The first thing that pops into my head when I think of negotiation is someone haggling at a flea market or a car salesman trying to convince you into purchasing a used car. The second thing that pops into my head is a courtroom where two lawyers argue viciously for hours over assets and terms of agreement. None of these are particularly positive images. In fact, negotiation has a pretty negative connotation as some stressful act wherein neither party achieves what they really wanted. But if I really think about how to negotiate, I realize that I use the skills of a successful negotiator quite often. Knowing how to negotiate is a job skill that can help you in everything from getting a higher salary to paying less for your cell phone bill. Here’s a few simple rules that will have you getting what want in no time.
Seek a Win-Win Outcome When You’re Deciding How to Negotiate
By definition, to negotiate is to come to an agreement or settlement; in other words each party must settle to the terms of the other in some way in order to achieve what they both want. You can’t expect to make a demand and just be handed it, rather you have to make a case for it. You’ll be surprised how often people are willing to hear you out if you explain yourself well.
Be Prepared/Do Your Research
Just as the lawyer wouldn’t walk into court with no preparation, you’ll never know how to negotiate if you aren’t clear on what you’re hoping to achieve. You should not only know what you are asking for but have some knowledge to back it up. You have to persuade the other person that you deserve more.
Think Outside the Box
Sometimes we get so focused on one outcome that we lose sight of other possibilities. I was recently discussing a collaboration opportunity for my blog. Though the company initially told me they could only offer free products when I told them my fees, when I countered that I would prefer less product and payment instead, they immediately agreed. If either of us had refused to budge, we likely would not have wound up working together. You may not get what you initially wanted but you can still get more than you started with. So don’t be afraid to get a little creative.
Never Give Without Taking
You should always get something in return by offering more and vice versa. It should always be a trade-off so that both parties wind up equally pleased with the outcome. Depending on what you are negotiating for, you may ask for more perks and benefits for the price you are paying or concede some things you don’t need in order to get a lower price. Negotiating is a balancing act.
Take Your Time and Think it Over
One of the worst things you can do is to rush to get the process over with and get pressured into (or out of) something. Acknowledge what the other party is saying as they will often try to defer or object to your requests, but don’t let them end the conversation entirely. Patiently continue to discuss the deal. For example, if someone says “I don’t have the authority to do that,” ask to speak with someone who does. Don’t talk their head off, either, and ask more open-ended questions so that you fully understand what the other party really wants. The more you get that, the more you can think of a solution that will benefit you both.
On the flip side, when you’re concerned about a decision that someone is offering you, take a step back by saying something like, “I need to talk this over with a couple of people first.” It takes the pressure off you as the ultimate decision maker and gives you time to regroup lest you make a decision you didn’t want to make.
Pick your Battles and Be Strategic
A lot of things can be negotiated, some which may even surprise you; but do not start a negotiation for the sake of the negotiation knowing you will not gain anything. You’re wasting everyone’s time to do so. When thinking about how to negotiate, you should plan your strategy and know your true end goal and how you can best achieve it. Thus it is smarter not to open with that end goal. If you are hoping for $500 for a project, for example, you should start by saying you want $750. This way by the time you have talked the price down you are actually getting what you wanted all along. Similarly, you’ll want to avoid stating a range because this will always incentivize the other party to argue for the lowest value of that range and will limit what you can reasonably ask for.
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