Win Your Negotiation Before It Even Begins

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Thump. Thump. Thump. That’s the sound of me pounding the drum that negotiation is not a single event but a process of influence, persuasion, behavioral psychology, critical communication, and best practice principles. 

You may be interested to know that realizing more favorable career outcomes through calculated negotiation is possible and happens every day—with or without you. 

Those who can execute high-stakes negotiations have a more predictable rise through their executive careers and tend to get what they want more often. How? 

One factor may be that the top 1% can create and nurture a bottomless supply of opportunities via world-class networking habits. And, of course, they say no, only after exploring each possibility in earnest. 

Increased demand for your talent colliding with the limited supply of your available time is a recipe for incredible negotiating power when you need it most. What’s the secret?

You MUST take action before you NEED to take action. I’ll elaborate.

Beggars Can’t Be Choosers

So what if you don’t have a bottomless pipeline of opportunity? Does that mean you can’t negotiate well? Not necessarily.  

You can always negotiate, but your raw power is compromised. 

While I prefer to give you the offensive tools required to maximize your leverage, if you find yourself behind the 8-ball, today’s article will still arm you with strategies to ensure you’re not a lost cause. 

The Repetition Of Tough Times 

I do not want to browbeat you during a tough time, but it would help if you acknowledge that most career challenges that executives face are predictable and, therefore, foreseeable. 

If you find yourself blindsided or surprised, may I ask why?

Economic market conditions are cyclical. Bosses fire people. Sales teams miss targets. Countries go to war. CEOs harass their staff or scam investors. Customers don’t like some products that venture capitalists took big gambles on. 

And while the corporate cogs sputter along without lube, all your eggs are in someone else’s basket. 

So what part of being out of work is surprising? 

Of note:

  • Job security is a myth, even for the most successful professionals.
  • Layoffs are common for companies to alleviate financial pressure.
  • Nobody owes you anything—and this world isn’t going to do you any favors. Especially for executives.
  • The average person changes roles 5-7 times over their lifetime.
  • ~30% of the total workforce changes jobs every 12 months.
  • What goes up must come down. 

 Being that the only constant in your career is volatility and change—being in transition should be a welcomed occasion, full of limitless opportunity—not a fear-inducing hellscape. 

 Still, some executives always get what they want, while others are continually left with want. You should know better by now. So why do only a few executives navigate the turbulence well? 

 Top executives know that the best defense is a great offense—and take action for this reality.

Anticipate, Don’t React To Career Headwinds

As an aspiring top 1% executive, you must think several steps ahead and prepare for a career worth living, regardless of whether a coach tells you to do it. A forward-thinking career strategy must be in your DNA.

Reactive executives lose.

Proactive executives win.

I’ll prove it.

The capitalist market is hostile to the reactive executive.  

If you wait: 

  • To be out of work to look for new opportunities—
  • To start networking only when you need something—
  • For opportunities to find you rather than creating them yourself—
  • For a promotion to prove your market value—
  • For the perfect market conditions to take action—
  • To discuss severance until after termination—
  • Until you have the offer to start negotiating

You lose. 

Or you’re at least bummed out and getting left behind.  

Reactive (and complacent) executives get punished, whereas proactive executives get rewarded. 

A common adage is that for every $10,000 in base salary you make, add one month of job search time to find a meaningful role. Of course, with inflation, it’s closer to $20,000 in salary equals one month of search time, but you get the correlation.  

If you make $300k and plan a career change, you should anticipate about a year to transition. 

If your career change is involuntary, that’s a lot of time without money. 

What do you do? And you must have a good reason for not being sufficiently prepared for this. Right?

Kickstart A Bias For Action

Even those happy with their work with no intentions of leaving—should always look for more opportunities. 


  1. Reactive executives are more inclined to take a poor-fit opportunity to end the agony of job search.
  2. Proactive executives can say no to a poor-fit opportunity while enjoying the fruits of their current labor. 

Position one kills your confidence, motivation, and negotiation leverage.

Conversely, position two builds your confidence, motivation, and negotiation leverage.

It’s the difference between desperate survival and intentional thrival

It sounds exhausting, but once you adopt the habits of successful executives, bottomless opportunity creation becomes second nature.  

Now let’s make sure you can make the most out of every opportunity with masterful negotiation. You can’t be flat-footed when your mistakes have serious consequences.

The ThinkWarwick “AAA” Negotiation Method 

There are three distinct phases of executive negotiation that you must navigate with each constituent involved to reach success. 

(1) The Assessment Phase

(2) The Alignment Phase

(3) The Agreement Phase

These three phases are important to you and your employer. But you may often feel like negotiation is one-sided or a battleground of you vs. them. 

The adversarial conflict isn’t a surprise because employers are historically perceived to hold the upper hand. 

Since competition is high for your executive role, you need a job, and you must maintain a strong relationship with your constituents, it’s easier to back down and yield to the power mismatch. 

You need to take your power back—and I’m here to help you do it by preparing you to anticipate the three phases and what to expect.

The Assessment Phase

In the Assessment Phase of executive negotiation, your main objective is to collect substantial information about the opportunity in play and know how to use the information to your advantage.

The Assessment Phase can trigger from several sources. 

  1. A recruiter, headhunter, or hiring manager triggers the negotiation by scheduling the initial conversation. Inbound triggers tend to be the most common.
  2. You can trigger the negotiation by telling your network you’re open, contacting a company that can offer you a role, or when sharing career information publicly. Outbound triggers are not as common but should be for proactive executives.
  3. Others can trigger the negotiation based on how people in your network talk about you when you’re not around. You must arm them with the right playbook to maximize your success. 

Any previously known or public information about you can and will be used to assess your candidacy and impact your negotiation. 

You must be mindful of what information you voluntarily share online or through your network and how others will perceive it.  

For top executives, it’s often best to say less and strategically reveal new information over time because sharing the wrong information at the wrong time eviscerates your power. You will lose over a million dollars in career earnings potential by making this mistake. 

At a minimum, always keep your mouth shut when sharing information about your compensation. The Assessment Phase is too early to dig into money, and it’s better to play your cards close to the chest.

Generally, I am okay with you framing broad compensation expectations. 

For example, “I won’t get into specifics on salary, but I can share that I’m used to a competitive base salary, performance bonus, equity refreshers, signing and retention bonus, severance, hybrid work… etc.” 

Plant seeds, but don’t commit to hard numbers or ranges. But please make sure you know what you’re talking about if you’re going to volunteer how you’d like to be paid. Remember that nuanced details are often better discussed after a written offer is on the table.  

Once the trigger event happens, it’s your job to prepare for the interview process like the top 1%. Note: Your negotiation has already started.

Information is your currency during the assessment process. In sales, this is called the discovery phase. Therefore, you must be strategic about exchanging information and recognize how what you share can be used for better or worse. 

When in the Assessment Phase:

During the Assessment Phase, your main objective is to mine for more information and look for a shared identity and an opportunity to create positive unity or shared world views to use at the right time later.  

It’s more than saying you both like the Kansas City Chiefs. That’s amateur hour shared identity. 

It’s more like noticing that you’re both executives, parents, and football fans, “To be honest, I was ticking down the time for the quarterly review to end because I got to take my son to his first football game. He’s a huge Patrick Mahomes fan and…”

Successful assessment work will help you trigger the behavioral psychology of LIKING necessary for persuasion and serve your entire negotiation later. 

Final tip. You never stop tuning your ears to get information that you can use.  

If you feel disadvantaged, it’s a sign that you must ask more leading open-ended questions (e.g., questions that can’t be answered with yes or no and help you drive the conversation to friendly waters).

The Alignment Phase

Alignment begins when the first conversation becomes a reality and the formal interviewing begins. In sales, this is the interest and consideration phase. 

I coined phase 2 alignment because it’s more important that employers and executive candidates reach alignment on the realities of the work and expectations—rather than try to be impressive. Although, the latter is more ubiquitous.

Identifying alignment makes it more comfortable to stay honest and squelch any interviewing jitters you may have. It is simply a conversation.

Review (or bookmark) the following articles to learn how to take conversational ownership and confidently lead your executive interviews.

  1. Why Some Executives Get What They Want (And Others Don’t)
  2. Crush Your Next Interview
  3. Be More Assertive in Behavioral Interviews
  4. Leverage, You’re Doing It Wrong
  5. You Must Create The Executive Job You Want

In interviews, it’s better to shift attention away from your past and instead focus the conversation on solving the challenges of the team you want to join. 

The Alignment Phase is an opportunity to set the stage to create the conditions for the executive role that you will accept. Then, you must create the best opportunity to close the deal and set the right expectations accordingly. 

I recently caught a sales video from Alex Hormozi as he discussed the CLOSER framework he used to improve his sales efforts. It’s similar to how I approach sales and interviewing too. 

When you’ve taken conversational ownership of your interviews and can drive the discussion forward, I recommend leading with the CLOSER framework. 







You must be both authoritative and approachable to pull this off. Always consider the temperature of the room and mirror as appropriate to build instant rapport.

Let’s adapt the CLOSER sales framework for executive interviewing. 

Clarify why you’re there. 

Find out why you’re in the interview and get insight on how to share your targeted experience better later.

  • “What made you reach out to me today?”
  • “It sounds like you need to hire an executive with X, Y, and Z experience in this role now. Can you tell me about your thinking?”

Label the problem.

Use a preamble to share your expertise and ask to be corrected. You can also label other solutions as an option to create distance between you and your competitors.

  • “In my experience, sales, marketing, and customer teams need alignment, and yours aren’t. Does that sound right?”
  • “It sounds like the team needs to accomplish X and Y. Am I missing anything else, such as Z or A?”
  • “Given this problem, you may be interested in someone with more tactical experience—or perhaps an agency. You must have a good reason to speak with an executive like me.”

Overview of past pain.

Learn about what has or hasn’t worked for them in the past. Of course, you’ll want to know what dirty laundry you’re walking into anyway. 

  • What have you tried to accomplish these goals? What worked or didn’t work?”
  • “How long did that work for you? How long ago? Are you frustrated?”
  • “It sounds like you had a good reason for not investing in marketing until now. What’s changed?”

Sell them the vacation. 

Describe a positive future outcome where you and the team create the desired solution. Prepare anecdotal examples to drive home your experience. 

  • “When Jack, Jill, and I solve the demand generation challenges, we’ll enter Q3 with more momentum.” 
  • “We had a similar challenge back at X Company, and we overcame it by….”

Explain away their concerns. 

Block objections before they are vocalized and address any perceived negative factors on your terms. 

  • “Sounds like I need to win over Katrina. What if they say no? What do you think their objection would be? Are they aware that you’re concerned about demand generation?”
  • “The timing is critical. What’s stopping you from making an offer to a candidate today?”
  • “I’m not satisfied with how I answered your question regarding team leadership styles. I’ll loop back with you by the end of the day with a more thoughtful response via email. Are there any other areas that you wish I covered but didn’t? Where did I drop the ball?”

Reinforce their decisions.

Keep the positive conversations moving forward by eliminating the friction needed to make the next steps. Use names to speak their language, involve multiple stakeholders, and create advocates. 

  • “Great idea to connect with marketing. I’m ready to speak with Erin and chat about our plans. I’m available Tuesday after 3 or Friday from 10 to noon.”
  • “Thank you for sharing the insight on how to best show up for Kevin. We are aligned and were able to make meaningful headway on the go to market plan for later this year.”

Side note: Creating advocates creates commitment—people involved in your negotiation will support you because they helped create your success. Involvement begets commitment. Commitment begets power.  

Now you can use behavioral psychology to jiu-jitsu through the gauntlet of Alignment Phase interviews and multiple rounds of complex conversations.

When executed masterfully, the Alignment Phase will allow you to:

  • Sustain a composed mindset. 
  • Confidently draw from your unique experience.
  • Address negative perceptions on your terms. 
  • Ask more courageous questions
  • Distance yourself from your competition.
  • Create advocates throughout the organization. 
  • Lead the interview forward. 

Now you are finally ready to earn a damn executive job offer.

The Agreement Phase

You’ll notice that there is a hell of a lot of strategic consideration that precedes earning an offer—or entering the Agreement Phase. 

So—what makes most people think negotiation starts only when an offer is made (or expected)? 

It’s a rhetorical question. I suspect it’s because the Agreement Phase can be the most emotionally exhausting, challenging, and power-defining moments of the process. 

Most give in when the finish line is in sight because it’s easier.

Think for a moment. You’re six to twelve weeks deep into a complex interview process—and you’re often expected to make a career-defining decision in 48-72 hours. Yikes. 

Now is the time to pause. When negotiating, haste is equivalent to risk.

I’m a stern advocate for negotiation and for having critical conversations—but does that mean you should always negotiate? What if you already got a great offer? 

Ask yourself the following:

  • Are you comfortable negotiating in this situation?
  • Will negotiating meet your needs? Do you know your needs?
  • Is the expenditure of energy and time worth the benefits you can receive?
  • Are you comfortable being the “tall poppy” and putting your neck on the block when line items need trimming?

Generally speaking, there’s nothing wrong with making an honest and well-communicated ask. Especially when approached with gratitude and collaboration.

I strongly suggest that you always negotiate—but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t feel like garbage for refusing to negotiate. Pressure is high and the only person you let down by not pressing further is yourself. And maybe I will judge you.   

Let’s proceed with your intention to negotiate for more.

When you make a counter ask, at a minimum, the following must be true. 

  • They need to like you.
  • They need to believe that you deserve it.
  • They need to be able to justify and act on it internally.
  • They need to think that they can get you.

Now consider the following principles as you prepare your counter-communication.  

Negotiation Principles

  • Clear your emotions. You’re the worst person (emotionally) to negotiate for yourself because you’re too close to the interaction. Emotion adds pressure and stress.
  • Know their deadline. Are they in a hurry to close the deal? You shouldn’t negotiate in a hurry. If you know their deadline, but they don’t know yours, who has the advantage? BE PATIENT. Patience pays. If you don’t know what to do, do nothing. (Call me)
  • Know your audience. Recruiters and headhunters have limited authority in offering concessions, which puts you in a weakened negotiation state. Speak with the hiring manager or HR directly when appropriate. Negotiate in person or on zoom whenever available.
  • Be flexible. Consider all the ways you can find value in your deal, and remember, what is not negotiable today may be negotiable tomorrow. Time can impact your outcome.
  • Collaborate to win big. Identify shared interests and make them explicit. Invent win/win scenarios. Be creative in solving challenges or flirt jokingly with something you’re interested in to test the waters. You may use weakness as a strength with terms such as, “I’m unfamiliar with what a competitive offer looks like, but I trust you’ll take care of me.” Or try one of my favorites: “If you were in my shoes, what would you do? Can you help me make this a no-brainer?” 
  • Ask questions you know the answer to. Asking questions or simply stating, “I don’t understand.” will help you collect more information that you can use to create mutually beneficial agreements. 
  • Understand, why you? Commit the hiring manager to their reasons for extending an offer by asking, “Before we start, can you tell me exactly why you’ve chosen me?” You’ll better know how you stack up to any of your competition or their alternative options.
  • Give them a reputation to uphold. Make someone feel bad if they’re trying to screw you. “I understand that you’re going to bat for me. I’m grateful to have someone like you in my corner. I’m confident that you’re doing everything you can for me. Thank you.”
  • Separate people from the problem. You must be hard on the problem and soft on the people. You need to concentrate on sitting on their side of the table. You’re collaborating on mutual interests, not adversarial positions. You’re negotiating for alignment, not at odds. “Thank you for going to work WITH me.” Shout out to Getting to Yesfor this tip.
  • Use forward thinking and positive positioning. Remember, the employer needs to know they can get you; otherwise, unless you’re the only option, they’ll move on. Reinforce, “We will get this done…” as appropriate. 
  • Tell the truth. Resist the temptation even to tell a small lie. The negotiation should make your employer want you more. Negotiate with openness, honesty, candor, empathy, and kindness. You need to work with these folks, after all. Your reputation is on the line.
  • Develop strong alternatives. Consider dripping information about your other choices to influence a deal. “If I’m honest, this is where I’m most engaged, but I owe it to myself to consider my other offers…” Competition makes you more desirable and can increase your power. When other people want you, your perceived power goes up. Never enter a negotiation without options, even if that option is to do nothing.
  • Fall in love with no deal. Your strongest power is truly feeling confident walking away. Plus, you must protect yourself against making an agreement you should reject. Suppose you identify red flags and hesitations throughout the “AAA” process. In that case, you can parlay that friction into leverage by sharing why you’re not ready to move forward until you reach a solution regarding your red flags.
  • Practice silence. Who speaks first loses. When in doubt, shut up. Some of the most effective negotiating you will ever do is when you are not talking.

Now I’ll bring this monster guide home with a final reminder.

You Don’t Get What You Deserve. You Get What You Negotiate

Studying the entire ThinkWarwick “AAA” Negotiation Method with scholarly detail and anticipating that everything will go to plan is a fool’s errand. 


Negotiation is about principles, not rules. You need to have flexibility, creativity, and adaption to situational context. 

Furthermore, negotiations involve human beings: each with their own emotions, values, backgrounds, and viewpoints. 

Each is liable to cognitive bias, perception bias, and illogical leaps. As negotiators, we must prepare for the unpredictable.

Final note. In negotiation, EQ > IQ. 

Influence is more important than logic. If you want to persuade people, show the immediate relevance and value of what you say and how it meets their needs and desires. 

I hope that you find value in this guide. I have thousands and thousands of hours of real experience in these scenarios, and condensing it into a more digestible framework is friggin hard. Perhaps I expand the detail from AAA into a book. What do you think?

Please do me a favor and bookmark this guide for later, share it with a friend, or talk about it on LinkedIn using #execsandthecity. 

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