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It’s sometimes hard to ask for what we truly want in a negotiation because we fear rejection. There’s also a common misconception that we have move outside our comfort zone to “play hardball” in order to get what we want.  Negotiation involves a bit of art, but there are some ways you can increase your chances of success and feel more comfortable. 

Maybe you’re considering taking a new job and you’re worried about whether you’ll be able to land the salary you wanted. Maybe you have an upcoming vendor negotiation to discuss service fees that have gotten out of control. For those of us who are self employed, these skills becomes even more important because we can use successful negotiating tactics to keep costs low as well as increase our revenue streams so that we can grow our businesses. Good negotiating will ensure you get paid what your time is worth, and help keep your finances in order.

I recently attended a conference with Dr. Catherine Tinsley, a business professor at Georgetown University and the Executive Director of the GU Women’s Leadership Initiative, who provided some great insights on negotiations. Here’s some of what I learned

1. You winning doesn’t mean the other person loses

It’s really about getting a good deal for yourself.  Keep in mind that the negotiation doesn’t have to be a fixed pie. Both sides can often get some or all of what they really want — but you may have to do some exploring to get there.

The alternative means that one side wins and the other loses, and it doesn’t work very well. Would you ever want to do business again with someone who was such a hardball at negotiating that it left a bad taste in your mouth? Probably not.  It’s better to find areas of common ground so that you can both come away with some wins.

Prepare beforehand by listing your top priorities for the negotiation – i.e. what you hope to get out of it.  Also list some things that aren’t as important to you — those are things you may be able to give away during the discussion. For salary negotiations this is where you think about the total compensation and benefits packages and prioritize what’s most important to you. 

2. Be nice and ask lots of questions

It helps no one if you come to the table trying to dominate the conversation or push your agenda. You’ll learn really interesting things about the mindset and priorities of the other party if you ask probing questions in a nice way. You’ll also boost trust when you focus on building the relationship. The best negotiators are tough on the problem and very nice to people participating in negotiation, according to Dr. Tinsley. Good negotiators are also capable, creative, and trustworthy. Remember, the “us vs. them” mentality doesn’t help expand the pie, neither does acting in bad faith.

Good negotiators also build skills to explore side issues that may carry importance for the other party. To do that, you can use probing questions during the negotiations to get at the heart of the other party’s most important priority(ies).  For example:

Why do you feel that way?
What’s most important to you?What’s your concern?
What would make this a no-brainer for you?

The bottom line is to “know the why” for the other party to discover their underlying interest level. Find a way to bridge the interests of both sides.

3. Name your price

In negotiating, this is called “setting an anchor.” It’s extremely important in almost every negotiation to state your anchor up front. Human nature says that whichever anchor comes first, it’ll become the basis for the negotiation going forward.  The anchor is not the minimum price you’d accept, it will be on the high end of your range.  It’s important that the rate or price be well informed (i.e. you can back it up if necessary), and that you have confidence when you state your ask.

Don’t start out saying something wishy washy like, “Well I was thinking I might set the hourly rate at $95, what do you think, is that too high?”  When you act tentative, you alert your audience that you’re unsure and give them an opportunity to reframe the negotiation.  Instead simply say, “My hourly rate is $95,” and then pause to wait for response.   Practice saying this outloud if you’re doing an in person or phone negotiation so that you feel comfortable.   Trust the process.

The other party may come back and say that the rate is too high.  That’s not the end of the world though, because it gives you a perfect opportunity to ask a probing question like, “What is your concern?”  Or they may accept it on the spot.   But you have to ask, and more often than not as the negotiation moves forward, you’ll be rewarded if you set a price anchor first.  

I’d love to hear from you if you’ve successfully used some of these tips or have some others to share, so please reach out.

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