Only the brashest of rookies believes that everything is negotiable. Sorry, but when you're the little guy, count on being steamrolled.
Part of successful negotiating is knowing what's negotiable and what's not--so pick your battles. The truth is that large organizations establish firm policies to make them more efficient and to minimize potential liabilities. But sometimes, taking an issue off the table is just another way to stare you down. The sharp deal-maker knows the difference.
Here's where networking and experience can really help. Do you have a mole inside the company? A friend who has done battle with them before? Can you buy the info you need?
When you're ready to negotiate, keep your agenda short, focusing on what's most important. Don't take no for an answer unless you get a plausible explanation. Go fishing with open-ended questions. Once you get the other side talking, you'll know whether you're getting a legitimate explanation or a convenient one.
If you decide to go over someone's head, be careful. Strong managers stand behind subordinates, and subordinates carry grudges. One fallback is the "most favored nations" clause--a firm obligation to treat you no less favorably than someone else who is also making deals with that company. You may not get exactly what you want, but at least you're not alone.
A speaker and attorney in Los Angeles, Marc Diener is author of Deal Power.