Start with No - Jim Camp

I first learned about this book after watching Louis Rossman mention it in his videos and live streams.

This book reminds me a lot of Marie Kando’s book - Spark Joy in that it cannot be taken at face value. This book has much more substance beyond its title.

Most modern negotiations use the premise of WIN-WIN to create a lopsided advantage. It encourages parties to respond in the affirmative to close a deal successfully. When done in haste, it can cause severe financial consequences. To avoid this, the author suggests inviting both sides of the negotiation to use NO as the foundation of a negotiation.

No - is reversible and invites both parties to discuss the cause and possible remediation of why a deal may not be satisfactory. It advances the negotiation. Building upon this premise, the author covers various strategies for a successful negotiation.

Here are a couple of my takeaways -

  • Don’t save the Adversary
  • Define a Mission and Vision that lives in the camp of the Adversary
  • Use Interrogative Questions
  • Define a Budget - use it to walk away without emotion
  • Four Tips For Responding To Questions
  • Pay It Forward

Don’t save the Adversary

Throughout the book, Jim Camp uses the term Adversary - to refer to the other party in the negotiation.

According to Jim Camp, in negotiations, clients have an automatic inclination to create favorability, and they have issues with saying no, lest they negatively affect the relationship. They also find themselves trying to save the adversary from making a decision. These factors benefit the adversary while costing the client a steep cost.

Do we want to negotiate with someone who wants to be effective or rude yet effective?

Define a Mission and Vision

This seems straightforward. However, without one, it is easy to wander and grope without solid direction.

Example - job negotiations. Have a mission and vision. Know what you absolutely cannot do without and what you can concede.

Continuously operate in the mission of the adversary. This requires you to know what the mission of the adversary is. These are very high-level concepts that could mean different things to different businesses.

Show them their pain.

When negotiating - it is essential to tell the adversary about their pain.

This may be counterintuitive. However, sometimes it might be necessary because - no company will enter a deal without fully knowing what they are getting into and their pain points. Sometimes it is necessary to help them understand ahead of that decision.

The book gives an example of a company that renegotiated its deal by letting the adversary know what the pain would be if they went out of business. The adversary understood they would have to go to a competitor and get sub-standard products at an extra cost. Furthermore, they would now be dealing with a monopoly.

Knowing the adversary's pain is an extreme way to describe what the adversary wants and what they will miss out on. Once you know this, you can sell your product or widget by explaining how their pain will be alleviated.

Use Interrogative Questions

Non Interrogative questions may appear definitive, inviting the adversary to say NO.

However, in reality, it corners the adversary into making a decision. More importantly, it doesn’t define the mission of the Adversary. As mentioned in the previous section, the mission and vision must live in the adversary's camp.

By asking an interrogative question set in the adversary's camp, it invites the adversary to think of the discussion regarding their mission and vision.

It also explicitly establishes how that mission and vision are connected to what you are trying to sell or promote.

How will you manage without our product? vs Can you work without our product?

Define a Budget

In a negotiation, it is essential to know when to walk away. This is possible if you have a well-defined budget.

A budget represents your loss tolerance.

The author expands the budget to include money, time, and emotion.


Knowing the adversary's budget (money) → via research helps set realistic expectations.

The adversary may not even be able to offer you the money you need, so you should set expectations or be prepared not to waste time on this deal.

In the book, the author lists examples of companies making bold order offers they do not have the budget for - all in an attempt to secure a more significant discount for a smaller order.


If you have done your research, you will save time by not entering into negotiations you know will not go anywhere.

In the same vein, the author also advises against entering into meetings without a clear agenda of what is trying to be achieved. This enables you to not go over a time budget.


Know that this is not emotional. Be prepared for failure. If you have done your research, this will hurt less.

Being less emotional also means you are not easily swayed when the adversary props you up, ups your ego, or dangles the promise of a huge sale.

Four Tips For Responding To Questions

Jim Camp gives the following four tips for responding to questions or remarks at a negotiation -

Use Silence to elicit a further response

Use a continuation

I don’t know if the sales can handle this I’m sorry you think so, And… what do you mean by that ?

Respond with a question.

Be ambivalent if necessary, but at the same time, acknowledge that you respect the positions or opinions so far.

Pay It Forward

Paying it forward is a dramatic way to feel good and build self-esteem.

If you have a good self-image and good self-esteem, you will not allow yourself to be mistreated.

paying full price when justified empowers me to ask total price when justified

Treating others as you wish to be treated encourages a person to feel entitled to fair treatment, deal, or price.