I have a confession to make: I'm terrible at negotiating. I'm a complete pushover and I just can't hold my own. This weakness can really get in the way of my professional goals, but luckily I've come up with a little trick that I want to share in case you're anything like me.
For most people, negotiating is all about reading the other party and trying to convince them to make as many concessions as possible. I've witnessed my fair share of negotiations and it always seems like a poker game. The person with the best bluff often comes out ahead. As someone that is no good at bluffing, this system doesn't work very well for me.
That's why I've started using this new trick. Before the negotiations take place, I do everything I can to limit my options. The other party can only convince me to make concessions if I actually have the freedom to make the concessions in the first place. If I back myself into a corner before negotiations even start, there's nowhere left to push me.
Here's an example: Bracken and I decided on firm pricing for Less Annoying Software. We charge $10 per month per user. There are no discounts and no exceptions. It's such a low price to begin with (relative to the competition) that it wouldn't make sense to offer discounts. But as I said, I'm no good at negotiating so it's not always easy to remain firm on this pricing when people ask for discounts. That's why when I built the billing system, I didn't leave any way for us to charge different amounts. Our billing system charges each user $10/month and I would literally have to re-write the billing system before we could charge a different amount. So when someone emails us and explains why they deserve as discounted rate, I don't have a choice. The price is $10/month. It might seem like I'm being a savvy negotiator, but I'm actually just stating the facts. I did the real negotiating in advance (when there was no pressure).
Hopefully you're actually good at negotiating, in which case this strategy isn't really necessary for you. But if you're anything like me, I strongly encourage you to put the time in before negotiations so that you can't back down when the pressure is on. If you need to buy something, walk into the store with the exact amount of cash you're willing to spend. If you're asking for a raise, tell everyone you know that you'll quit if you don't get the amount you ask for (and be prepared to back it up).
You don't have to be good at poker if you always have the best hand. Bluffing is easy when you're not actually bluffing.