Learn Negotiations From a Weak Position


Novice negotiators tend to believe that entering a deal from a weak position could make it impossible to negotiate effectively and reach a mutually beneficial outcome. However, master negotiators develop comprehensive strategies rooted in critical thinking, sales knowledge, and expert business judgment that can be implemented regardless of who holds the most leverage. When confronted with a difficult negotiation that seems destined to end in a losing scenario, do not just swallow your pride and blindly accept whatever deal they offer. Instead, take time to learn negotiation skills that can guide you to an optimal agreement, no matter the situation.


How to Negotiate From a Weak Position

Science-packed negotiation puts you in a powerful position, but know that time matters. No one wants to be stuck in an eternal meeting. In fact, 67% of workers say spending an overly long time in meetings distracts them from their work. Negotiations are a type of meeting; your job is to time it perfectly to get out of it what you want.

Employ the following strategies to ensure you are prepared to productively negotiate even when it seems that your negotiating partner holds all the leverage:


  • Properly Prepare

If you consider yourself to be occupying a weak position in an upcoming negotiation, you can guarantee the other party will perceive the deal dynamics from the same perspective. However, information truly is power, and proper preparation is crucial to any successful negotiation, particularly when you begin in a weaker position. You must complete thorough research on the other party beforehand to learn everything you can about their position, their interests, and their objectives. Gathering information on their specific goals and the challenges they face in reaching them will allow you to more articulately express the valuable contributions you can offer in helping them overcome these challenges.


  • Utilize Your Strengths

The fact that you are conducting a negotiation clearly demonstrates that you possess something the other party desires. Use what you learned during the preparation stage to determine their reasons for negotiating with you, what they expect to gain from the negotiation, and how desperate they are to acquire what you are offering. You will likely discover that you have underestimated your strengths and overestimated their power over you. Sometimes the other party will be overconfident due to their stronger position and they may inadvertently disclose information you can use to enhance your position. Additionally, networking can prove just as powerful as knowledge, so take time to find out if there is someone in your network of influence who can verify the quality of your services. Ask them to share positive feedback with your negotiation partner as this can significantly impact your reputation and increase their willingness to work with you. 


  • Establish Rapport

Encourage conversation with the other party and ask questions. This fosters trust, communicates that you value their point of view, instills confidence, and makes them more receptive to your ideas. Establishing rapport with your negotiating partner also allows you to obtain useful information that can provide leverage in the negotiation, such as their values, strengths and weaknesses in their position, any concerns they have regarding the deal, what interests they serve, and whether they are operating under certain financial or time constraints. During the conversation, you can persuasively explain how your company can fully meet their needs and why your offerings will prove more effective than those of the competition.


  • Imagine Alternatives

Rather than focusing solely on the deal in front of you, imagine alternative solutions that could prove beneficial in the event that the current opportunity falls through. It may seem silly, but this creative exercise can strengthen your resolve when you reach the negotiating table and substantially improve your position. In fact, a recent study asked participants in mock interviews to imagine attractive alternatives and found that doing so led to more ambitious negotiations and more favorable outcomes.


  • Stand Your Ground

Beginning a negotiation from a weak position does not give the other party a valid reason to take advantage of you with unfair terms or impossible concessions. If they make an offer that falls outside the range of acceptability, they may be covertly testing you to determine the likelihood that you will surrender your priorities in order to conclude the deal. Politely refuse and ask for suggestions on how to proceed. This shows that you are not vulnerable to aggressive or unfair tactics and will walk away from the discussion before allowing yourself to be taken advantage of. 


In an ideal world, every negotiation you enter would be from a stronger position than the other party. Unfortunately, the reality of managing business deals means you will not always be the case. Even when confronted with a significantly more powerful negotiation partner, you must avoid letting this discourage you or cause you to accept unreasonable terms. The next time you find yourself negotiating from a weak position, utilize the strategies described above and you will gain greater confidence, stronger leverage, and a higher chance of success.