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Negotiate Effectively: Proposals

This lesson is a part of an audio course Negotiate Effectively by Barbara J. Bruno

Proposals are critical for connecting with your counterparts and share your value proposition. Your proposal is what you offer to another person, while your counterpart may offer a counter-proposal. The phrases and questions you ask will either help or hurt your chances of getting your proposal accepted.

A good question to keep at the forefront of your mind as you develop your proposal is, how does your solution uniquely resolve your counterparts' problems? Use the answer as leverage throughout the document.


When negotiating, it is sometimes more important to listen to what the other party has to say, then to start out by stating the results you want. Show your counterpart that you want to understand their position. Listen and take notes because this is information you can use when formulating your proposal.

If your counterpart only provides a short answer, probe more by asking any of the following questions:

  • Do you have any suggestions for?

  • What course of action would you take for?

  • How do you feel about it?

  • If you could improve... in one way, what would you improve?

Your counterpart will appreciate the fact that you want to understand their point of view and priorities.


You can offer suggestions and proposals at any point during the negotiating process. When you have a proposal to make, you can introduce it by using these phrases:

  • We would recommend that.

  • We think the best way to resolve that is to.

  • In our experience, we've realized that.

Proposals should not come across as self-serving and should always focus on the "what's in it for me?" of the other party. If you reach a deadlock, keep your mind open and help your counterpart see the situation through a different perspective.

Support Views Presented

After you have suggested solutions, support them with facts. If your rebuttal is sound, data-driven, and presented clearly, you have a much higher chance of getting what you want out of the negotiations. Introduce your point of view with phrases like:

  • My solution is based on the following three points.

  • The key reasons for this proposal are.

  • This solution can benefit you in the following areas.

If your counterpart presents an acceptable revision, express your agreement:

  • Great compromise, I agree with you.

  • That sounds agreeable to us.

  • Your proposal is acceptable.

Disagree Effectively

This is not an easy thing to do when you are at the negotiating table. You don't want to offend or insult your counterpart, but they must know you are not in agreement. You can state your concerns diplomatically by stating:

  • I have some reservations.

  • Unfortunately, our position is different than yours.

  • We won't be able to agree on that.


When you are unable to get what you want, you often need to compromise. Here are some ways you can express that you are willing to accept some of their terms in exchange for others:

  • We might be able to..., if you could...

  • In exchange for… would you agree to...


If you feel your counterpart is uncertain or vague, clarify your understanding of what they are saying. Otherwise, a lack of clarification could sabotage a successful outcome for either party. Clarify details by stating:

  • Let me make sure I understand what you just said.

  • I'm not sure I understand your position, would you please tell me again how you feel about...?


Even if you have clarified your understanding of a proposal, it is always smart to recap the main points.

  • I want to make sure I understood what we've agreed on.

  • Let's review what we've agreed to do.

  • Let's sum this up to make sure you and I are on the same page.

The phrases shared will help you when negotiating, especially when you are in the process of formulating a proposal.

Five Additional Proposal Strategies

Always explain the benefits. Focus on how your proposal positively impacts your counterpart. Make sure your explanation is specific and compelling, so they don't lose interest or walk away.

Know your value. I've received proposals that were self-serving and were not delivered with a high level of confidence or integrity. You should present your proposal with confidence, knowing that your counterpart has something significant to gain. Your only job is to clearly communicate the benefits. When you are confident in your delivery, your proposal becomes more attractive, and your value increases.

Ask for what you want. You can always negotiate down, but it is a real challenge to negotiate up. Do not ask for the bare minimums you will accept. Allow yourself room to make compromises on issues that are not deal-breakers.

I received a proposal from one of our best clients. I was stunned at many of the provisions in their proposal, so I crossed them out and initialed them. By the time I was done, I had crossed out 35% of their proposal, and my team was very concerned we would lose the account. I stood firm because many of their requests were non-negotiable. We could not give them a better deal than our other top clients.

When they called to tell us the proposal had been approved, they started out by saying, "Can you believe some of your competitors signed our agreement with no revisions?" How stupid are they? We just wanted to see who was desperate to do business with us and who were the better firms we should be doing business with." I had crossed out areas of the proposal that I would have compromised on but, ended up with a better arrangement than our original agreement.

When you implement the ideas and phrases shared in this lesson, you will write proposals that will be accepted.

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Written by

Barbara J. Bruno

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