How to set yourself up for a successful outcome
My earliest negotiation memory, outside of the persuasive ploys used on my parents, occurred the summer before entering college. Throughout my senior year in high school I worked 25 hours a week for an accountant doing data entry. He asked me to work full-time over the summer so his wife, who worked the other 15 hours, could be home with their children. Since my parents expected me to pay for my first year of college, they also expected that I ask for a raise. Although I reassured them that I was deserving, inside I was freaking out and spent endless hours obsessing over the outcome. Thanks to my parent’s daily encouragement (that felt more like harassment at the time), I began to take the most important step in any negotiation process – the decision to negotiate in the first place.
Strategy #1 –Choose To Negotiate.
All the research is in. One of the main reasons women, as a whole, are less successful in negotiation is because they don’t choose to negotiate. In fact, when you hear the words, “negotiation” what comes to mind? When I present this question at my seminars, women often respond, “men in suits arguing and yelling, buying a car, attorneys, competition and pressure.” When I ask how many women enjoy negotiating, only a few hands go up.
Yet in reality, women are born to negotiate. Women are naturals at networking, reading a room and taking a pulse check on how people are feeling. Women are known to be more intuitive and empathetic. Women are great at gathering information, planning ahead and most have been living a win-win philosophy since their earliest years on the playground keeping everybody happy. And to top it all off, women even listen!
So, why don’t women have everything they want? According to the research, women still aren’t negotiating at the same rate of men. Too many women are still uncomfortable asking for what they want, need and deserve and instead are willing to take what they get. There’s no conflict or confrontation in that choice, and it makes them feel safe.
In fact, in the newer book Women Don’t Ask: Negotiation and Gender Divide (2003), authors Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever studied Carnegie Mellon MBA grads who were going after their first jobs. Although these recent grads had even taken a negotiation course, the men were still 8 times more likely to bargain over starting salary then the women. Here’s the kicker. The unwillingness to negotiate could cost these women almost $500,000 over the course of their lifetime if the men simply negotiated for $5,000 more ($30,000 vs. $25,000) on their first job at age 22. That small difference adds up over the years even if each of them receives identical 3% raises every year throughout their careers. When they’re 60 years old, it makes for a $15,000 difference in their salary which may not seem like such a big deal. However, if the men simply banked the difference they were making over the years at a 3% interest rate, by age 60 they would have $568,834 more than the women. That’s a chunk of change and a chunk of power for a one-time negotiation.
The authors were blown away by these findings, and created another study to see if men and women would ask for more than they are offered. Students from the same college were recruited to play the game Boggle ™ and told they would be paid between three and ten dollars. After four rounds the experimenter would hand both male and female students three dollars and ask if that was okay. If a student asked for more, they got more in the amount of ten dollars. No extra money was given to students who just complained about the amount, which is an indirect way of asking and something too many women utilize to get what they want. “Gee, that garbage can is looking pretty full.” Again, almost nine times as many male as female students asked for more money even though both groups reported through a survey that they felt they played the game equally well. This ruled out that women accepted less because they felt they had played poorly. It appears that the men were more likely to take action to fix the situation of not receiving as much as they wanted by asking for more.
Choosing to negotiate is the necessary first step for women to get more of what they want in life. Instead of viewing negotiation as an uncomfortable hassle or feeling “pushy,” women need to see negotiation as a game like Monopoly™. Learn the rules, play the game a few times and before you know it, a land baron is born!
For those of you who are curious about my summer raise, here’s what happened. A good guy friend of mine got a killer construction job making oodles of money per hour – double what I was making. This was enough to motivate me (tick me off!) to go for it. I remember shaking in my secretarial chair saying to myself, “One, two, three, go” before knocking on my boss’s door. After being invited to sit down, I blurted out, “Mr. Rudd, I would like to talk to you about a raise.” He said, “What would you like?” I said, “One dollar more an hour.” He said, “Consider it done,” and I left his office in a daze thinking, “I should have asked for more!”
Strategy #2: Decide what you want, why, and write it down.
Before you show up at the table to negotiate it’s imperative you know exactly what you want and why you want it. Without clarity, you won’t know how much wiggle room you actually have when it comes to the give and take process that occurs during a negotiation.
How do you decide what you want? Reflect on the situation before you and ask yourself, “In an ideal world, what do I want as a result of this discussion?” Write down your answer. Then ask, “Why do I want this?” Be real about your motives and again, write down your answers. Continue to ask yourself these two questions until you’ve exhausted your wants, needs and desires. Then ask yourself, “What else might be possible that I haven’t considered?” Maybe you need to talk to a few individuals who have been in a similar situation that can provide new insight. Now it’s time to list the items in order of importance. This allows you to see where you can be more flexible and when you need to stand firm.
Why do you need to know why it’s important to you? By identifying the reasons why you desire an outcome, you will often uncover the underlying emotion, which can impact your goals. Not that long ago I spoke to a busy attorney who was negotiating with a party planner with regard to celebrating her husband’s 50th birthday. She called me to help her get a better price, and so I needed to determine what was most important to her and why. Each time she’d tell me a non-negotiable item for the party (such as a band, buffet items, etc.), I’d reply, “Why is that important to you and your husband?” or “Why do you want that?” The answers to these questions ended up revealing her truth. She didn’t even want a party but felt the pressure to have one – not from her husband, but rather her friends. After some conversation we were able to come up with a new list of personal outcomes. The party got shelved for an intimate getaway – just the two of them. The party planner worked to create what I’ve been told was one of the best weekends they’ve ever spent together.
Another recent example is a colleague who was in the process of accepting a new position. After completing this exercise, she realized that one of the main reasons she desired a specific salary was to allow her enough income to travel. This awareness helped her recognize that negotiating for enough vacation time was more important than building a case for a club membership, car allowances or other benefits. Now she knew where she could and couldn’t wiggle.
Why do you need to write it down? Without written outcomes, you increase the likelihood of allowing your emotions to play a role and leaving behind something of importance. It’s the difference between going to the grocery store with or without a list. With a list, you quickly move from aisle to aisle getting exactly what you need while avoiding temptations and impulse buys. The list brings clarity and allows you to stay focused on the task at hand. Without a list, you might return home with many purchases, but still not have what you need to prepare a meal
Strategy #3: Do your Homework – You can never know too much!
If possible, do more homework than the person with whom you’re negotiating. Preparation is the key to pretty much everything in life. The more you know, the greater the chance you’ll walk away with a good deal. Attorneys rarely ask a question in the court room that they don’t already know the answer to. They’ve done their homework to be able to present the information in a way that influences the jury while eliminating the opportunity for any surprises. You need to gather up the facts so when you sit down at the bargaining table your confidence, awareness and intelligence shines through. The internet is amazing nowadays to gather information. Read newspapers and magazines, talk to others, and visit the facility or site.
When it comes to doing your homework, use at least three different sources. For example, if you need a new printer, check out three similar models. If you’re up for a promotion and need to know what the going rate for your skills and talent might be, talk with three individuals who might have the answers. You might speak with a headhunter, someone in a similar position outside of your company and a third within the organization. Web sources abound with http://rs6.net/tn.jsp?t=ije95xbab.0.0.7vdl5wn6.0&ts=S0198&p=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.salary.com being just one resource. Ask detailed questions such as “What have they asked for that’s creative or clever in their negotiation?” “Was anything they said or did particularly helpful?” Knowing the range of information from three different sources gives you a framework to operate within.
Who are they and what do they want? Part of your homework is finding out as much as you can about the individual(s) you will be negotiating with for any possible insight and to help determine their expectations. Negotiation is built on building relationships and creating trust with the other party, and the more you know about what makes someone tick, their interests, hobbies, family background, etc., the more you will have clues as to what might be important to them. Remember, negotiation is all about creating a win-win atmosphere, and without knowing what the individual truly desires and why, it’s more challenging to make that happen. If you can find out this information in advance, great! If not, be certain to determine this as quickly as you can in the process.
Does this person make the final decision? Take the time up front to discover how much power and decision making ability the person you’re negotiating with possesses. This will help you avoid a common negotiation tactic often referred to as the “Higher Authority.” This tactic allows the individual to postpone decision making based on the fact that they need to bring the information back for someone else’s approval. “Gee, I would like to be able to make a decision but I need to run this by my committee to see what they think.” If possible, ask the person before the initial meeting “Is there anyone else, aside from yourself, who will be involved in making the final decision?” Depending on the answer, you might attempt to get all parties to the negotiating table to insure a decision can be reached.
Strategy #4- Own Your Power
At 10 years old my Mother taught me to walk into the Chicago Veteran’s Hospital like I owned the joint in order to sneak pass the nurse’s station and visit my ill father. Little did I know at the time that she was teaching me an important negotiation skill – confidence. Body language speaks volumes. Stand tall, greet your opponent with a firm handshake and a warm smile that says you are comfortable and secure in your skin. You don’t have to wear a gray pin-stripe suit, but do wear something that makes you feel amazing. Psyche yourself up before the meeting by visualizing a successful outcome. Remember that you’ve done your homework and are prepared. Be yourself and communicate from a position of inner strength and integrity.
Choose a location that will add, not subtract, from your ability to influence. Research suggests that meeting on your turf gives you more power in a negotiation, but not if it’s your unorganized office. A low-budget way to solve that situation is to meet for afternoon coffee at an upscale hotel.
Strategy #5: Create Connection
Show respect throughout the negotiation to insure that the transaction moves forward more smoothly. This creates healthier relationships with others and lessens the likelihood that some small detail will get in the way of a successful deal. Mirroring your opponent (adjusting your rate of speech, phraseology and posture) will create rapport. Listening more than you speak not only gives you needed information, but ups your likeability factor. If the discussion gets heated, control your emotions. Real estate magnet, Barbara Corcoran in her book, Use What You’ve Got, says “Numbers don’t kill deals, egos do.”
Strategy #6: Questions are the Answer
Don’t assume you know what the other person wants. Unless you’re psychic, the only way you’re ever going to find out what someone truly wants is to ask. Not only will you get the answer, but it’s a painless way of getting someone to show their hand. “Now that you have told me what you want, what do you need?” “What would it take to reach an agreement?” “Is there anything else if you were me, you would want to know?”
The individual asking questions is usually the one in control. Therefore, when you’re asked a question, you want to gather as much information as possible before responding. In fact, you might simply say, “Mmm, why do you ask that?” When you feel you have answered their question, zip it and get comfortable with the silence.
Strategy #7: Leverage the Rules of the Game
In a prior ezine we talked about how negotiation needs to be viewed as a game — something to be played without getting emotionally involved. Following are some rules that will help you move closer to your goals.
Ask for more than you expect. This may seem obvious but too often women hesitate asking for a substantial amount because they don’t want to seem greedy. You need to think big so that when you compromise you still end up with exactly what you deserve.
No matter what, don’t accept the first offer too quickly as it leaves the other party feeling as if they could have done better in the negotiation. Years ago when my husband and I made an offer on our home, we also asked for appliances and other items to give us room to negotiate. The couple quickly accepted our offer. Instead of feeling celebratory for receiving everything we asked for, we wished we would have offered less.
Learn to flinch. This technique is my absolute favorite and I use it regularly. A flinch is a scrunched up face that says, “Ouch!” It helps to add the verbal punch and actually say, “ooh” or “Yikes” when someone gives you their fee or price. Surprisingly, this technique alone causes many individuals to lower their rate or offer a better concession.
When you can walk away from the deal, you increase the odds you will walk with more. The more risk you can take, the more power you have. You’re in the strongest position in a negotiation when you really don’t care. You are in the weakest position when you must make it happen. Use timing to your advantage.
Finally, listen to your heart and gut. Choose your partners, clients and deal-makers carefully as you may end up spending more time with them then your own family.
Remember, the research shows that women’s natural skills lend themselves to being excellent negotiators — you just have to choose to get in the game. Begin to believe in your talents, skills and abilities so you can go after what you truly want and deserve. Embrace these seven strategies to negotiation success and stack the deck in your favor.