Get more of what you want: Ne­go­ti­a­tion primer for women

Chattanooga Times Free Press - - BUSINESS -

We all spend most of our day ne­go­ti­at­ing, whether we re­al­ize it or not.

From the mo­ment my hit feet the floor in the morn­ing, I’m ne­go­ti­at­ing: with my three kids, to get dressed and eat their break­fast with­out mak­ing a mess. With my hus­band, as we jug­gle the morn­ing cir­cus of house­hold tasks to get ev­ery­one out the door.

When we get to work, most of us con­tinue ne­go­ti­at­ing, even if it’s not an ex­plicit part of our job de­scrip­tion. We man­age mul­ti­ple projects, and ne­go­ti­ate with col­leagues and su­per­vi­sors about which one should be the high­est pri­or­ity. We ne­go­ti­ate pric­ing and con­tract terms for our prod­ucts or

ser­vices with our clients or cus­tomers. We ask for the re­sources, staff or even va­ca­tion days we need, ne­go­ti­at­ing with other peo­ple or de­part­ments to get what we need.

What if you don’t feel com­fort­able ne­go­ti­at­ing, or worry you’re not very good at it?

Ne­go­ti­a­tion at its core is sim­ply a dis­cus­sion with an­other per­son to reach an agree­ment, usu­ally in­volv­ing a com­pro­mise. And you can get bet­ter at ne­go­ti­at­ing by prac­tic­ing.

I’ve spent the last 13 years ne­go­ti­at­ing with other lawyers, clients, and even judges about ev­ery­thing from mul­ti­mil­lion-dol­lar law­suits to sched­ul­ing a meet­ing (the meet­ing sched­ules of­ten re­quire much more fi­nesse than the law­suits!).

Here are top tips from me, and a few from other lo­cal business own­ers, for mak­ing bet­ter deals through ne­go­ti­at­ing:

1. Do your home­work: Know your bot­tom line, and your “why.” You must know your ab­so­lute bot­tom line num­ber or other terms that are nec­es­sary to reach an agree­ment, and why they’re im­por­tant, be­fore you get started. These facts will an­chor your dis­cus­sions and help you know when it’s time to stop the ne­go­ti­a­tions be­cause the other side’s of­fer does not meet your needs.

You should also do some re­search and be pre­pared to ex­plain how you reached the num­ber or terms you’re re­quest­ing, and how they can even ben­e­fit the other per­son. What’s the in­dus­try stan­dard? Why do you de­serve more or dif­fer­ent terms? How are you or your prod­uct dif­fer­ent? Ne­go­ti­a­tion of­ten in­volves at least a lit­tle per­sua­sion, and hav­ing facts and fig­ures at your fin­ger­tips goes a long way in these dis­cus­sions.

2. Ask the other side what they re­ally want, why and how. It seems so sim­ple, but we of­ten for­get that the per­son on the other side of the ne­go­ti­at­ing ta­ble may want things that we haven’t thought about, are happy to give, and that may not even cost us any­thing. Be cu­ri­ous. Ask­ing “why” will help you un­der­stand what’s re­ally driv­ing their po­si­tion. By ask­ing ques­tions, be­fore of­fer­ing any­thing, you can of­ten be more cre­ative and reach an agree­ment that’s seen as a win for all.

Jenny Hill, part­ner with Chat­tanooga web de­sign and dig­i­tal strat­egy com­pany Paper­cut Interactive, sug­gests go­ing a step fur­ther: “Ask ‘how’ ques­tions. Rather than pro­vid­ing the other party with the an­swer I ex­pect they’ll have, I try to re­verse the sit­u­a­tion and of­fer them the chance to ‘solve’ the prob­lem. So, for ex­am­ple, if a client is re­quest­ing a project with an ag­gres­sive time­line, I might ask, ‘How do we han­dle the ap­provals with this sched­ule?’ ” Do­ing this helps the client re­al­ize their sug­ges­tion may not be work­able for their own team. “This puts my client in the driver’s seat and gets us both where we want to go,” Hill says.

3. Ask for more than you need. Ne­go­ti­a­tions of­ten in­volve some give and take, so I al­ways start by ask­ing for more than my bot­tom line. I was shocked when I started work­ing with fe­male business own­ers that this was a for­eign con­cept. Start­ing high isn’t al­ways fi­nan­cial; some­times I’ll ask for other terms that would be nice to have, like a longer or shorter time pe­riod or more con­trol over some part of the deal, but which I’m will­ing to let go in or­der to com­pro­mise, so long as I’m still meet­ing my bot­tom line re­quire­ments.

It’s crit­i­cal to re­mem­ber that you can’t know the other per­son’s bot­tom line or re­quired terms at the be­gin­ning of a ne­go­ti­a­tion; what you con­sider “high” may be well be­low their max­i­mum num­ber, so there’s a big po­ten­tial for up­side from this tac­tic.

I’m not sug­gest­ing you make a to­tally un­rea­son­able re­quest or lie about facts or cir­cum­stances (this can ac­tu­ally back­fire and re­sult in your los­ing cred­i­bil­ity), but it’s a good idea to start a lit­tle high so you have room to com­pro­mise.

4. Think col­lab­o­ra­tion, not con­fronta­tion. Re­mem­ber the other side wants to reach an agree­ment too.

In my own law prac­tice work­ing with cre­ative business own­ers, I of­ten en­counter women who don’t ne­go­ti­ate be­cause they think the other side is of­fer­ing a take-it-or-leave it deal, and they worry they will lose the deal if they ask for any­thing.

I’ve found that it helps my clients to think of ne­go­ti­a­tion as col­lab­o­ra­tive, not con­fronta­tional. Both sides have some­thing of value that the other wants, and may be flex­i­ble on the ex­act terms of the deal. The goal of ne­go­ti­a­tion should be to bring the two sides to­gether in a happy agree­ment, where ev­ery­one feels good about the out­come.

Chat­tanooga Re­al­tor Beth Har­rell says that her main job on any given day is to be a strong ne­go­tia­tor for her client. She rec­om­mends keep­ing the end in mind and not get­ting mired down in de­tails that don’t mat­ter dur­ing ex­tended ne­go­ti­a­tions. “In a real estate trans­ac­tion, from price point through in­spec­tion is­sues, no one will get ev­ery­thing they want. All will give some­thing, but ev­ery­one’s goal is to close the deal.”

Ne­go­ti­a­tion doesn’t have to be scary or in­tim­i­dat­ing. When you know how to ask for what you need, you stand a much bet­ter chance of ac­tu­ally get­ting it.

Au­tumn Witt Boyd

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