in the process of completing a successful negotiation.

Let TableForce Teach You How to Become a Good Negotiator

The key differentiator TableForce offers is that all of our partners are real-world negotiators. Our credibility comes from decades of at-the-table negotiating experience. 1 partner has successfully negotiated 4 deals over $100M each and another partner successfully negotiated a $560M deal. 3 of our partners have negotiated deals on 6 continents, you won’t find that kind of negotiating experience anywhere else.

Complementing that experience, each partner has taken continued Executive Education course from leading academic institutions such as Harvard Business School, Kellogg, Notre Dame, MIT, Northwestern and INSEAD. TableForce brings together the best of real-world practical content with the best from the academic world.

Since 1997, TableForce has been delivering negotiation training globally to the sales, purchasing, and project management teams of our clients. We offer an interactive environment free of sleepy PowerPoints that engage people in learning the life skill that is negotiations.

We offer in-person workshops (where allowed and practical), online video conferencing sessions, and self-paced eLearning videos. Each of these delivery methods can be tailored to each client’s specific needs, down to the company initiative or individual levels. Each of our consumption models are easy to schedule and produce an immediate return on investment (ROI). Many of our clients have described our sessions as “free” because the payback typically occurs in the very first negotiation after training.


There are many traits that go into making a world-class negotiator. People can agree or disagree on what the top traits are or who should be the judge, but they’re all related to trying, planning, and raising the bar – the key foundational principles TableForce has taught repeat clients for over 2 decades.

Whether its practicing negotiation techniques in your personal life or putting those sharpened tools into play in a 7-figure plus deal, it’s important to know what they are, and as importantly, what tactics the other side may be using (a tactic discovered is a tactic disarmed). Perfect practice makes perfect, let TableForce help put you on the road to perfection. What makes a good negotiator??? Your effort!