How to Get Yours In A Negotiation With 3 Simple Steps

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What are the three keys to negotiating success?

If you’ve ever been in a position to negotiate, you know how nerve-wracking it can be. You use the latest body language tricks, eye contact, and careful word choice, which leave you feeling not like yourself. Is there a way to negotiate from a place of authenticity?

Corey Kupfer is a dealmaker, and business consultant with over 30 years of negotiating experience, as well as the author of Authentic Negotiating, Clarity, Detachment, and Equilibrium – 3 Keys to True Negotiating Success and How to Achieve Them. I recently interviewed Corey for the LEADx podcast to learn more about his steps to achieving a successful negotiation. (The interview below has been lightly edited for space and clarity.)

Kevin Kruse: How is authentic negotiating different from traditional negotiating?

Corey Kupfer: If you read most negotiating books, or the trainings, or the resources or articles out there, most of them focus on tips, tactics, techniques, counter-tactics. When they do this then you do this. There's always counter-tactics. There's a counter-counter-tactic for counter-tactics, that's the focus of a lot of them. And some of them, frankly, are highly manipulative and really bad. Just not ethical and not effective. And frankly, some of the tips at that level are good. They're useful, but they're not the key to true negotiating success. What 30 years of experience has told me is that there's a deeper body of work and a deeper body of conversation that you have to have. The great negotiators do that deeper work, it's not just about the tips and tactics.

Kruse: You say ‘Clarity’, ‘Detachment’, and ‘Equilibrium’ are the three keys. Tell me more.

Kupfer:   Absolutely. So first of all it's ‘CDE’ so it goes in order, it's easy to remember. Let's start with Clarity, the C. The first thing is, I'm amazed. I do negotiations from small negotiations up to multi-million dollar deals, and I work with multi-billion dollar teams, so it's a whole range. Even sophisticated people often go into multi-million dollar negotiations without the level of clarity that they should, and certainly without the level of clarity that I work with them on.

So, what does it take to get Clarity? One, there's the external research and preparation. Which frankly, some people even skip on that, but it's the industry research–researching the people on the other side of the table, the company, trying to figure out their objectives–all that stuff. But the part that people really skimp on is the internal preparation work, which means that are you 100% clear on every single material term of the deal, and what's acceptable to you and what's not, and how they interrelate to each other. People usually don't do that work. I'll give you a quick example:

Let's say somebody says to me they're selling their company. I say, “Okay, what do you want to get for the company?”

“Well I'd love to get 12 million dollars for the company.”

“Okay, what will you take?”

“11 million will be fine.”

“What's your bottom line?”

“10 million dollars. That's the least I'll take.”

By the way, you can apply this if you're negotiating salary at a job or any other scenario. In that example I'll say to them, “Okay, so 10 million is your bottom line.”

“Yeah, that's my bottom line.”

Okay, so let's assume we get a deal that meets every other one of your criteria. But the money, instead of 10 million dollars, is $9,999,999.99. And usually the client's first reaction is, “Come on Corey, that's kind of ridiculous. It's just a penny less.”

Well what about a penny less than that, and a penny less than that, and a penny less than that? It's not a penny less, or not a penny more, or not a day more.

Kruse: What about ‘Detachment’?

Kupfer:   So once you get the Clarity, the next piece is Detachment, the D. What detachment means is that you need to be detached to the outcome of the negotiation. If you and I are negotiating a deal, or we're negotiating an employment contract, or whatever it may be, I should probably have a preference that we get the deal done or else why am I wasting my time? But ultimately I need to be detached from the outcome which means that if I'm able to get a deal done with you on the criteria that I've got clarity on, so it meets my objectives, I do it. And if I'm not able to, I don't. And I'm equally okay either way. I'm not attached to the deal.

Great negotiators always have that level of detachment where they're able to walk away, but they're not walking away from a place of ego, or anger, or upset. They're walking away from a place of clarity and that walking away looks more like saying, “Hey Kevin, listen I appreciate our time together. I was hoping we would get to a deal, obviously what works for me won't work for you. Maybe we'll be able to do something in the future.” And what it means is that you're trusting that something else will show up or it's not the right time to do the deal, and you're also aware of the fact that the only thing worse than not doing a deal is doing a bad deal.

Kruse: And the ‘Equilibrium’?

Kupfer: Equilibrium, that's the third one. Equilibrium means being able to keep your center, your balance, being calm during the heat of the negotiation. A lot of people, maybe they do their prep well, maybe they're clear on their objectives, maybe they go in thinking they have an ability to be detached. Then they get into the negotiation and they get triggered. Whether somebody says, “Hey, you're not worth that salary,” or “We can't guarantee you that benefit,” or “We won't buy your company for that amount,” or whatever it is. Or they pull some manipulative negotiating tactic that gets you pissed off, or they say something. The key is, in equilibrium, is not to get thrown off by those triggers, not let your emotions, your ego, your upset, your feelings of scarcity, or not being good enough, or anything that might trigger you that will throw you off. Because if you do that, you won’t stay connected to your clarity, and you won't be able to remain detached. Being able to keep that equilibrium is the third key element.

Kruse: You say to focus on ‘CPR’ to strengthen yourself psychologically. What do you mean?

Kupfer: Absolutely. ‘CPR’ is Context, Purpose, and Results. Let me take a step back. The first thing I tell people before we even get into the CPR tool is, you should look at whatever you do that gets you into a place of clarity. For some people, that's meditation; some people go for a run, some people listen to music. The first thing is going into a negotiation. Do whatever you know works for you that gets you into a quiet and clear place.

What ‘context’ means is that your state of being really counts in a negotiation. I gave an example in the book about a big team in the service business that had gone to a place they were really unhappy at. They were going to go into a big negotiation to try to negotiate their way out of this deal. They had bad legal agreements, they had non-solicits meaning they couldn't take their clients legally, so they were not in great shape legally, so they had to negotiate a deal. Everybody has a context. You may not realize what it is.

Basically they're on the phone telling me how horrible these guys are and how they were misrepresented when they came in as to the terms, and how these guys were terrible people. I said to them, if you're holding it out that these guys are jerks, they manipulated you, they lied to you, what're the odds of getting a deal done?

We worked with them to shift their context on who they were being walking into the room. For them, just as an example, they realized, we need to be calm. The other thing they realized they needed to be was ‘patient’. They were very impatient, they wanted to get out of there. They didn't have strong leverage to start with, so the more impatient they were the less chance they would have of being successful.

Then they realized that they also needed to be ‘firm’, because these guys were tough negotiators. Although they wanted to be ‘patient’ and ‘calm’, they also realized they needed something in their context where they wouldn't get taken advantage of. They weren't going to be pushovers. But they didn't want it to be words like ‘aggressive’, ‘assertive.’ Those were more combative words, so they came up with ‘firm.’

That's an example of shifting your context to a context that will put you in the best place and best way to be able to be successful in negotiating. That's the context, I usually use words like that, three or four words that you can go back to if you feel yourself going off.

Kruse: I like to challenge our listeners to become 1% better each and every day. What's something that you can challenge them to try out today, whether it's at work or at home?

Kupfer: I'm going to give them something that can be applied in negotiation but it can really be applied in any situation where there's any kind of anger, or upset or frustration. If you're having an issue with a work colleague, or a boss, or in your personal relationship, you can use this. What I will recommend is you ask yourself one of two questions, or both of these questions:

The first question that you can ask yourself is, “Will this next action move me closer to my objectives or further away?” It's sort of like what I said with regard to purpose in negotiating, but you can use it in any situation. If you're working on a project at work with coworkers, with a team, and you're having some issues with one of them, when you're in a potential dispute or upset situation, you have the project and it has a deadline, you may ask yourself “Will this move us closer to getting the project done or not?” before you reply or respond and decide the action that you're going to take. That's really useful.

The other question that I find is usually useful in those situations is “Do I want to be right or do I want to be effective?” What happens a lot of times, we're all human, it happens to me still no matter how trained I am in stuff. It's easy to get in the place where you want to be right. Being right comes from a place of ego, it comes from a place of your own identity, it comes from places that are not actually very useful. When you feel that coming up, if you ask that question it really has the opportunity to shift. What you would do or not do to be effective is often very different than what you would do or not do in terms of being right.

Kevin Kruse is a New York Times bestselling author, host of the popular LEADx Leadership Podcast, and the CEO/Founder of, which provides free world-class leadership training, professional development and career advice for anyone, anywhere.

CEO of LEADx, and NY Times bestselling author, of Great Leaders Have No Rules and Employee Engagement 2.0. Get a FREE demo of the LEADx platform at