Killer Negotiating Tools and Techniques – Part 1

Being skilled at negotiating is important in both your business and in your personal life. We are going to talk about some great tactics that will help you in your negotiating skills…you might even consider it fun. I love to negotiate.

Are you a person that hates to negotiate?  Are you fearful that you could blow a deal because you are afraid to negotiate and perhaps end up leaving much on the table?

If you hate to negotiate and avoid it at all cost, most likely you simply do not have the tools and techniques that are needed to build your confidence when negotiating.  Confidence is the key to being a great negotiator.  Here are some great tools that I have been using for year that will most assuredly make you a great negotiator.


Tool #1 – Always Let the Other Party Go First

So many people race to state their position first in the negotiation yet there is absolutely no advantage for you to do so.  You miss a huge opportunity when you do this because you have no idea where the other party is going to start.

I want you to encourage the other party to go first and state their position.  That gives you the ability to react to it.  You might be surprised as to where they start in the negotiations.  It might be quite a bit higher than you expected.  And with that as a starting point you can negotiate them up.

My advice to you is be quiet and listen first.  I have found that when you request the other side to go first, they are often eager to do so.


Rule #2 – A Good Negotiation Consists of a Little Pain by Both Parties

You know you have negotiated a good deal when both parties walk away feeling just a little bit of pain.  To create a good, long-term relationship with the people you are negotiating with, you must make them feel like they got a good deal too.  If you push for everything and give in on nothing, you might feel great, but the other party feels horrible about the deal.

The art of negotiating is in finding that balance where you give enough to keep the other party motivated and interested in not only getting the deal done but feels good about doing business with you in the future (or would tell their friends to do business with you).

I have seen in my career that a hard-fought negotiation strengthens the relationship between the two parties.  And when the deal is done, you both get to celebrate its success.

Pro Tip:  Always have a few items when you are heading into a negotiation that are a list of things that are non-negotiable, and others that might not be so important to you. They might be important to the other party, but you’d be willing to give up to make the deal.


Rule #3 – Put It in the Parking Lot

The parking lot is one the best tools in a negotiation.  This is a place you can put issues that you are not ready to negotiate on yet until you see how the rest of the negotiations are going.  You revisit the items in the parking lot at the end of the negotiations.  If the negotiations are really working in your favor, then you are going to be more likely to give on these less important issues.  But if the negotiations are not going so well for you, then you might negotiation much harder on some or all these parking lot issues.

I also use the parking lot for issues that both parties are stuck on and can’t seem to get over.  Once you see where the negotiations are going, you (or the other party) may be more likely to give in on those items you were stuck on.

I always like to be the first to bring up the concept of the parking lot when I am negotiating.  It has a funny way of giving you more control in the process.  As you go through your points, you are the one who suggests, let’s put this in the parking lot and come back to it later.

Pro Tip:  Before you even start the negotiations, have a few deal points that you think are good candidates for the parking lot.


Applying These Tools to Your Business

Take a deal that you are currently working on (or a deal you have worked on in the past).

  • Make a list of a few deal points you can give in on that don’t mean much to you but would be important to the other side.
  • Make a list of a few deal points you think would be good candidates for the parking lot tool.
  • Lastly, experiment with the notion of the parking lot. Put several potentially more important “bargaining chips” in the parking lot, ready to go, to give you power in the deal. Have the cognizance of them when you are negotiating and do your best to move items into the parking lot first. Use them as negotiating points later.

Please feel free to share this article with anyone you think would benefit from it.




Removing the Fear of Starting Your Business

Entrepreneurs are by nature big thinkers and risk-takers. Visionary ideas and dreams of startup success are what keep us inspired. But most of us tend to counterbalance the creative instinct with second-guessing.

A healthy dose of concrete reality is not only useful, but necessary. Given that 2 out of 10 startups fail in the first year and just half make it to the five-year mark, you likely recognize that the risk-taking spirit can be potentially destructive. Not only could you go out of business, but you could go broke in the process of launching a business, putting your personal financial future in jeopardy.

While it's normal to feel a fear of the unknown, don't let doubt become a permanent dead end. Acknowledging your fear and moving forward anyway will help combat it; after all, as you begin to realize your vision, you are eliminating the unknowns with research and planning. There is plenty of room between the extremes of abandoning your idea and betting the farm on an impulse. Use your hesitations as a guide for developing a pragmatic plan that lets you sleep at night, while realizing your creative vision.

Here are some of the most common concerns, and how to convert them into action:


"No one loves my idea!"


Solution: Keep talking; you'll soon find the right audience
On the road to launch, you'll pitch your idea to dozens – maybe even hundreds – of people, from friends and family to potential employees. It's natural to want validation in the form of an enthusiastic – or even just a supportive – response, but it's okay if you don't always get it. As your idea takes shape, you'll increasingly zero in on the audience of potential customers whose problem your offering solves; for everyone else, your idea may not generate excitement, but don't let that discourage you. As long as your offering receives a positive response from its intended market, you're on the right track.

Meanwhile, filter out naysayers, seek out connections in your industry who can provide useful guidance, and surround yourself with fellow entrepreneurs (through the EntrepreneurNOW Network, for example) who can share in your struggles and successes.


"My idea isn't really new!"

Solution: It's enough to offer an improvement
There really is nothing new under the sun – and that's a good thing. Often, there's plenty of room for you to offer a variation that will find a healthy market niche, especially now that online technologies are revolutionizing everything from how we shop to where we stay on vacation. And having a familiar basis for your offering will help customers recognize why it's worth buying. Even if you don't have a firm idea of how to innovate or iterate on an existing concept, the process of getting started will in and of itself help you develop new angles that will make your offering stand out from the crowd. Your execution and unique spin will make it new and interesting.


"My Idea is Too Vague!"

Solution: Hit the books to create a realistic vision
If you have a gut feeling that your idea is great, but can't find your way into it to get started, do some research about the industry, the competition, and your potential audience to help shape your endeavor. If your idea is on-track, gathering concrete facts will inspire more excitement, not less; you'll see more clearly how your offering will serve an unaddressed need, helping you plot a course forward.


"My Idea is Too Big!"

Solution: Break down the project into discrete, manageable steps
The problem with research is that it can leave you feeling overwhelmed. Your idea may be sound, but there's no question that making it a reality is a big undertaking. The good news is that you don't have to tackle it all at once. By developing a step-by-step approach and giving yourself permission to focus on just one step at a time, you'll progress steadily toward your goal.


Case Study: Anytime Fitness Pumps Up an Old Concept

Personal fitness gyms have been popular since the 1970s; the industry is beyond mature. But in 2002, Anytime Fitness succeeded by introducing just a couple of fresh components – 24/7/365 access for members and convenient locations in neighborhood strip malls. The company has now expanded to more than 2,000 outlets nationwide and has won the distinction of being the fastest-growing gym in the world for several years running.

And when it comes to launch, don't be afraid to think small. In fact, finding small-scale ways to bring your product to market not only helps you get off the starting blocks, but it gives you the opportunity to gather valuable feedback before making major investments. If you are a baker, consider debuting your wares at local farmers' markets before seeking grocery distribution; if you're a designer, sell hand-made prototypes on Amazon or Etsy marketplaces.




Start, Stop and Continue

I’d like to share with you one of my favorite tools with you called, ‘Start, Stop and Continue.’ And this is a great tool to get you focused on what's most important in your business life. And this also applies to your personal life. But, let’s focus now on your business life. Whether you're an entrepreneur, or a business person at any level, you should be doing this a minimum of once a year. I suggest that you utilize this tool anytime you are feeling overwhelmed, defocused or just scattered.

This is a pretty popular tool, so you might have used it before. But don't stop ready yet because I really want you to take 10 minutes and work through the exercise with me because I am certain you will get some new insights and focus about your business. I am going to guide you step-by-step through the process asking you a bunch of leading questions that will really get you to think through what you need to start, stop and continue.

One important point I want to make is to be sure that you are actually doing this exercise as opposed to just reading passively. Pull out a piece of paper, a pen, or your favorite digital note taking tool, and follow along with me. The key purpose of this exercise is to optimize your business, so stay focused. So let's get started on ‘Start, Stop and Continue’.



Let’s start off with some questions to stimulate your brain a bit. What do you want to do that you're not currently doing? What do you want to start doing that you're not currently doing? Are the conditions in your business, at this time, appropriate to embrace a new idea, a new product or a new initiative? Perhaps it might not be the right time to start something big, but you might find some small things that could help the business right now.

Ensure business conditions are right, because you need to have some foundation to move this thing forward, and understand what makes the most sense for you to execute on. Ask yourself, what are the things on the top of your list you need to execute on? And then, what opportunities must you take advantage of now? What I mean by that is you really can't live without taking advantage of opportunities that present themselves. Where's that burning desire that says, “I’ve got to do this; I have to take this on?” Those are those opportunities that I want to make sure that we capture.

I am going to give you some leading questions to help remove the blockers that may be limiting your thinking. First, if money was not a factor where would you invest? I get it, money is always a factor, but I want you to take off those blinders off for just a second.

Another question I like to ask is, “If I could hire one additional person, what project or initiative would I have them work on?” Because, that's probably the project or initiative you would do next. The take-away on this is creating a list of new ideas that will move your business forward. Let me pose a couple of examples here. First of all, these are random ideas I've come up with that may not apply to you directly, but they'll give you an idea what I mean when I say “Start.” I want to raise one million dollars of capital to fund my expansion, that's a “start” activity. So, I'm going to direct my attention to raising one million dollars in capital to get my business off the ground, or to its next level.

Maybe I want to use the money to add some new products to my product line or add a value-added service that will help educate customers. Or, maybe I want to improve my margins by 10 or build a loyalty program. Or, maybe just invest in a monthly staff meeting that I haven't been doing before. Those things can actually make me more efficient. You’ve got to be doing a monthly staff meeting or bringing your team together on a regular basis, right? So, let's go on to “stop” now.



I love “Stop” because this is going to remove the clutter that prevents us from doing what truly drives your business forward. This will help you to stop doing those things you really don't need to be doing. Here are some great questions to ask yourself. First, what are you doing now that you absolutely know you need to stop doing? What is distracting you from your core purpose? Do you know the core purpose of your business? Let me tell you my core purpose of my business. It is to make revenue. And anything that isn't making revenue in my business, I should stop doing.

Now that doesn't mean I should ignore my customers, or I should stop building product. No, because all of that feeds into my revenue, of course. But deep inside, you know that those ancillary things you’re doing in your business are a waste of time. They are not really driving any revenue. Well, if they’re not driving revenue, you could hope they will help build my brand over time. But you need to be able to get to that point where that brand means something. If you're a smaller business, concentrate on driving revenue first. The next question I would ask is, “where are you or your company being unproductive?” What are those things that you're doing that you just don't need to be doing?

Here’s another important question; What activities, processes or behaviors are hurting your customer experience? Those could be causing your customers to feel you're putting them on hold for three hours, if they are not well thought out and solid. What are those processes that you're doing that you probably need to stop doing or fix?

Along with that, what things do you need to stop doing to make room for things that are more productive? Here are some leading questions to help stimulate your brain. Ask yourself this, “What activities would I stop doing if I had two hours less in the day?” I love this question as it will get you focused very quickly. If I had two hours less than a day, would I be writing this article, or would I be cruising LinkedIn as long as I am, or whatever. Well, the truth be told, I do like to sit on LinkedIn as I think it’s a valuable exercise, but whatever it is for you if you had to collapse your day.

Next, ask yourself, “Which activities do I routinely put at the bottom of my to-do list?” My recommendation is perhaps if they're at the bottom of your to-do list, they need to come off the to-do list. The takeaway here is simply, which activities must you stop doing? Attack and pare that list of activities you should stop doing. Example are those useless or long meetings that you should avoid, but feel obliged to attend. No more.

Perhaps you need to stop providing so many discounts if you're, say, a B2B company, and rather turn your focus to the value instead. Not all of these are physical activities. Some of these are policies or strategies that you need to stop doing, as well. Here’s a personal example… maybe you need to stop doing your own accounting. Yes, I am guilty of this. I'm the worst accountant in the world, yet I do my own accounting because I'm cheap… I need to stop doing it. Obviously, it's a waste of time and I can get somebody else to do it. Maybe you have long lead times on inventory. Re-direct your time instead to figuring out how to fix that problem and stop those long lead times.



Let's get to the finish line with the last part of the over-arching idea, which is “continue.” This is the easiest one, by the way. What are those things you should continue in your business? I would encourage you to make sure you're clear about what you continue doing and don't stop doing. What is working in your business? Write those things down. What things are delighting your customers? Don't stop doing what's delighting your customers. Take note of them and write them down.

What things are making you money? Whatever's making you money, you may want to continue doing. And, what are those things that you must keep doing to drive the business forward? Here's a few, leading questions to think about. Where am I adding the most value to my customers? Which activities or responsibilities do I find most fulfilling? This is an important concept, because one of the things you or I actually find fulfilling, may not be 100% related to driving revenue…like is doing podcasts. I love doing podcasts. So, sometimes it's just okay to continue doing things even if they may not be 100% towards the core purpose of your business, which in my case, is driving revenue. It’s OK, there are exceptions to the rule.

Then, what are the key activities that are essential to the core purpose of your business or company culture that you must keep doing? You need the list of activities that you're assured to continue to keep doing. You want to ensure you keep doing these activities. Here are some examples of things that you should consider to continue to do in your business. First, email marketing works for me for me, so I’m going to continue to do that. Improving my operational efficiencies. I’ve made good progress in that area I want to continue to do that…how about you?

Offering exceptional quality on my products and services. I’ve been doing that since day one in my business, so I want to keep doing that as it is core to the overall success of the business. Driving innovation into the business. Yes, I want to keep doing that because it’s what's differentiated me from all my competitors. Maybe invest my profits back into the business. I’ll keep doing that. May I just want to work on continuing to improve my company culture. Because culture is important to me and it's going to help drive my business forward. And, guess what? Company culture will drive revenue as well.

Now that we're done with the core of the exercise, I hope that you took notes and will follow-through as it is really important to do so. Thinking about what you’ve learned and [hopefully] thought about, do you feel a little bit better about your direction and the activities you should and should not engage in? Are you excited about some of the things that you can “Start” doing that you may not have had room for before? And, are you relieved about those things that you can stop doing that really weren't productive anyway in your life?

I really hope you've enjoyed this exercise and found it valuable. If you did, share it with someone else, please. You’ll be doing them a favor, as well.

Need help? Reach out. We love helping entrepreneurs succeed. Email us:





The Importance of Focus

Let’s face it…entrepreneurs hate to focus! We are great at thinking there are lots of uses for our products and services, so we target a wide audience. But, playing this game can be a big mistake. The problem is that when you try to “talk” to everybody, you end up “talking” to nobody - and I want you to remember this, as it’s extremely important.  You can't “talk” to someone who makes $50,000 the same way you “talk” to somebody who makes $2 million dollars, right?

Seems obvious enough, but folks from different demographics have different wants and needs that resonate with them. For instance, a higher income individual might really care more about status or the highest level of quality, where someone in a lower demographic might be more concerned about functionality and cost. i.e. Lexus vs Toyota – both will likely get you to your destination, but…

Quite frankly, most consumers would rather buy something that solves a specific problem or meets a certain need they have, as opposed to buying something that is kind of general or very open.


What would you do?

Let's say that, God forbid, you have a brain tumor, and you go to your general practitioner and say: "Doctor, I have a brain tumor. Can you help me?" And the doctor says: "Oh! No worries, yeah, I can take care of that. I've done at least five or six of those. You know? I can operate on almost any part of the body, so it's not really a problem. Let's go ahead and schedule you for surgery, OK?” OR, would you rather walk into a doctor's office who specializes in brain surgery, for exactly your type of brain surgery. He's done thousands of these over the years and his success rate is better than 99.5%.  Me, I'm going to the specialist, how about you? To the general practitioner/doctor; “Thank you doc, but I’m pursuing an alternative."

I know that's an exaggerated example, but apply that to almost anything and you you’ll get more clarity on my point.  So, here you are, doing this in your day-to-day life anyway. Why not just apply that philosophy to what the people you're selling to are doing as well?


Which business would you buy from?

Let's say that I am just starting out as a skier and I want to go and buy a set of skis. Where would I go to do that? Now, I am going to need some guidance and direction. Would I go to a place like Costco perhaps, or maybe even one of the large big box sporting goods stores that might sell a plethora of different sporting equipment? Or, should I go to my local ski shop, where I can find skiing experts? Maybe the owner is a championship skier, and maybe all the staff members ski religiously as it’s their main passion?

I'm going to walk into that local ski shop and take advantage of their expertise and specialization. I’ll likely even pay a bit more for those skis in that specialty ski shop - but gosh, darn! - I would rather go there and spend a little bit more money and get the right skis from the get go, rather than go into a big box store and basically just be kind of lost.

Again, apply those same ideas to your business and the targeting of your audience.  My intent is not to pigeon-hole you so that you have no target market, but for you to focus enough where it makes sense to the consumer. And, importantly, the messages you communicate resonate well with your target market.


Lesson Learned

Get really good at focusing your message to a targeted group. Yes, it’s going to bother you because it’s contrary to everything in your DNA, right? But, force yourself to focus - and then begin to expand your target market as your business grows.

So, a final plea; please, please, please....DO NOT try to be all things to all people…the fatal mistake of so many entrepreneurs. Need help? Reach out. We love helping entrepreneurs succeed.





Master and Move On!

For years I would run around my company like a crazy man talking about mastering what you do before you move onto something else. My employees would say, ‘What the heck is he talking about, what does that mean?’

Here is the problem. Entrepreneurs (and employees of entrepreneurs) love to jump around like bunny rabbits moving from one project or initiative to another without ever really completing anything or seeing it through to success. Does this sound familiar to you?

As entrepreneurs, we love to chase the shiny object and go from the one big thing, and then without ever completing it, jump onto the next big thing. We repeat this cycle over and over again, and it's really bad for us. We never seem to stay with one thing long enough to actually make it a success. You end up dedicating enough time and focus to what that project or initiative needs. Therefore, the likelihood of failure significantly goes up… or worse, you actually give up on your entire business! More than likely the idea fails because you give up on it too soon.


My Challenge

Have you ever experienced this in your business or personal? I know I have. I want to share with you my experience with “master and move on.”

At my old company, ‘Market Live’, we suffered from this syndrome. In fact, there was a period of time that we would start working on something. We'd work on it for one or two months, like it's a new sales or marketing initiative. And then shortly after that, we deem it not successful… it didn't work. We tried one campaign, we tried two campaigns. We move on to the next thing, and we keep trying something else. Know that I’m a big believer in continuing to try new things. But jumping around and not giving them enough time for a fair shake-out the problem.

Unfortunately, we repeated this cycle for several years. I woke up one day and said, ‘We've made zero progress. Why are we so challenged? We've made no progress on our company. We're not growing. We're kind of stuck in this rut.’ Well, it was because we didn't master what we were doing and we just kept moving on…see the point here?



So, it came to me, and I consciously said to the team; “we need to stop this behavior.” And, with that, I began to engrain into the culture the notion that we have to master something before we move on to something else.

The bigger your organization gets, the harder this is to actually affect quickly. But, when you're nice and small, or even be operating on your own, you can actually get this going pretty quickly. To make this tangible, I laid out a set of five key initiatives. We were a fairly big company, so we could handle five key initiatives. I managed the entire company to those five initiatives and didn't do anything else…relatively speaking.


The Proof

Every week, I drove home those five key initiatives with each and every employee. Until we mastered those, we were not going to move on. I have got to tell you, it really worked. It worked so well that we sold the company within two years of starting this process that our valuation increased four-fold in our sale price. The lesson is that this actually can work, if you are willing to implement and live by it.

Now you might be asking; why does this happen? Just reading this, you're probably already spotting this in your own behavior. I guarantee you, if you're a true entrepreneur, you absolutely have experienced this where you're jumping around from one thing to another. It's just part of our DNA… and that's part of the problem. You know the same brain that creates your initial business idea is the brain that creates all these new ideas. I mean, it's the same brain and it will repeat the same process.

It's just part of our entrepreneurial DNA. Also, as entrepreneurs, we're impatient. We want to move on to the next thing and we kind of take everything to 50, 60, 70 percent and then we want to go somewhere else, right? We want to let somebody else deal with it after that. I am absolutely that type of entrepreneur. I’m an "80-percenter." I’ll get something to 80% and then I’m tired of it and want to move on to the next creative thing.

In business, you’ve got to master it, you’ve got to close in on 100% and then you can move on. As entrepreneurs we see opportunity everywhere, don’t we?. We're always chasing down that opportunity, again it's just part of who we are. The problem is that there's a good side of that, but there's also a bad side to that. And, that is; we don't lay a solid foundation for our company before we expand, and this is one of the main reasons why businesses fail. This is very, very important; master the idea, the project, or the initiative before moving on to the next thing…that is what I mean.

I want to make sure that you're going to allow enough time to actually build that solid foundation with mastering the first thing that you're doing. Then master the second thing, then master the third thing and you iterate over and over and over again. I guarantee you this is the way that you build a large company. Don't initially try to dominate all markets, as an example. Just focus on one market and then master that and move on to something else. Or maybe it might be to just focus on your first product and really make sure that's a success. This will give you a good foothold in the market and then go on to your second or third product.


Real Life Example

Let’s take a yoga studio. I could sit here and think of many products and services that you could pack into a yoga studio. In fact, let's say this entrepreneur doesn't want to just be a yoga studio, but they really want a wellness company. They want to create an entire wellness experience, both online and offline, nationwide or even worldwide. So, their vision is very big. But we’ve got to distill it back down to reality, they're just getting started.

I want to make sure that yours is the best yoga studio in your city or your town, it’s very important to start there. Gain that reputation for excellence and innovation as an example, or whatever you really want to focus on with your classes. Then, that should gain you a loyal customer following on your core business. This will help you to start to build up, and build momentum. Once you've mastered that, then you can move on to the next service offering and so on and so forth. You might offer the next product, perhaps a meditation class, a series of meditation classes, or maybe classes on nutrition.


Apply this to your life

Once you master that, you’ll achieve that excellent reputation for meditation, for nutrition, and then maybe you’ll take it to the third thing, like moving your classes online. And, then we start on the fourth thing as you begin to expand outside of your city into other cities. Do you see how it works? I want you to take that and apply that to your business. This is really where all this starts to come home.

What I’d like you to do is apply this to your business or your life. I want you to take one area and think about how you can Master and Move On. Ask yourself this thought-provoking question; are you guilty of jumping from one thing to another without mastering it first? You probably could find an example or two in your business life or your personal life, where that's the case. Then ask yourself; what in your business, or in your life, have you not dedicated enough time to, hence it's not been successful so far?

Think about what project or initiative could you take right now and apply the master and move on tactic too. Embed the behavior into your daily life where you're always self-checking on this. Or, in other words, make sure you are very conscious of this behavior in your own life in that you may be jumping from one thing to another. I want you to stop yourself and consider working on mastering what you are working on before moving to the next great idea.