Here are some ways you can lose leverage in a negotiation, if you are not mindful:
Negotiating money separately from the rest of the terms. You’re at a distinct disadvantage when you negotiate any part of a deal in a vacuum. It’s vital to maintain the integrity of the whole exchange. For example, how can you assess what you’re willing to pay for an item unless you know what risks you’re taking? Is it fully warranted for a lifetime, or for a year—or is it offered as is, without any warranty at all?
Giving away too much early in the negotiation. This can leave you with little or nothing to trade when the time comes to negotiate on the issues you care most about. Hold something in reserve.
Framing the negotiation too narrowly. In the Ben & Jerry’s example above, the specific dispute was between two successful start-up companies, Ben & Jerry’s and Häagen-Daz. But then Häagen-Daz was bought by Pillsbury and the frame (and possible levers) expanded. It became a fight against Pillsbury: not one ice-cream company against another, but the Fortune 500 company against two hippies.
Being unprepared for your negotiation partner’s response to your use of leverage. Put yourself in their place and think through what they might do and how it might affect you. Then prepare and rehearse your response.
Not identifying all your potential levers. Think back to the story of the negotiations with my parents over college. I failed to recognize their underlying fear, but they knew me and properly interpreted my reluctance as cover for wanting more independence. And they came up with a brilliant plan.
If I applied and got into college, they would buy me a car. The type of car would depend on the quality of the school I attended. Now keep in mind that I lived in Manhattan and never saw the need for an automobile in the city. And also note that I still had the option of not applying, but now I would be depriving myself of my first set of wheels. This lever quickly propelled the negotiations forward. I began to think of leaving home and the freedom associated with having a car. And I started applying myself to schoolwork and writing college application essays. In 1977, I became the proud owner of a brand-new silver Chevy Camaro with a red racing stripe.
Not using multiple levers at once, when doing so might be both helpful and prudent. Leverage is the secret to moving seemingly immovable objects. Use it wisely and thoroughly, and look for it everywhere you can.
Excerpt from The Transformative Negotiator: Changing How We Come to Agreement from the Inside Out. By Michèle Huff, J.D. UNHOOKED BOOKS.