Book Summary: Start with No by Jim Camp

Quick Summary: Jim Camp offers tactics and methods in Start with No (2002) to help you get better results from your negotiations, increasing your profit. Camp identifies the common mistakes that people make when negotiating and suggests alternative approaches. Start with No teaches you how to win as a negotiator while leaving no gains on the table.

You do not have to read the entire book if you don’t have time. This book summary provides an overview of everything you can learn from it.

Let’s get started without further ado.

Start with No Book Summary

Basics of Negotiation

Avoid showing signs of distress and neediness in your life in general, and as a negotiator in particular, to prevent your adversary from exploiting your weak position against you. Additionally, before you begin negotiating, tell yourself that you don’t need the deal. Neediness causes you to lose control and make poor decisions.

Tough negotiators, on the other hand, are skilled at detecting and fostering neediness in their opponents. Negotiators for large corporations, in particular, will inflate their suppliers’ expectations. They paint rosy, exaggerated scenarios for mega-orders, partnerships, and global alliances in the hopes of instilling urgency in their adversary for what could be a once-in-a-lifetime, career-making deal.

Talking in a negotiation may be interpreted as a public display of need. As a result, it is critical to speak less and communicate only what is absolutely necessary. In negotiations, speaking in a high-pitched voice is a reliable indicator of need. Another telltale sign is hurried word delivery. You must maintain a calm and collected tone while desperate negotiators raise their voices.

Aside from keeping your tone in check, don’t be afraid to be rejected in a negotiation because your opponent requires you as well. Fear of rejection is a sign of desperation. Furthermore, do not become fixated on a specific deal. Know that if a deal isn’t working out, there’s always another one to look for. Recognize that, aside from basic human needs such as food and shelter, all other desires are wants, and not having them is fine.

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Handling Your Adversary

In a negotiation, you should try to make your opponent as comfortable and at ease as possible. This enables you to exert control over an opponent’s thoughts and actions. To accomplish this, try to arrive at the negotiation with a less-than-perfect appearance, or show a vulnerable side of yourself rather than acting like you are a perfect human. This strategy aims to make your opponent feel less intimidated and more relaxed.

Furthermore, knowing that the other side’s greatest strength will eventually become their greatest vulnerability, you must be more than willing to let them flaunt themselves in almost any way they want.

Maybe, Yes, and No

Whether you should participate in a specific negotiation is determined by whether the opponent responds to your initial offer with “maybe,” “yes,” or “no.” If your opponent is hesitant to accept your offer and responds with “maybe,” it is not worth your time to continue the negotiations, because “maybe” is not an actual answer but merely a filler.

If, on the other hand, your adversary responds to your offers with an immediate “yes,” you must proceed with extreme caution. An immediate “yes” is frequently used to trap you in a negotiation, unravel your neediness, and place you under the control of your adversary.

Finally, getting a “no” answer removes the emotional aspect of the negotiation and opens the door to rational, logical negotiations from which you can emerge victorious.

Mission and Purpose

To drive a successful negotiation, a mission and purpose should be used. If you stick to them, you can avoid getting off track and being manipulated by your adversary. If you have a genuine goal and purpose, and the outcome of the negotiation satisfies that goal and purpose, you know it’s a good and productive negotiation.

If you’re not working on your own mission and purpose, you’re automatically working on someone else’s. This isn’t a problem if you know what you’re doing; it becomes a problem if you don’t and end up wasting your time.

Dissatisfied employees have illegitimate missions and goals, such as “I want to make a million dollars before I turn twenty-one.” A valid mission and purpose are those that are centered on your constituents, customers, or adversaries. One example is the business adage “the customer always comes first.”

As a negotiator, once you have a mission and purpose, you can manage your emotions and make sound decisions. Even if some decisions don’t pan out, keep in mind that if you’re serving a good mission and purpose, you can’t go wrong in the long run.

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Objectives and goals

You develop good and bad patterns of behavior, as well as actions that help or hinder you, during your negotiations. In contrast to results, which are completely beyond your control, habits and actions can be managed and altered to improve your negotiation skills.

You must be able to distinguish between a goal and a result or objective as a negotiator to do so. You have control over goals but not objectives. You achieve your objectives by adhering to your behavioral objectives. You also have control over your behavior and activity, but not over the results of your behavior and activity. You can lead a horse to a river, but you can’t make it drink, as the old adage goes.

Failure to set attainable goals is as common as any other error. People become perplexed when there is no step-by-step approach. They casually discuss goals and outcomes, or objectives, but have no idea how to tell the difference.

You achieve your goal by following a valid goal that you set, and by accomplishing your goal, you propel your mission and purpose.

The Solution Is Inquiry

The ability to ask questions is the most important behavioral goal and habit to develop. The goal of questions is to move around in your opponent’s environment and see what they see, as well as to bring them to a clear vision and choice. As a result, questions are the fuel you use as a negotiator to lead the opponent to a vision that will spark a decision. You want the conversation to take place as much as possible in your opponent’s world.

To get the most out of your questions, avoid asking them verbally, such as “Can you do this?” Such questions encourage your opponent to respond with a “yes,” “maybe,” or “no,” which you should try to avoid. Ask open-ended questions instead of verb-led questions, such as “What would you like me to do?” Such questions do not imply neediness and create room for negotiation.

Interrogative questions also encourage your opponents to paint a picture of their world, as well as help them envision your world, propelling the negotiation forward. Instead of asking, “Is this proposal tight enough for you?” try, “How can I tighten this proposal?”

Regardless of how important questions are, you must keep them to a minimum. If a question contains more than nine or ten words, it risks becoming complex. A long, complex question may appear impressive, but remember that you’re not in the business of impressing people.

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What Drives a Negotiation

In addition to asking questions, four other fuels are essential. They are nurturing, reversing, connecting, and the “3+,” as Jim Camp refers to them.

The first fuel, nurturing, entails putting your opponents at ease. It is critical to reassure them that you are listening and value what they have to say.

The second fuel, reversing, is a tactic in which you answer one question with another, gaining as much information about your opponent as possible. To avoid sounding too interrogative, the reverse question should be preceded by a short nurturing statement.

The third fuel, connection, is a type of reversal. The floating comment made by your adversary in order to elicit a response from you is turned around in order to obtain some useful information from them.

The ability to stick with a question until it is answered three times or to repeat a remark three times is the “3+.” When obtaining confirmations or declarations, this is critical.

Blank Slating

Before engaging in any negotiation, you must clear your mind of any assumptions or expectations. This enables you to rationally navigate a negotiation based on the information provided by your adversary.

Starting with a clean slate is linked to your ability to let go of expectations and preconceptions. As a negotiator, you must learn to recognize and dismiss them. You must not have either positive or negative expectations before entering into a negotiation. When you have a mission and a purpose, you ignore what you can’t control and become so devoid of neediness that expectations aren’t even considered.

Carrying a notebook with you and writing down points discussed during the negotiation is another tactic that could help you blank slate. This provides a summary of the discussion and provides you with a more objective, less subjective perspective on the issues at hand.

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Take Away the Pain

Every adversary in every negotiation is motivated by pain. Any issue that the negotiator and adversary see is regarded as painful. And the goal of any negotiation is to alleviate present or future pain.

Having a clear vision of your opponent’s pain will help you navigate negotiations as smoothly as possible. Furthermore, combining a mission and purpose with a vision of your adversary’s pain can help guide your negotiations in the right direction.

Proceed with a negotiation only after you have a clear picture of your opponent’s pain or problem. Otherwise, you will be unable to make sound decisions. In some cases, your adversary’s pain is obvious, while in others, you must connect the dots and dig a little deeper to determine the true pain that prompted the negotiation.

It is also important to understand that when a negotiation fails, the cause is usually your failure to help the other side understand their pain, or your inability to form a clear vision of the pain they were attempting to communicate to you.


Every negotiation has a budget that includes three metrics: time/energy, money, and emotional investment. Budgeting is a technique for staying on top of the true cost of the negotiation, which goes far beyond monetary units. In a negotiation, both parties have a budget for each of the three categories, and it is your responsibility to ensure that you recognize both your own and your opponent’s.

Your budget for a specific negotiation is determined by your mission and purpose, as well as your negotiation vision. Be wary of becoming overly invested in a negotiation, as this can have a negative impact on your decision-making. When you’re overinvested, you start thinking in terms like, “Well, I’ve already invested so much in this deal, I’ve got to get something out of it.” This is the typical reasoning that leads to bad deals.

As a negotiator, you must train yourself to be concerned with the hours of the day. You should also be aware that time can be used against you in a variety of ways, including raising the true cost of a negotiation and bringing about a potential compromise. Making you wait an hour, bombarding you with emails and faxes, asking you to travel two hours or fly eight hours, and canceling at the last minute are all budget-building ploys.

Similarly to time and energy, both parties in a negotiation will try to increase the other’s monetary investment. An inexperienced negotiator loses sight of the goal, and a money crunch usually leads to compromise. Finally, emotions play a huge role in any negotiation. When there is emotional anguish or excitement in the negotiation, the value of the deal skyrockets.

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Identifying Decision Makers

Ensure that you understand who the final decision makers are during a negotiation. Knowing who the real decision makers are can often help you negotiate more effectively, increasing your chances of success. Ask interrogative questions like, “Of course, you make the decisions.” But who else do you want to talk to?” and “Who can help you make this decision?”

During the discovery process, the most common stumbling block is someone on your adversary’s team informing and assuring you that he or she is the decision maker when this is not the case. People like this are referred to as “blockers.” Once you’ve determined who the true decision makers are, the blockers may make reaching them difficult. You won’t get your deal if you can’t get around or over the blockers.

Having and Sticking to a Plan

You must have a clear agenda in five categories before engaging in any negotiations: problems, your baggage, their baggage, what you want, and what happens next.

The first category on your agenda, problems, addresses the major issues that will be discussed and negotiated. Having them clearly listed in front of you allows you to sharpen your vision and concentrate on the important aspects of the negotiation.

The second category, your baggage, entails understanding your background and what you can offer your opponent. It is understanding where you stand and what the negotiation will bring you if it is successful, as well as what you will lose if it fails. The third category, their baggage, entails knowing your opponent’s baggage in order to leverage where they’re standing in your favor.

The fourth category, what you want, necessitates knowing what you want from a negotiation and, as a result, what you can offer and what you should ask for. Finally, understanding the procedure that your adversary will follow following the negotiation is the fifth category on your agenda, so you can always stay in touch to ensure that the points you agreed on are being implemented.

The Presentation Key

Avoid giving your adversary a traditional presentation about your product or service during a negotiation. Recognize that the most effective presentation you’ll ever make is the one your opponent never sees. A traditional presentation puts your opponent in an intellectual position, and you end up answering rather than asking questions. Such presentations portray you as needy, rushing to close the deal in as little time as possible, with no personal input from you.

If you are forced to give a traditional presentation, make sure it is at the end of the negotiation and that you are presenting to the deal’s actual decision makers, not negotiators.

Above All: Self-Esteem

To be able to apply all of the tactics and methods mentioned in Start with No, you must first develop self-esteem. It gives you the strength to face crippling neediness, swallow false pride, and make difficult choices.

When you face overwhelming odds, your self-esteem is what keeps you going. If you have it, nothing can stop you from seeing yourself as a strong, capable, deserving, and successful person.

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Start with No Review

Jim Camp employs an easy-to-read, friendly, and informative tone in Start with No. Camp communicates his ideas and provides examples of the techniques he discusses by using anecdotes from his work as a negotiation coach, as well as some of his favorite adages. Simulators that compare a bad negotiation to a good negotiation are also included in Start with No.

About The Author

Jim Camp is a negotiation coach, author, and the founder of Coach2100, Inc., which provides senior executives and client teams with one-on-one and group coaching. His extensive negotiation experience and knowledge prompted him to share his thoughts on the subject in Start with No.

Start with No Quotes

“The self-image of the individual in the selling role traps him or her in a neediness mode and often leads to bad deals.”


“Hi, Bob. This is Frank Jones. I’m with First Advantage Venture Fund, and I wanted to see if I could get ten minutes on your calendar so I could show you how we can work with you in the future.”


“Cold calling is the worst way to do business, we all know that. But I say it’s also a great way, because it’s a great training ground, and it can be surprisingly effective because your neediness is under control.”


“When emotions run hot and heavy in negotiations, the highpitched voice is a sure sign of need. The rushed delivery is another sure sign.”

View our larger collection of the best Start with No quotes. 

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