For years, I served as a senior executive with Federated Department Stores (now Macy’s), which was a Fortune 100 company at the time. Throughout my tenure I had to negotiate high-stakes deals, related to my career progress. As a leader you have to continually build your brand. You also must assert yourself to negotiate each promotion. I sometimes defended my value and asked for more financial compensation or expanded benefits and extended relocation services. It seemed like every three years or so, I was asked to transfer to another city and help run a different store.
Looking back, I’m amazed at how many homes I bought and sold. Sometimes it seemed that I had barely unpacked before interviewing for another promotion, involving a new change of address. I got exciting offers that expanded my horizons both personally and career-wise. But I always relied on my own skills to negotiate strategic promotions that would ensure success.
Once they wanted me to move to Erie, PA, a small industrial city in the cold north. But I was a single woman who didn’t know a soul there, and it was the middle of winter. I decided to decline, for the sake of my social life, and negotiate for something better.
Now I coach clients how to do the same. I show them how to get what they want out of their executive careers, by effectively persuading decision-makers. Let me share six of my negotiation tips that they find the most helpful. Then you, too, can apply them to achieve your own personal and professional success.
1) Clarify Your Must-Have’s.
Knowing I wanted to live in a vibrant major city when I was single was, for me, a must-have. Although I wanted a promotion, location was important enough to me to seal the deal…or be a deal-breaker. Identify your own must-have benefits or terms. That lets you negotiate from a place of conviction. What I also love about this approach is that it helps you know exactly when you need to walk away, without second-guessing your decision. I advise my clients to write down their list of must-have’s. Also list those perks or wants that would be nice to win, but are not deal breakers. Now you have crystal-clear clarity about what is essential to you to ensure you’re happy with the outcome.
2) Convey Confidence
Early in my career, I observed that when you’re in persuasion mode, it’s never what you say that convinces others…but how you say it. Voice resonance can express confidence, and so can your body language. I train my clients in these confidence-conveying communication techniques that take your ability to successfully negotiate to the next level. But what you say also needs to carry gravitas that comes from a genuine knowledge of your professional value and your personal values. Those core convictions shape your goals, and give potent credibility to your negotiations.
3) Speak to Their Needs
A broad mindset is one of your most influential communication tools. I always prepared to negotiate around my promotions by doing my homework and considering what was important to my senior bosses. Tailor your presentation of must-have’s so that they reflect what the other party needs. Frame your talking points so that they represent solutions to problems they want to solve. The easiest way to win a negotiation is when you persuade them that you have their best interest at heart.
4) Powerful Language and Power Pauses
Most people are uncomfortable with landing their key point and then stopping. But don’t let high-impact moments get watered-down by unnecessary talking. Pauses make us ill at ease when we don’t have confidence, and chattering helps relieve nervousness. It’s a programmed reaction to uncomfortable silence. But powerful pauses are great tools. They force the other person to really listen to and contemplate what you just said. The silence gives them time to process your message. Learn to use powerful language that is concise and precise. Then practice punctuating those strong points with powerful pauses.When you’re in persuasion mode, it’s never what you say that convinces others…but how you say it. Click To Tweet
5) Uncover the Main Objection
When you meet with resistance, analyze what it really indicates. Are they raising an objection? Or are they drawing a line in the sand and stating terms and conditions? Those are two different things. If they have a condition, like not enough money in the budget to do what you want, you’ll need to acknowledge that. Maybe there’s a workaround or maybe it’s their deal-breaker. But it’s merely an objection, it’s your job to provide them with more education and information to show them another way of looking at it. It’s an opportunity to sell them on the results you envision, based on a solution they want but don’t yet understand.
6) Ask Probing Questions
Lots of people throw questions at us without really knowing what it is they want answered. Part of your role as an expert negotiator is to read between the lines. But don’t resort to guesswork. Ask for clarification and details so that they have to dig deeper to really get to the heart of the question. That eliminates confusion and lets you address what matters to them. Here’s another good tip: Once they’ve clarified, count to five in your head before you answer. That gives your brain time to reset. It also gives you a chance to consider other angles and ways to address their inquiry, or to pivot in a different direction.
The Big Takeaway
Negotiations are critical, and we’re always negotiating something, aren’t we? That’s true whether you’re looking for higher-level promotion, negotiating sales contracts for your organization, or are a non-profit leader seeking funding. We even negotiate with our spouses and children. So learn to do it better.
Your Negotiation Action Plan
- Decide what are your deal-breakers, versus your “wants.”
- Practice the art of influence, in every conversation, by incorporating powerfully-framed language.
- Ask exploratory questions to uncover their real motives and concerns.
- Train yourself to negotiate from with an open mind and collaborative mindset, taking their needs into consideration.
Which of these calls to action can you work on this week? Hit reply and let me know!
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