Useful Words and Phrases You Need to Know for Business Negotiations in English

Business managers are known to speak the language of their associates. However, since over 20% of the world speaks English, mastery of the English language is a big plus to any non-native speaking business manager. Use of English as a lingua franca is important for setting terms with suppliers, customers, business partners, and consumers. Since you want to maximize your profits, it pays to be able to communicate effectively.

Business managers often attend a negotiation training class to sharpen their skills in joint decision-making. Effective negotiation takes time. It’s important to find out as much as you can about your negotiating partner and have clear goals and alternative solutions. Finally, it’s important to know your walk away—your least acceptable offer.

However, these steps have limited value without the right communication tools. Using the right words in the right moments is important. Here are 25 English phrases that can secure you a favorable deal and work towards building long-lasting relationships.

Beginning the negotiation

It is important that you use a diplomatic tone when beginning a negotiation. Negotiations in English generally start by agreeing on the points to be discussed. When tabling the agenda at the beginning of a negotiation, you can use the following phrases:

  • Before we proceed, shall we take a look at the main points on the agenda?
  • Let’s start by looking at the main points for today’s discussion.
  • Should we have a look at today’s agenda?

Making a proposal

Adequate prior research and preparation are necessary. Prepare your objectives, possible interests (both sides), possible alternatives, and options. In case your initial offer is not favorable enough, make sure you have alternative offers on hand.

However, when outlining a proposal, remember that you need a “give-and-take” mindset to achieve a consensus. You can table your proposal with any of these phrases:

  • We recommend/propose that…
  • Would you consider…?
  • We think the best way is to…

Accepting proposals

On reaching a consensus (that is, if you accept a suggestion from your negotiating partner as favorable), you can express your consent by using any of these phrases:

  • That sounds great to us.
  • We can work with this.
  • Your proposal is acceptable to us.
  • We think your suggestion is great.

Disagreeing with proposals

When reacting to offers or proposals that are not appealing to your business goals, you should take a firm yet diplomatic stance. This is because you do not want to shut off future business collaborations. You can politely reject a proposal with these phrases:

  • Unfortunately, those terms are unacceptable to us.
  • I’m afraid we can’t agree on that.
  • I don’t think we are interested in…
  • I’m afraid we have something different in mind.

Compromising a decision

Negotiations involve offers and counteroffers. Often, a deal is set only when both sides agree to meet each other halfway. However, in negotiation training classes, business managers often learn when and how to fully utilize a compromise.

If you can work with your partner’s suggestion despite differences in valuation, here are some phrases to use:

  • We need [A], but we’ll accept [B]…
  • Although we wanted [A], I think we can still work with [B]…
  • We would have loved to get [A], but we’ll go with what you’re offering.

Clarifying a suggestion

During negotiation training, business managers are taught to be aware of ambiguous vocabulary. It’s important to know for sure what your negotiating partner is inferring. Otherwise, it might be too late to come back from a misinterpreted phrase. Whenever you feel your negotiating partner is being vague, you can seek clarification with any of these phrases:

  • I just want to be sure I’ve got this straight. Do you mean…?
  • If I’m not wrong, you mean that…
  • Could you be more specific on…?
  • Are you saying…?

Concluding

After rounds of discussion, some agreeable terms will likely have been set. You want to be sure you’ve covered the points on your agenda before reaching a conclusion. Also, it is important to go over the agreed terms before proceeding to the next steps. At this point, it is vital to summarize the main points you agreed or disagreed on. To begin to round things up, you can say:

  • Have we covered everything?
  • Let’s just confirm the details.
  • Let’s see how far we’ve come…

Other important words and idioms

To avoid miscommunication, you need to be familiar with certain negotiation words and idioms. Idioms are phrases whose meanings differ from their component words. Business managers often learn how to use these words and idioms in negotiation classes. Some useful idioms and other terms include:

  • Highball/Lowball: To highball is to ask for much more than you think your negotiating partner would agree to. To lowball is to ask for much less than you think is best for your negotiating partner.
  • A line in the sand/walk away: This refers to the point where you are not ready to compromise. For example, refusing to accept goods below a particular quality.
  • Consensus: The point where a mutual agreement is reached on an otherwise difficult offer.
  • Give and take: The act of making compromises with mutual benefits in order to come to a more favorable joint agreement.
  • Stand one’s ground: The act of being firm on the conditions in a proposal.