Understanding the most powerful tool in your negotiation toolkit

Alli McKee
Aug 16, 2018 · 3 min read

Yesterday Emergence Capital brought together nearly 50 Female Founders for a Negotiation workshop led by the Pareto Group.

Going into it, I thought the content would be review. After all, I should already know a fair share about it by now after taking multiple Negotiation classes in my MBA program, reading books about it (Never Split the Difference being my favorite), and of course doing it (in some form or another) daily.

But when Todd Camp asked the group, “What is Negotiation?”

I couldn’t find the words. I mumbled something unintelligible about “fairness” and “joint problem solving.” So much for being a Negotiation pro, I thought.

But as Todd opened up he discussion it was clear that I wasn’t alone in my confusion about what negotiation actually was…

Was it about making both parties happy? Finding the overlap in their needs? Agreeing on the most fair arrangement?

Nope. None of those worked.

“Because you can’t manage results,” Todd explained. “That’s not what negotiation is about.”

Instead, he defined it as “the effort to come to an agreement, with both parties having the right to veto.”

The most important thing about Negotiation is that on your road to Yes, the most important tool you have is “No.”


Starting with Mindset

As small companies selling to big companies, we’re constantly in a tough spot. Startups are inherently more vulnerable, because larger counterparts don’t have a “cash out” date. If large companies lose this deal, they’ll continue. If small companies lose this deal, they’ll die.

Nothing kills a deal more than desperation.

But while we can’t change our vulnerability status, we can change the way we think about authority.

Credit to the Pareto Group for this Framework

Because we can use one simple tool to gain more authority instantly:

We can say “No.”

The mindset is hard to pinpoint, but once you make the shift, it’s a game changer: Once you realize you can say No, then desperation fades and authority takes its place. The result is a completely different negotiation.

Embrace the No

Negotiation is really a game of uncovering information, as quickly as possible. The only thing worse than a no is a maybe. “Maybe” wastes your time. “No” enables you to move on.

Yet so often when we go into a negotiation, we’re afraid of the No because then we’ll have to face the truth: this ain’t happenin.

But “No” is actually good news — because behind that “No” is the information you need:

Get them to No, and then start digging, like your life *doesn’t* depend on it.


About the Author: Alli McKee is the CEO and Founder of Stick — a communication platform built for B2B Sales and Success teams to illustrate ideas automatically in real time, to have better conversations with their customers. For more, visit www.stick.ai.

Show and Sell

Storytelling is the new Selling. Show and Sell brings together the best of strategy, storytelling, and design to show companies how to sell more, faster with stories that stick. Brought to you by stick.ai.

Alli McKee

Written by

CEO and Founder, Stick.ai - Illustrating Ideas in real time with NLP + ML. Painting and Improv on the side. TEDx Stanford.

Show and Sell

Storytelling is the new Selling. Show and Sell brings together the best of strategy, storytelling, and design to show companies how to sell more, faster with stories that stick. Brought to you by stick.ai.

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