3 Keys to Negotiating Success

3 Keys to Negotiating Success


Do people take advantage of you?

Do you let your emotions get in the way of your negotiations?

Do you want to be a better negotiator?


Corey Kupfer has negotiated successful deals for over 30 years as an entrepreneur and lawyer, and is committed to inspiring authenticity in business. Kupfer runs his own firm, Kupfer & Associates, PLLC, and founded a speaking, training and consulting company called Authentic Enterprises, LLC. He’s the author of Authentic Negotiating: Clarity, Detachment & Equilibrium – The Three Keys to True Negotiating Success & How to Achieve Them.

I recently spoke with him about the three keys to authentic negotiations.



Authentic Negotiations

Your book title starts with the word authentic. That’s not usually a descriptor of negotiating styles. I’d love to know more about your approach and this uniqueness.

My teachings, based on over 30 years of day-in and day-out professional business negotiating, are mainly focused on the personal and deep internal work you need to do to become a great negotiator: Clarity, Detachment and Equilibrium (or CDE).  A lot of negotiating training is on the level of techniques, tactics and counter-tactics.  Some of those are very manipulative, lack integrity, and are ultimately ineffective – so they should never be used.  Some are okay, but they are not at the core of true negotiating success.  At best, they are good to know as additional tools beyond the deeper and more important work of authentic negotiating.  Without Clarity, Detachment and Equilibrium, tactics and counter-tactics will be of marginal impact at best.

Authentic negotiators get total clarity on what will work and won’t work for them on every significant term and what their true bottom line is – from a place of clarity, not ego. They then stay detached from the outcome. They have no hesitation to walk away from a negotiation – not from a place of anger or ego but, instead, from a place of clarity with no upset, judgement or hard feelings.  Finally, they maintain their equilibrium throughout the negotiating process and don’t let their emotions throw them off so that they are able to stay present to and maintain their clarity and detachment.  Although, of course, leverage matters, in over 30 years of professional negotiating, I found that the most impactful common controllable elements are those three things – not the negotiating tactics and counter-tactics that many of us have been taught.

I’ve actually created a quiz where people can learn if they are an authentic negotiator, which can be found at CoreyKupfer.com.



The Top 6 Reasons for Negotiation Fails

What are some of the most common errors people make negotiating?

The top six reasons negotiations fail are:

  1. Lack of preparation – external preparation and, the often overlooked, internal preparation which requires doing the deep inner work to get clear on your objectives and determine your true bottom line on every material deal point.
  2. Ego – including avoiding the pitfalls of pride, wanting to be liked, wanting to win and talking too much.
  3. Fear – including fear of losing, failure, success, the unknown and looking bad or letting someone down.
  4. Rigidity – including pre-conceived notions and the danger of inflexibility.
  5. Getting emotional/losing objectivity – which can kill a deal because you fall in love with a bad deal or it can push you in the wrong direction.
  6. Lack of integrity – with others and, less talked about but as important, with yourself.

Here are some additional specific reasons that fall under the various larger categories above:

  • Talking too much which is most often triggered by either ego or fear.
  • Not listening.
  • Thinking of negotiation as a game.
  • Being focused on winning instead of achieving objectives.
  • Letting emotions get in the way of your clarity, detachment or equilibrium.
  • Not getting connected to a powerful context.
  • Not knowing your purpose for the negotiation.
  • Not determining the measurable results you want to achieve.
  • Not holding high expectations.
  • Having unreasonable expectations.
  • Not understanding the natural negotiating rhythm and moving either too fast or slow.
  • Not being aware and prepared for cultural differences.



Do skilled negotiators often exploit these errors? If they know the issue is “getting emotional/losing objectivity” do they deliberately work to have one side off balance in this way?

Absolutely!  Manipulative negotiators are going to look to take advantage of every weakness they see in you and use it to their advantage.  They will leverage that emotional imbalance the most they can even though it would be shortsighted to do so, especially in one of the many negotiations that results in an ongoing relationship.  Authentic negotiators will use these errors to their benefit as well, though.  There is a way to do that which is authentic and not manipulative.  It is the difference between paying attention to the information and leveraging opportunities that emotion reveals to help attain your objectives vs. actively manipulating people’s emotions.  For example, if somebody is the type of person who emotionally needs to feel like they have won a negotiation, I will design my negotiating strategy with that in mind.  As long as I achieve my objectives, I am happy to have them feel like they have won.  The difference in the authentic approach is that my focus is achieving my objectives, not using their need to win to take advantage of them and manipulate that need to get as much as I can at the expense of the ongoing relationship or getting a reputation as a negotiator who takes advantage of others.



Use Context – Purpose – Results

What’s the CPR framework?

CPR stands for Context, Purpose and Results.

The Context is who you need to be to achieve your objectives. The Context is really a “being” discussion; it’s not about a “why.” It’s not about doing anything. It’s about who you are when you walk into that room. What is your state of being and does it support your authentic negotiating success?  If, for example, your state of being is fear, scarcity, reaction, or anger, that’s not going to be very useful. The question to ask yourself at every step of the negotiation is, “Who am I being right now and will it help me achieve my Purpose?”  Some people like to state their Context as either a sentence or a phrase. That’s fine, since this is really about what works for and resonates with you, the person who is doing the CPR. For myself, I generally find that using a list of words is quite powerful and effective — just three or four of them.  Either way, the Context needs to be succinct.

The Purpose is the “why.” Your “why” might be to get a raise in a situation where you’ll have to negotiate with your boss. Your “why” could be to expand your business through a distribution deal or a marketing deal. Your “why” could be to enter into a phenomenal business partnership that will allow you to focus on your highest and best use areas. Whatever your specific desired goal is, stripped down to its most precise components, is your Purpose. Here’s the key thing to remember in drafting your Purpose: You want to keep these things brief (and that goes for your Context as well). In an example I give in Authentic Negotiating, my clients’ “why” was to get their freedom back.  The phrase “Get our freedom back” is very simple, easy to remember, and gets to the core of it. Your Purpose shouldn’t be a paragraph. It should be a brief phrase or a sentence or two at most so you can memorize it but, more importantly so you are forced to get to the essence of it.

Even in the example I gave above of somebody going in to negotiate to get a raise, the purpose could be theoretically to get a raise. But, more likely, in working with that person, I would ask, “What is it that you really want?” A great way to dig down to that core purpose is to keep asking why: “Why do you want to get a raise? Why does a raise matter?”

“Well, my kids are a few years away from college. I’ll need the money to pay for college.” We’re digging a little deeper. That’s a little more motivating.

“Why is that important to you?”

“It’s super important that my kid can get educated,” or, “I didn’t have the opportunity to go to college. It’s important that he does.”  Now, we’re at the crux of why that raise is important: Your child’s future is dependent on you getting it.

We need to get down to that level of Purpose. We want to keep it simple. If we wrote a whole paragraph on why it was important to send a kid to college, I think that would be less powerful than if, that purpose is “My purpose is to give my son the opportunity to go to college that I didn’t have.”

Finally, the R stands for “results”: the practical results, the intended results. They’re the specific, measurable outcomes of your efforts; i.e., “I want ‘X’ amount in a raise; I want it to start on this date, or I want to sell my company for at least ‘X’ dollars.” “I want my three key employees to be hired by the buyer.” “I want my payments to be ‘X’ over a specific number of years.” “I want to make sure my clients are well taken care of and that we do a joint announcement.” The Results vary depending on what you’re negotiating, but those are the kinds of specific, measurable Results we’re talking about here. Being completely clear about what your desired results are is fundamental to the process and your ultimate success.

CPR is the most powerful framework I know about to achieve CDE in negotiations, but it is also a very powerful tool that can be used in other aspects of life. For example, you can do a CPR for your finances, relationships, health and life in general.



Watch for the Quivering Quill

I love your chapter on inauthentic negotiating techniques. Would you share one and what you do if you encounter it?

One I discuss in the book is Quivering Quill, which is asking for a material concession immediately before signing and betting the other party will concede because they don’t want to lose the deal.

If you encounter this particular tactic, there are a few things to analyze.  First, do your best to objectively (without letting it trigger you or throw you off) determine where this late request or demand is coming from and whether or not you can still meet your negotiating objectives if you agree to it.  Is it just the latest in a list of inauthentic negotiating tactics – which could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back?  Or is it something you can live with?  Is this a negotiator who is just testing your resolve?  Would this have been a concession you would have been willing to make if it came earlier in the negotiation?  Is it cultural?  In many cultures, this type of request is customary and not seen to be inauthentic or manipulative.

In most instances of Quivering Quill, I will calmly hold firm and reject a last-minute concession request, but if I anticipate it coming because I know it is cultural or if the concession is not significant to me, I might be willing to agree to it (as long as I don’t think it will create a pattern for future negotiations).  If I am inclined to agree, however, I might say that, if this point is so important to you at this late stage, I will consider it, but there is something additional I have been thinking about as well – and then look to trade it off for a corresponding concession.  I would only do this, however, if I am clear that by giving this concession, I can still achieve the objectives I got clear upon in my CDE process.

While there are additional specific ways to address this particular tactic, two things that work for all the inauthentic negotiation tactics are to:

Name them.  If you call them out not from a place of anger or upset but from a calm or bemused place, it will take the sting out of them.

Reconnect to CDE and your CPR and act from there as opposed to reacting to the inauthentic tactic.


The Danger of Talking Too Much

I’ve seen some sales leaders who think they are awesome because they can “talk” but that can backfire, fast. Why is talking too much often dangerous?

When you talk too much, you usually give away too much information.  You also don’t listen well or ask follow-up questions which are crucial in helping you gather crucial information in a negotiation.  Finally, you miss out on using the power of silence in a negotiation.  The deeper problem with talking too much in a negotiation is that it is a sign of either ego (the more blowhard type of talking too much) or fear (the more insecure and nervous type of talking too much).  Since ego and fear are two of the six top reasons negotiations fail, if you find yourself talking too much, you should step back and look whether your ego is engaged or whether you are afraid.  Either way, you need to address the underlying issue that has you talking too much if you want to have negotiating success.


What do you do if you have little leverage? You share your own story about your difficulties at the end of the book. During these times, when it feels you have little control or power, what steps should you take?

First, be clear that you always have some leverage.  Nobody ever has no leverage if they are in a negotiation.  The other side would not be talking to you if you had no leverage.  This is an important psychological starting point because, when you have little leverage, it is easy to feel like you have none and become disempowered.

Second, it is even more crucial that you attain and maintain CDE when you have less leverage.  Achieving and maintaining CDE does a few things:

It gets you clear on your objectives, when you will walk away (despite what may be poor alternatives) and allows you to stay centered, which is even more difficult and more important when you have less leverage.

It has you come across to the other side as more confident and trustworthy, thereby increasing your chances of them wanting to do a deal with you.

Whatever the outcome of the negotiation, it provides you with clarity of next actions and the comfort of knowing you put yourself in the best position to achieve negotiating success.

Third, creating and using the CPR framework.  When things were at their most challenging for me during the Great Recession and I could not pay close to what creditors were demanding in anywhere near the time they were demanding it, creating my CPR and using it as a north star for my actions and thinking was crucial.  That CPR included being in constant communication (answering or returning every phone call and email), being open and honest not only about my circumstances but, also, my commitment to honor my word, showing good faith in every interaction and maintaining joy.  Especially in a time when many were hiding out or playing games, approaching those negotiations authentically allowed me not to declare bankruptcy, keep my good credit rating, pay all my debts over time, maintain and strengthen all my business relationships, take care of my family, employees and clients and maintain my integrity – all while staying aligned to my values and inner truth.

For more information:

Authentic Negotiating: Clarity, Detachment & Equilibrium – The Three Keys to True Negotiating Success & How to Achieve Them



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