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Negotiate Like You Mean It

Not everyone is comfortable dealing with negotiations, even when something they really want (and deserve!) is on the line. Vickie Milazzo shares nine tips to help you stop underpricing yourself and start getting paid what you’re worth. If you’re ready to stop sitting back and start negotiating like you mean it, read on for these tried-and-true tips.

Never let them see you as a commodity. After all, commodities are easy to obtain and easy to replace. And that’s certainly not how you want to be perceived at your job—whether you’re an employee, a leader or an entrepreneur. If the people you’re working with know that others share your skill set, they won’t have any reason to pay the price you’re asking for. From Day One, do everything you can to ensure that you aren’t seen as interchangeable or dispensable. “Don’t shrink into your chair and become the invisible employee,” Milazzo urges. “Do what you need to do to stand out. Get in the middle of everything and bring new ideas to the table. Build relationships throughout the company.”

Distinguish ambition from greed. Prior to launching yourself into a negotiation, it’s a good idea to take a step back and ask yourself why you’re working toward this particular goal. For example, say you’ve been in your current position for two and a half years without a significant raise, and you think your skills are worth much more. Before you march into your boss’s office, ask yourself: Why do I want a raise? Do I just want more money, or am I honestly interested in advancing in this company? “It’s very important to distinguish ambition from greed,” Milazzo insists. “Wanting more money isn’t a bad thing in and of itself, but it can get you into trouble if your quest for cash mires you deeper in a commitment you’re not passionate about or causes you to ignore opportunities that might be ideally suited to your strengths and interests."

Be your own No. 1 fan. It can be hard to toot your own horn. But, if you don’t announce your own achievements, you can bet that no one else is going to do it for you. With humility, make sure that you’re keeping your name, your accomplishments, and your skill set in front of everyone. 

Ask for everything at the beginning of the negotiation. Some people are afraid of coming on too strong or appearing to be overly aggressive, and therefor don’t put all of their cards on the table at the beginning of negotiations. We tell ourselves that we’ll get the other person used to the idea, gradually. But especially in business, adding on as you go along generally isn’t a good idea, because it makes you appear unfair. “Consider this situation,” Milazzo asks. “If, for example, you tell a prospect your consulting fee is $150 per hour and his reply is, ‘That’s very reasonable,’ you can’t jump in and say, ‘Well, but what I really want is $175 per hour.’ Think through what you want before you sit down to negotiate. Prepare the list of points you must have and the points you’re willing to give up."

Ask for more than you think you can get. Remember the old adage: Nothing risked, nothing gained. Don’t jump too fast to say yes to the first offer, even if you think it’s fair. It's always smart to assess the situation, the person making the offer, and how far you might be able to go before signing your name on the dotted line. Chances are, if your request for more is denied, you’ll still be left with the initial offer. 

Appear detached (even when you’re not). Unfortunately, many people won’t hesitate to exploit a weakness if you let them see it. When you negotiate from a place of fear or desperation, your ability to be rational will be impaired, and you’ll also be susceptible to agreeing to unfavorable terms; in other words, anything to save the deal! If, despite your best efforts, you’re unable to banish your emotions, make an effort to appear detached. 

Negotiate with the person, not the power. At some point or another you’ll probably find yourself negotiating with a more powerful party—whether it’s your boss, your boss’ boss, or another organization. When that happens, don’t make the mistake of assuming that your bargaining power is weak just because you’re at a lower level in the company hierarchy or because your business is smaller than theirs. Yes, this power imbalance might make negotiating more challenging, but you have a lot to offer, too. “Remember that ultimately, you’re talking to another human being,” Milazzo reminds.

Never talk off the record. When you’re negotiating for something you want, make sure you only go public with information you’re comfortable with the other party knowing. “Never tip your hand,” Milazzo insists. “You may think that saying to a colleague, ‘Just between you and me, I’m asking to spearhead the new project, but I’d settle for just being on the team,’ will stay between the two of you. Maybe it will—but maybe it won’t. If you let others know that you’ll settle for something, you risk ending up with that instead of with what you really want—or worse, even less.”

Never let yourself be bullied. Those who aren’t used to negotiating are especially susceptible to being intimidated by a show of force—but even veteran businesswomen can be taken aback by unexpected aggression or resistance! If you find yourself in this situation, remind yourself (once again) that you are dealing with another human being and that you have something valuable to offer. Don’t be afraid to demand respect. And if you consistently don’t get it, well, it might be time to rethink whether you want to work with the other party in the first place.


Adapted from Vickie Milazzo, author of Wicked Success is Inside Every Woman.


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