From the October 2002 issue of Entrepreneur

Lyman Beecher, a famous 19th-century preacher, once called persuasion "logic on fire." To be a truly persuasive negotiator, you must be able to articulate good, solid reasons for the demands you make, as well as the demands you reject. As always, preparation is key. Here are a few ways to amp up your power of persuasion:

  • Have all the facts at your fingertips. Become fluent with the details of your deals.
  • Learn the lessons of history. Research the applicable industry's customs and practices, as well as how the other side has done things before. This is your opponent's frame of reference, and it will have a profound effect on how he or she reacts to your proposals.
  • If you've got the goods, present yourself as an authority. The negotiator who has real expertise has a natural height and weight advantage.
  • Know all the ways in which a deal is unique. Use these distinctions to argue for what you think is fair.

Of course, it's not only what you say, but also how you say it. Speak with conviction and enthusiasm. If you've got charm, pour it on. Become a perpetual student of argumentation. Consider this from Aristotle: "The fool tells me his reasons; the wise man persuades me with my own." If you've really done your homework, you may have a better idea of what the other side wants than they do! Use this to make your proposals irresistible. One excellent tactic is to ask your opponent to trade places and consider things from your point of view.

Another great way to win people over is to never openly disagree with them. Thumb through any sales textbook, and you'll find this dictum, along with the "feel/felt/found" technique, an elegant example of verbal judo. It works like this: When the other side raises an objection: One, reassure them that you understand how they feel; two, let them know that many others have felt the same way; and three, conclude by telling them about the solution you and others have found that really works, which is your true response to their concern. It's a diplomatic way to overcome many objections.

Finally, as with most things in life, perseverance is the key to success. Dealmaking is no exception. Hang tough. Stand your ground. Repeat your requests again and again. Even if you must move on to other issues, insist on returning to the point you really want to win. Persist.

And, of course, be patient. Consider this from Francis Bacon: "In all negotiations of difficulty, a man may not look to sow and reap at once; but must prepare business, and so ripen it by degrees." When the other side's holding out for what seems like no good reason, it may not be because you haven't been persuasive. They just may need time to think it over. So give it to them and let time do your persuading for you.


A speaker and attorney in Los Angeles, Marc Diener is the author of Deal Power.