Negotiation tips and tricks for entrepreneurs

Negotiation happens on a daily basis. Geurt Jan de Heus tells us more how to master the art of this crucial skill in life.

‘Negotiation? I do not negotiate on a daily basis!’. This is something Geurt Jan de Heus comes across with often enough when he tells people he trains people in the art of negotiation. ‘The majority of people are not aware that almost every conversation can be seen as a negotiation’, says Geurt Jan, partner at consultancy firm Routslaeven*. ‘I believe it is of high importance to make people aware of the fact that they are negotiating all the time. When people are aware of this, they will accelerate and improve their learning related to negotiation.’ Geurt Jan decided to use his experience and knowledge about negotiation to write a book, ‘Mastering the Art of Negotiaton*’, which was released recently.

What is negotiating?

‘In every conversation where people wish to get from A to B, where the content of the discussion or conversation is of importance to both parties and mutual influential processes are at work, negotiation dynamics play a role. Negotiating is, through conversation, trying to create and divide value together with others, preferably reaching a win-win-win solution. With win-win-win I imply a win for yourself, for others and for the environment/world around you. You will not always succeed in this, but I believe it should be the goal’.

Why is negotiation so important?

‘Negotiation, but mostly being able to negotiate well, might be the solution to reach honest and fair distribution of value. Moreover, I believe this will lead to less tensions and conflicts around the world, and with one another. We are living in a VUCA world (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous, in which we are dealing with an increasing number of stakeholders, nationalities and partners. We also notice an increased number of complex problems, where there is no “one-fits-all” solutions. Still, a lot of people’s mindset and goal is to create as much value as they can, for themselves. In my opinion, we should start thinking and seeing the world from a “we” perspective. We should cooperate and work together, and realize that we are not alone on this world. Learn how to negotiate and to serve the interest of yourself AND others!.’

What ingredients are important for a good negotiation?

‘It is very important to pay attention to the relationship during a negotiation. Make sure the parties involved get along and ensure a clear view of yourself and the other parties. Moreover, it is also important to manage the content of the negotiation: what are your interests and what are the other parties’ interests? By looking at these interests, which opportunities arise to reach a good solution, and what are your boundaries. Besides the relationship dynamics and the content, we should take the process side of a negotiation into consideration. Which steps are we taking in order to reach proper agreements? The essence of negotiation is change and relates to leadership, cooperation and communication. These three aspects are often separated, but in a negotiation, they all come together.’

You also give negotiation workshops to social entrepreneurs. Do you notice a difference between social and regular entrepreneurs?

I find social enterprises to be extremely creative. My fascination for social enterprises has to do with the win-win-win solution. Their core business is to create value for others. At the same time, the personal drive that social entrepreneurs have can form an obstacle during a negotiation. They do not always have the capabilities or knowhow to negotiate in such a way that they serve their own interests well.’

What are the main pitfalls that you come across during negotiations?

‘Apart from the individual and personality related pitfalls, there are three things social entrepreneurs often mention:

  1. I am not commercial oriented and I am mostly not aware of the fact that I give in too much.
  2. I am not fully aware of the value that my product or service delivers or provides for the other party. How do I make sure that I capture and quantify that value, so it becomes part of the negotiation?
  3. How do I cope with people that are playing tricks and negotiation games with me?

Do you have any tips for entrepreneurs that have a negotiation no the agenda tomorrow?

Absolutely! Consciously prepare for a negotiation. Be aware of what the value of your product of service is and try to assess your and the other parties’ interests related to this negotiation. Besides from this, a negotiation should go step by step, so think about your tactic and the process. Moreover, it is very important to think about your boundaries and limits. Make sure these limits and boundaries will not be exceeded. Last, make sure that you are in possession of tools in order to make a process intervention when the conversation is heading into a direction that does not serve your interests in a sufficient matter.

The negotiation table as Geurt Jan de Heus visualized it

To come back to your book ‘Mastering the Art of Negotiation’, what will we learn from it?

‘Many books have been written on the topic of negotiation. However, these books are very text oriented and theoretical. I often got the response, after my workshops, if the information provided was available online or someplace else. Therefore, I decided to write and create a book with lots of visuals and practical implications and tips. The book provides you with a number of tools and principles that can help you with the preparation, execution and evaluation of a negotiation. Moreover, it increases your awareness that negotiations happen more often than you would think. The book accelerates your learning about negotiation!’

* Mastering the Art of Negotiation

Additional information about the book ‘Mastering the Art of Negotiation’, written by Geurt Jan de Heus, can be found here.


Routslaeven is a small consultancy firm that specializes on negotiation. Routslaeven has been providing its customers with training, coaching and advise for 30 years. They closely work together with Harvard University.