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The Power of Pause

Last week, I was recording a podcast interview, and the host asked me a question:

“What’s your #1 piece of advice when it comes to negotiating?”

That’s a tough question because so much goes into negotiating, and it all seems pretty important. I could have easily answered with any of the following:

  • Know your levers — Money is just one piece of the puzzle, and knowing all the levers you can pull in a negotiation will make a huge difference in getting what you want. 
  • Negotiation starts early — One of the best things you can do for yourself is become an expert in “discovery.” Understanding, as early as possible, what’s important to your client will not only help you get the sale, but it will also help you at the negotiating table. 
  • Be ready to walk — Too often, my clients lose at the negotiating table because they’re in a scarcity mindset. They feel like they have to win the business, even if it costs them money, time and integrity.

But I didn’t share any of these things with the podcast host. Because, if I have to choose just one, most important piece of advice about negotiating, it’s this:

Take a breath. Pause. If you need it, take an hour — or even a day — before responding.

Too many times, my clients have lost out at the negotiating table, because they rushed to respond.  They rush for any number of reasons:

  • They’re excited — They’ve worked hard to bring the deal this far, and they’re eager to get a contract executed. 
  • They’re scared — With not enough business in the pipeline, they’re worried to lose the contract, so they give too much in the negotiation. 
  • They’re in imposter syndrome — When buyers want to negotiate, my clients can take it personally and choke on self-doubt (when really, negotiating is a natural part of most complex deals). 

But a magical thing happens when we pause — we have time to breathe through any of the tactical or energetic blocks that wreak havoc when we’re asked to negotiate. 

So, the next time a potential client puts you on the spot to negotiate, I urge you to take a moment and breathe. If you need some time to evaluate the negotiation, simply say:

“Thank you, and I’d like to see how I can make this work for you. Can we reconnect in an hour? I’ll come with some options.” 

(And take whatever time you need — if an hour isn’t enough, ask for a day, or the weekend. You’ve earned it.)

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