Negotiation in employment is important, whether it’s salary negotiations in “traditional” jobs or negotiating with potential investors as an entrepreneur. Negotiation is critical for women, but it’s also something that many of us dread—sweaty palms, knots-in-the-stomach-style. But “like it or not, negotiations are part of our everyday lives,” Emily Long of CHIEF, a marketing and advertising agency, in Dupont Circle notes. “You see it on the street when a car lets a biker pass or when you call to lower your cable bill.”
Long is a Senior Digital Marketing Strategist and has built her career negotiating marketing campaigns with commercial, government, and nonprofit clients. She approaches negotiations with the goal of both sides winning, which is helpful framing for entrepreneurs. Read on for Long’s tips for successful, stress-free negotiations:
Know what you want, and choose a landing point before you even pick up the phone.
Preparation is the key to confidence heading into a negotiation. Knowing what you want will be your guide throughout the conversation and help you remain centered even if you get thrown a curveball. To figure out what you need to achieve, ask yourself the following questions:
- What am I asking for them to give me? For example, for a store to stock your product.
- What do I need to be successful? For example, if your product needs to be in certain store branches to perform its best, use those locations as your goal.
- What is a fair deal for both sides? For example, giving a store that has proven strong product sales exclusive rights to sell your item.
Do the math and research.
Much like on the high school debate team, part of knowing that you have a fair point is having the information to back it up. It is rare for a partner to simply give you what you want—you are going to have to rationalize your request with hard facts. Whether it’s through analyzing trends or looking at your own company history, the homework you do on the front end will pay off when you are able provide solid reasoning to the partner. Here are a few items for your checklist going into the conversation:
- Industry benchmarks and trends. (When it comes to quantities and prices, analyze the marketplace to ensure your ask is in line with trends and standards.)
- Past performance of the company or person you’re approaching. (Have they increased revenue this year? Are there any signs of trouble?)
- A reason for why you want to work with them. (Do they have a unique value that other companies can’t offer? A strong reputation? The ability to reach a specific, hard-to-reach audience?)
- A list of competitors who are also suitable and how they stack up against that company or person for points of comparison. (Market share? Public perception?)
Lead with partnerships.
Stronger relationships lead to stronger deals so keep this in mind whenever you’re meeting potential business partners or co-workers, and approach negotiations with a collaborative attitude. Getting the best deal can be about who you know, but it’s also tied to balancing sternness with fairness. Remember that you “get more bees with honey.” Your attitude is more important than you realize!
Aim high, settle in the middle.
Your first ask may not be accommodated, so aim a little high to give yourself some wiggle room. Then give it time and be ready to wait for a response. Where possible, plan ahead to avoid last minute negotiations that will leave you rushed. For example, if you have multiple rates to negotiate, prioritize those that need to be contracted first.
“Getting the best deal can be about who you know, but it’s also tied to balancing sternness with fairness.”
Finalize the deal.
Never leave a deal to a verbal confirmation or handshake. Here is what you need to keep in mind as you near settling the terms:
- Reference your checklist to make sure you’ve hit all the points you want to make and set the terms. You don’t want to leave anything on the table!
- Everything agreed to should be in writing, ideally both in email and then official documentation via a signed contract.
- The result of your negotiations will set a benchmark for future negotiations. It will be the rate that you use moving ahead and will affect what other marketplace players are able to achieve as well.
For many negotiating brings on a bout of anxiety. However, once you recognize that you’re already conducting negotiations throughout the course of your day, you can rest assured that you’re already in tip-top form. Just remember that you want to leave the negotiation with the sense that both parties achieved their goals—and remember, you’ve got to give a little to take a little.