9 Useful Expressions for Business Negotiations in English

One way to reduce the risk of miscommunication is to get a firm grasp on the most commonly used business English words and phrases in negotiations.

Face-to-face negotiations can be logistically difficult, time-consuming, and costly. An increasing number of businesses have chosen to tackle these issues by utilizing negotiation training. However, while virtual meetings can save time and money, interactions that aren’t face-to-face run the risk of hitting a miscommunication stumbling block.

One way to reduce the risk of miscommunication is to get a firm grasp on the most commonly used business English words and phrases. Here are some words and phrases you may come across often and how they may be used.

to reach a consensus

Definition: To reach an agreement.

This phrase may be used in different ways. For example:

  • To highlight the goal of the discussion: “We hope to reach a consensus on the two pending items of the deal.”
  • To confirm an outcome: “We have reached a consensus on when payment is due.”
  • To indicate that an agreement has not been reached: “We are unable to reach consensus on the items discussed.”

to drive a hard bargain

Definition: To work very hard to get an agreement in a negotiator’s favor.

This expression can be used to describe the nature of the deal or the other negotiator’s approach. For instance, “They’re driving a hard bargain and have refused to compromise on any of the terms.” Or, “You drove a hard bargain, but we were able to come to an agreement.”

to come to terms

Definition: Typically means to gradually move towards an agreement.

The process of reaching a consensus may be referred to as coming to terms.

Example: “After much negotiation, we’ve come to terms on the cost of the online trading resource.”

concession/to concede

Definition: Something you give up when trying to make a deal. Negotiation trainers advise that a concession may also be referred to as a “trade-off,” as it’s usually given in exchange for something.

For instance, let’s say a buyer wants to negotiate the cost of an item. The seller may agree to “give up” the higher price for a lower one. The buyer may say, “In order for us to reach a deal, some concessions must be made.” In turn, the seller may respond, “We’re willing to concede on the price and offer you $65 per piece instead of $75 for a longer term.”

“To concede” may also be used in a question or statement. For example, “What are you willing to concede?”

a deal breaker

Definition: An item or an issue that has the potential to stop a negotiation. In negotiation training, a deal breaker is described as operational, legal, personal, behavioral, or cultural, among other reasons.

Here are some ways this term may be used:

  • To list deal breakers before the meeting: “The use of bullying tactics is a deal breaker.” Or, “The following conditions are deal breakers for us.”
  • To identify a deal breaker that comes up during the conversation: “This finding is a deal breaker for us.” Or, “If we cannot agree on point number two, this is a deal breaker for us.”


Definition: An offer made in response to a previous offer by the other side. A counteroffer may also be referred to as a counter-proposal or as an alternative offer.

Let’s say a supplier is negotiating with a business about a new sales service. The supplier’s offer involves a 15% discount to try the service. The business instead suggests 20%, which is their counteroffer.

highball/lowball offer

Definition: An extremely high (highball) or low (lowball) offer. Whether an offer is high or low depends on the value of the negotiated item.

For example, let’s say you’re trying to close a deal on office space. The landlord says that the space costs $2,000 per month. Assuming that the price represents fair market value, an offer of $800 is a lowball offer. On the other hand, a seller’s price of $3,500 is a highball offer.

bottom line

Definition: The point beyond which negotiations will not proceed. The bottom line may also be referred to as the final offer or the walk-away point.

For instance: “An 11% discount is our bottom-line offer.”


Definition: An issue that negotiators are unable to agree on. A deadlock issue can become a deal breaker if unresolved.

Here are a few ways this word may be used in a negotiation:

  • When highlighting a potential problem: “It appears we are deadlocked on the issue of deploying online training platforms.”

To explain why a deal fell apart: “We are unable to reach an agreement as we are deadlocked on several items in the contract.”

Written by Editor for EnglishClub April 2021

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