How to be a Power Negotiator
"We'd like to offer you the position."
The phone line goes silent and I take a big gulp of air. The silence crackles with expectation, and the pause seems to stretch out for an eternity. This is exactly where a younger Gia would rush in with a thousand grateful expressions - eager to please, I would have assured them I was thrilled about the offer, and accepted on the spot.
This time, with a monumental effort in self restraint, I force my mouth to move slowly. "That's fantastic," I say, "Can I have a few days to think it over?"
Negotiation can be hard. When I work with clients, particularly women, they often share that they are "terrible at negotiation" - putting themselves last or avoiding asking for what they really need - despite being powerful negotiators when it comes to advocating on behalf of others.
As women, we are often discouraged from speaking up and speaking out about what we want and deserve. But I'm here to tell you: negotiation is a skill everyone can learn, practice and master. Research has shown that for women, the mere act of asking for more money during an initial salary conversation can result in more money 49% of the time, and as much as $150,000 over the course of a career.
John F. Kennedy said: Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiable. How would you be if you knew that every situation was negotiable?
The first step is identifying and overcoming our people pleaser - the inner critic that wants to put other's needs and opinions about us first. To do this, we need to get clear and confident inside ourselves about our own self worth, and dare let other people's opinions take a back seat. Can you risk being seen as self-serving, ambitious, greedy or ball-busting in service of getting what you really want?
Too often, I see individuals jump at the first offer, enter a negotiation conversation unprepared and end up leaving valuable dollars - or vacation days, or flex schedule options or stock options - on the table: all because they were too afraid to ask.
Think back to your last negotiation -- with your current employer, or your cable company, or your spouse:
Did you spend time thinking about the outcome you wanted before the conversation?
Did you prepare by first getting into your most confident and calm headspace, and thinking through the where/when/how of the conversation?
Did you ask, clearly and directly, for everything you actually needed?
Before entering into your next negotiation, here are some of my favorite tips to live by:
1) Prepare, prepare, prepare. Draw up list of non-negotiables and rank your priorities. Research your position so that it is well supported. Spend time determining the right questions to ask and prepare by writing your key points down. I always ask my clients: "What's the hard phrase you know you need to say during this conversation to feel successful?" Spend 30 minutes visualizing how you want the conversation to go - and really see it in your mind's eye - to get yourself in a confident state before you initiate the conversation.
2) Shorten the distance between when you think of asking for it and when you take a step of action towards it. A prospective client confided in me she had been avoiding asking for an overdue promotion for almost 12 months, working long hours for less than she deserved. By the time she worked up the courage to ask for the conversation, her boss had left the company and she needed to start over with a new manager. What is the conversation you know you've been avoiding? And what is the one step of action you can take to make it happen today?
3) Set the stage. Timing and location matter. Pick your location and timing carefully, including the seat in the room, time of day or of the week, noise level, interruptions and who gets a seat at the table. Do your best to ensure home field advantage and the optimal environment for your intended outcomes.
4) Go high or go home. Be prepared to ask for the biggest item on your list. If you do not ask for it, you certainly will not be getting it. Don’t be afraid to offend. Ask, ask, and ask again. Do not assume that some things are off the table. You must say the thing you are scared of saying.
5) Power of the pause. Silence can be strategic, and a well-timed pause can be your secret weapon. After you ask for what you need, hold in the uncomfortable silence while your listener processes your request. Ask for time to consider your response instead of committing on the spot.
6) Always counter offer. The worst they can do is say no. You never have as much leverage as you do before you have committed. A counter offer can make both parties feel satisfied. Often, counter offers are expected and engender respect and trust, so ensure you get the best deal possible by countering the first offer. 7) Include the relationship. Don't forget to actively listen, ask questions and build trust. Include what is important to you and what you want for the relationship long term. If you do not get what you want now, leave an opening to come back and ask for it later.
If you apply these tips, you may actually find negotiations become opportunities to practice clear direct communication while honoring the relationship. You may find them fine. You may even find them fun. And you'll certainly encourage the people you love to drop their fear and start asking for what they really want.
(And, if you need a boost, contact me for a conversation about an upcoming negotiation - don't accept the offer before we talk.)