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An opening move may make or break a deal--so step lightly.
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This story appears in the March 2005 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

If you can't open your negotiation the right way, you'll have trouble closing it. Here are two opening moves you shouldn't forget:

1. Put on your game face. When you open, it's about attitude. He who appears to want the least gets the most. At the beginning, one of the biggest mistakes is to seem too eager or desperate. Instead, try to appear hesitant, indecisive or bored. This will lower your opponent's expectations and force him or her to consider concessions he or she was hoping to avoid. This reverse psychology will bring the other side closer to the deal you want.

2. After you . . . "He who mentions the first number loses" is one of the all-time great negotiating maxims. If you're the one putting the first number into play, you'll never know if you've made your best deal. The buyer might have offered more, and the seller might have taken less. Instead, listen for their first figures.

What's the exception to this rule? If both sides really know what a deal is worth, the side making the first offer gains the upper hand by defining the negotiating range.


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

Edition: May 2017

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