Why “Win-Win” Negotiations Means That You Lose: ‘Start With No’ by Jim Camp

You plan to renegotiate a lease, or a contract with a vendor, or any number of the day to day negotiations that happen in your small business and your personal life. A prevailing thought process is to plan for the “win-win” resolution of the negotiation before you even get started. Both sides feel like winners and everyone is happy with the outcome.

It sounds fair, right? You go into a negotiation with a “win-win” attitude, and then you compromise your way into an agreement.


In his book Start With No, Jim Camp outlines why “win-win” is a failed strategy in your negotiations. Better negotiators employ “win-win” strategy AGAINST you, but planting the seed that YOU need to compromise so they can get to their best outcome.

“Negotiating under the banner of win-win, you’ll have no way of knowing if you’ve made good and necessary decisions leading up to the compromise.”   

Letting go of expectations and assumptions – be the blank slate. Too often we allow emotions to clutter our negotiations, leading to unsound decisions and compromises from a position of weakness.

“In a negotiation, decisions are 100% emotional. Yes, 100%. Research psychologists have proved this beyond any doubt. Our so-called rational minds kick in only after we’ve made the decision, in order to justify it after the fact. Your job as a negotiator is to see emotions clearly and overcome them with precise decision making. Your job is even to use emotions to your advantage with precise decision making.”

 Mr. Camp makes a solid case for key tactics in creating a winning strategy for negotiating:

  •  Know your mission & purpose (clearly defined)
  • Focus on your behavior, not the outcome (control what you can control)
  •  Ask good questions (listening better than talking)
  • Have no preconceptions (blank slate)
  • Negotiate with the real decision makers (work with “blockers” to get to decision makers)
  •  Stick to your agenda (focus)
  • Identify the key pain point (clarity)
  • Build your budget (including money, time, energy, and emotion)
  • Keep it simple (less is more in negotiations)
  • Don’t think “pay-back”, think “pay-forward” (don’t allow compromise to be confused with self-esteem)

“The negotiation really does start with ‘no’ – not with ‘maybe’, definitely not with ‘yes’, but with a firm, clear ‘no’. In any negotiation, this is the key word I want to hear. Everything that precedes it is mere window dressing. How can this be? Because ‘no’ is a real decision that induces the party across the table into actually thinking about why they’ve just said ‘no’. The responsibility of making a clear decision helps the adversary focus on the real issues of the negotiation.”


About Frank

Consultant to small business owner/operators who want to grow their income, improve their efficiency, and implement successful systems to maximize productivity.
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