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The Art of Negotiation

Is your career where you want it, or do you have work goals and future ambitions to conquer that seem out of reach?  Working hard at what you do won’t always garner a promotion or contract.  More often than not, you have to ask for it, or negotiate your way to it.  Now, don’t let the word ‘negotiation’ scare you off.  And, if you think the art of negotiation only applies to top-level politicians or six figure salespeople, think again.  Negotiating skills are a necessary tool for every business person, and the mastery of it begins with assessing your own self-worth.

Begin your negotiation plan by asking ‘how much do I value myself, and what do I need and want’?  Do you feel worthy of the very thing you have your sights set upon?  If you dream about a career advancement, but deep down feel you are undeserving, or don’t have what it takes, begin your work there.  Set aside feelings of unworthiness for a moment and take a look at your resume, or Linked-In profile.  If you haven’t created either, it’s time to begin a chronological inventory of your work history and skill sets.  A full review of your accomplishments and abilities should provide a realistic picture of your background and an objective representation of what you’ve accomplished.

After such an exercise (given you’ve been in the workforce a while) you should have an undeniable sense of your value as an employee, entrepreneur or freelancer.  When you doubt your value, do a self-check by looking at your accomplishments in black and white.  With a boost in confidence, then ask yourself ‘what do I want, or what is it I need?’  Sometimes we feel we need more, but can’t always define it for ourselves.  Here are a few goals and needs some of my clients have expressed to their employers over the years:

Promotion Pay increase Benefits increase
Bonus Vacation time Special assignment
Larger workspace Work from home Earlier/later start/end time

Perhaps these examples pertain to you, or maybe they’ve helped you connect with what it is you want or need in your career.  Negotiation is a give and take, so the next step involves figuring out what others need and looking toward the future.  What are you willing to give, give up, invest in or do in return for what you want?  Whatever it is, link it to what interests your negotiating partner.  Your company, team or manager could have the following wants or needs:

New product innovation Increasing revenue Company merger
Reducing overhead Employee reduction Industry nomination
Company award Reduced workload Successful project completion

Do you have the ideas, capacity or skill set to help your manager reach his or her goals?  Maybe a combination of these suggested ideas and/or other unmet company needs would make an attractive proposition to a manager.  If your manager’s future or unmet goals are tiered up to a greater company goal, even better.  Now it’s time to create the deal or build your negotiation strategy.

Consider multiple combinations of ideas, and begin simply.  For example, you would like a raise, and in return, you agree to take on an important project.  In presenting the idea, demonstrate how your work on the project will help achieve your manager’s goal of increasing revenue, reducing their workload, or keeping within budget and timelines by avoiding a salaried new hire and training time.  Or, propose that you could increase revenue as the new assistant sales manager with your training and motivational skills.  The negotiating combinations are almost endless, just make sure the output is not.  Know your breaking point.

Define and understand what and when you are willing to walk away from.  Enter into the negotiation with a plan A, B and C.  Offer to assist with the most obvious goal, and ask for what you want in return – time off, raise, etc.  If the deal is met with some resistance, don’t give in immediately.  Tell your manager you understand they may need time to think about it, and set a time and date to reconnect on the proposal.  When you meet again, if your request is rebuffed, increase the stakes, but just a little.  Put option B on the table.  For example, if you offered to take on a special project in return for a raise, say you’ll deliver the work 4 weeks earlier than the original due date.  Whatever the second offering is, make sure it demonstrates that you are sincerely invested in the first offering in return for the raise (or whatever you asked for).  Upping the ante typically results in an acceptance or refusal, and you will know where you stand.  If, however, you still sense some resistance, now would be the time to pull out the ace in your back pocket.  On top of the first two offerings, include a clincher to the deal that you know your manager can’t possibly pass up.

If the negotiation has gone this far, know your bottom line.  The overall atmosphere and attitude during the negotiations should provide a gut check on how far you are willing to go.  If you feel the process is being considered in a fair light and a respectable sense, throwing down the gauntlet with your third offering may feel right.  If instead, you sense that you’re being exploited, be willing to walk away.  Further, before you enter into negotiations, understand how much you are willing to give, and stick to your resolve.  What are the non-negotiables?  Have a tough conversation with yourself prior to the negotiation, otherwise, you are at the mercy of the person you are negotiating with.  Your time, experience and talents are valuable.  Don’t give, give, give until it hurts.  The danger here is selling yourself short by giving too much away in return for too little payout.  Do so, and you will not only devalue your self-worth but your perceived worth by your employer as well.

©Copyright 2016.  Kay Fittes.  All Rights Reserved.