The process of buying a car isn’t likely to make too many people’s Top 10 list of things to do.

Over the years, I’ve had mixed success in negotiating the purchase price of a car. The first new car I bought featured contentious negotiations to the point of me yelling and getting up and leaving. I still bought the car, but didn’t get the price I wanted.

On the other end of the spectrum, the current vehicle I drive entailed no negotiating. The sales manager asked what price (within reason) it would take for me to drive the vehicle off the lot. I told him the number and without blinking he said we had a deal. If only all car dealerships operated that way.

Negotiating is an interesting topic. It’s not always the most pleasant of skills to engage in, but it does play an important role in many phases of business.

Over the last few months I attended a couple of seminars on negotiating. Dan Coleman of Excelsior Learning presented his “Ignite Your Negotiation Performance” talk at the 2013 WIT Distributor and Vendor Conference in Dallas, while Mitch Harper of Mitch Harper & Associates conducted his two-day “Negotiations: More Than Just Arguing” seminar at the 2013 ASA Spring Forum in Kansas City, Mo.

Both Coleman and Harper were outstanding in their approaches. Coleman’s high energy and constant movement around the room kept attendees on their toes, while Harper’s use of modern-day humor and constant pop culture references helped drive his point home. Both presented mountains of useful information on negotiating that can be used in business and everyday life. Both had attendees engage in beneficial role-playing exercises. In the two sessions, I negotiated a theater contract, bought a car and tried to sell a home. The home sale proved to be the trickiest.

Coleman told me in a video interview available at that data shows four out of five people don’t look for common ground in negotiations and instead look to grow value for themselves.

“They see negotiations as a fixed pie game of I win, you lose and vice versa,” he said. “The pie can be grown on both sides.”

Coleman’s quick advice when negotiating includes trying to grow the value for you and your counterpart and to aggressively compete for your share after growing the value on both sides.

Coleman also presented 40 “killer phrases” that don’t go over too well in negotiating. “Yes, but…” and “Because I said so” made the cut. For the full list, read the online version of this column at

Harper feels negotiating is a hugely underestimated skill in the business environment. “Negotiating affects the bottom line more than we have any concept of at all,” he told me in another video interview available at “We think we’re better than what we are because we highly underestimate what effectiveness we can have (in negotiating).”

One of Harper’s main pieces of advice is identifying your negotiating style. He lists five styles ranging from the avoider (strongly dislikes interpersonal conflict) to the problem solver (seeks to discover underlying problem, looks for big win/wins).

“You have to play with the skills you have,” he said. “If you know who you are, you have a chance to get a strategy in place.”

Understanding leverage and how it works also is important. “Without leverage, you are left to a price-only environment,” Harper said. “Leverage is only good to the extent you leverage it and use it in the marketplace. The difference between real and perceived is none. Perceived leverage is the only leverage that is true. A client has to perceive you as having leverage and willing to use it in order for it to be real.”

Going into a negotiation with a set list of tactics is something Harper advises against. “Everyone’s heard the one where after you give a price don’t be the first to speak,” he said. “That’s a useless tactic unless you understand your skill set and what you are trying to achieve. Go back to the beginning with strategy. How do I expect to affect this negotiation? Whatever your expectations are, raise them.”

Both Coleman and Harper agree the relationship part of the negotiation carries a lot of weight. “You want to strengthen the relationship or keep it at par at a minimum,” Coleman said.

“Secure a commitment not just an agreement,” was one of the most memorable slides Harper flashed on the screen.

 In a relationship-driven business such as ours, that’s advice you can take to the bank.