5 tips for negotiating better

I’m one of those crazy ones who loves negotiating – be it for my clients, out with friends or just in conversation with strangers. I’m always flexing that muscle  but more importantly, having fun with it. 

As a talent agent, I get daily practice at negotiating. I will tell you thought that just because I do it often, doesn’t make it always easy. I still get nervous some times. Sometimes that little teeny, tiny voice in my head gets the better of me and I don’t want to ask for the big number.

Luckily I’ve had enough practice to know that when that happens, I don’t respond to the email or hop on the phone to negotiate that opportunity. I know better and usually sleep on it, go for a run or something that gets me into a better headspace. 

If you’re someone who needs to get better at negotiating, I’ve pulled together my top 5 favorite ways to get better at negotiating without really negotiating. 

[Okay, so a couple examples do involve negotiating, but bear with me and you’ll see where I’m going with them.] 

5 tips for negotiating
5 tips for negotiating

Tip #1 :  Practice negotiating outside of work, in a scenario that doesn’t make you as nervous.

Or one that is so bizarre, you’ve got nothing to lose. Maybe it’s even entertainment and fun!

A couple years ago I moved from a one bedroom to a two bedroom & needed a second mattress. I trotted on down to the mattress warehouse,  and proceeded to lay down on a bunch of mattresses (as one does!) to test their firmness.

Took a peek at the price tag & thought, let me have fun with this. The sales rep starts spouting off all the particulars and I said, “Would you give it to me for $150?” (totally lowballing him.) He LOL’ed & countered (which told me there was room for negotiation.)

I continued laying on the mattress, arms above my head, facing away from him & countered back. And then kept my mouth shut!

This went on a for a couple minutes & when we came to a number that he wouldn’t budge from, I rolled off the mattress & shook his hand, saving ~$300 (almost got free delivery too, but the timing didn’t work out on that)

It all started because I thought I’d practice and see what was possible.

Next time you’re at a bar and chatting with the bartender, tell them you had a great day, are celebrating with your friend (who is clearly sitting with you) and would they give you a free round of champagne? Or a free drink if you post a photo on Instagram right now?

This is just to get you used to flexing that negotiating muscle (that’s probably old, dry and all shriveled up.)

5 tips for negotiating
5 tips for negotiating

Tip #2 : Get really good at asking questions.

Amiga numero uno > Hey Johanna, what do you want to do for dinner tonight?

Yours truly  > Hmm….what are you craving tonight?


Amiga numero uno > Hey Johanna, do you have that spreadsheet done for the big boss?

Yours truly  > When are they anticipating having it completed? Or when are they anticipating receiving it from me?


Lover boy numero uno > Hey Johanna, what do you want to do for our anniversary on Saturday?

Yours truly  > What do you feel like doing that would make us laugh really hard?


Ya feel me? Just whip a question back at them. Be like Serena Williams and slam the ball back over the proverbial tennis net into their court. Conversely, another good follow up is, “…tell me more about that…..”

This is a great thing to practice because in negotiations, asking questions buys you time AND gets you more information. 

Tip #3 : Start saying big numbers out loud. Really. Big. Numbers.

Next time you’re at the grocery store wonder out loud by saying, “How much will my bill be today? $56,723? Oh..only $67.42? Great!”

Big numbers can be a tongue twister. 

Fifty six thousand seven hundred and twenty three vs sixty seven? Trust me on this one. When you’re saying those big numbers when you’re nervous, they become even more of a tongue twister. 

When you are asking for the big bucks for your next raise or project, give your tongue the benefit of muscle memory by having said those huge numbers out loud. A lot. 

Tip #4 :  Wear the things more often that make you feel powerful and strong.

Be it your – your best underwear, favorite necklace, power bra, Spanx, heels, whatever, don’t save your “I feel special and amazing” bits of clothing or jewelry for “special days” only. Every day’s a special day! 

Don’t make it so that when you put on whatever the article of clothing is, it seems so out of character that you just don’t know what to do with yourself. 

Wear those clothes so that when they become your suit of armor or confidence, it’s a familiar feeling. Channel your Sascha Fierce side more often. Get familiar with her. 

How to negotiate better : feel confident and strong

Tip #5 : Practice the art of slowing down, of not rushing.



Calm down.

Next time someone asks you a question or wants your input, on whatever – could be a work thang, could be something personal, don’t respond right away. 

Better yet, ask for a minute. Or be bold and ask for 24 hours to respond. Or by the end of the day. Or until the close of business.  Whatever level of boldness you are feeling, ask for it. 

You’re letting time & distance emotionally untangle yourself from the conversation. This way (down the road when negotiating for realz), you’ll have some time and space to get clear on what’s on the table (and not on the table) for your options.

THEN and only then, you can make up your mind about how to move forward.

As a skilled negotiator who is really good at closing, I do these 5 things often. You can bet on seeing Megan Rapinoe dribbling the ball around her front yard in her spare time or Serena Williams volleying against a wall just because. This is my version of being Megan Rapinoe and Serena.

5 tips for negotiating
5 tips for negotiating