Negotiating is not just for boardrooms. It is a necessary professional skill we must hone whether we’re an executive, entrepreneur, mom or consumer. We are constantly faced with situations where we risk losing out if we don’t push our own agenda, be it in negotiating terms for a new job , pricing our own products/ services, or closing a deal on a new property.
Negotiating is hard for both men and women. But often, as women, we tend to sell ourselves short. Sometimes we’re sitting around the table with someone who is more powerful than we are and we forget that even in such circumstance we have a lot to offer.
What are the things we can do to help us view and manage our position at the negotiating table in a better way?
In this post, seven women draw upon their experiences to offer you expert negotiating tips that have helped them negotiate even when the other side was more powerful.
1. Kiram Baloum – Founder & CEO, Jasmine
The first I do is ensure that the other side has an interest in meeting me. Even if they are in a much stronger position than I am. Once we establish that we’re interested in a meeting, I read about them and prepare. I then set up the meeting in a way that they immediately feel that they have something to gain – in other words, it has to be win/win from the start. I do this by acting in a way that is transparent and immediately understand how each of us will benefit from the relationship. Then, throughout the entire negotiation I will constantly ask myself how would I receive the proposition I am making if I were in their place?’ By being transparent and constantly thinking win/win, I can build faith between us and convince another party work with me.
Before I met with a certain organization, they told me not to get my hopes up in building a partnership with them. We sent them our presentation and we booked an appointment. When we met, they started off the conversation with “ok, we read the presentation, what do you have to add?” It already felt like the doors were closed and they weren’t really interested, especially since they already told me not to get my hopes up. But I came from a place of being open and I used transparency to build trust by explaining how each of us would benefit. I then presented how we could be partners in way that made them feel that they didn’t have to invest or much to lose. Ultimately, it was an interesting meeting and we ended making the decision to partner for a year and later decide if we could deepen the relationship.
2. Suzi Bar – CEO, Kzat Aheret Solutions, Shoham Local Council Member and Social Activist
In my 24 years of business experience I have gathered the following negotiating tips:
i. Gather information about the people you’ll be negotiating with. It will give you peace of mind and security at the negotiating table. Finding information is easy today using the social networks, court rulings (if any) and articles. I use my intuition combined with my findings to tailor my proposal to meet the needs of the other party. I have often impressed my negotiating partners and “scored more points” by doing a good job gathering information.
ii. Prepare for every types of situation that can result. I do simulation exercises to really get into the shoes of the other party. I ask myself questions they might ask me and think about situations that can happen to prepare myself for anything.
iii. Know your red lines. Before entering any negotiation I determine my red lines for the terms of an agreement, price et al and understand why they’re important. I am competitive and want to close deals –– but not any any price. And when I clearly express my boundaries, I influence the other party.
iv. Concessions are an important part of any negotiation. I include the things I’m willing to give up in every proposal, but even then, not without the cost to the other party. For example, if the transaction includes several hours of service and they negotiate lower costs, I’ll decrease the number of hours accordingly, taking profitability into account.
v. I press to get the deal signed and set the project’s start date. Strike while the iron is hot. I see a lot of women missing out on the most important part. Finished negotiating? Close the deal.
vi. Don’t come hungry and always have a sweater or jacket with you. It’s been my experience that large organizations like to let you wait in a large and cold room (it creates a feeling of discomfort and pressure).
vii. Be authentic, professional and stay calm. This is the most important tip I can give you. After all, didn’t they invite you to negotiate with them because you’re the best?
3. Vered Cohen-Barzilay – Social Entrepreneur, Writer, Feminist
It’s been my experience that I don’t do well negotiating for myself. On the other hand, when I negotiate for others, I always do a great job. And apparently, it’s not only me. Therefore, my advice is that when you go on to negotiate, pretend that you are negotiating for others. Therefore, my advice is that when you go on to negotiate, think about your children or pretend that you are negotiating for others. Women must come to the negotiating table feeling secure in their abilities and transform it to money, though it’s not always money that they’re trying to achieve –– it could be respect. In the man’s world we live in, being more expensive, that is charging higher prices usually means that you provide more value. If women are willing to compromise their salary, their bosses will immediately view women as providing less value and this is something women must understand before sitting at the negotiating table. It’s also advisable to teach girls from a young age that money is not a bad word and negotiating for yourself is not a bad thing. Think about how proud your children would be if you were to come home and tell them that you received something that you deserved. It is a powerful message for both yourself and for them.
4. Shoshi Kaganovsky – CEO, Sensoleak
Creating a win-win for all parties. Sometimes you are sure you know exactly what you’re selling but the other side is not sure of what they’re buying. By presenting the client with as many benefits as possible that they stand to gain from your product, you’ll learn that what’s important to them is not necessarily what’s been a priority for previous customers and the negotiation can take a surprising turn.
I was involved in a long-term negotiation with an oil & gas giant where we discussed integrating our system into theirs. From our perspective, implementing our solution was fairly straightforward; there was no interference caused by existing processes and there was no need for customization on the client’s side. At some point I realized that we were stuck on the issue of explaining to the board and the general public the reason our solution was selected. As a result, I presented a multifaceted solution that portrayed how using our software allows their company to win from day one. Our technology would not only prevent oil leaks and alert about failures in the pipelines, but would also save hundreds of millions of dollars spent annually on false alarms and compliance. I demonstrated this not only from an operations/maintenance perspective, but also from environmental, health and safety and risk-management standpoints. In doing so, I appealed to all levels of the company, as well as to the public that is concerned with the ecological damage the oil and gas giant creates. I also explained the win for us, being their vendor. As a result, the pace of our negotiations accelerated. Upper management became involved and eventually our agreement was signed by the VP of Safety and Environment and not the VP of Operations, with whom we started the process.
5. Hanit Marinov – Chief Revenue Officer, SoftWheel Ltd.
You usually have the upperhand in a negotiation when you go in thinking that the negotiation can fail. This usually happens when you have a plan b in mind –– that is, another viable option. And that’s when you’re usually strong enough to stick to your position. But in order to do that, it’s important to define your position –– you have to know what the low bar is under which you’ll walk away and what your big win is. It’s much easier to walk away when you know there’s another option waiting for you –– ‘if this doesn’t work out, the next thing will.’ If you walk into a negotiation without a plan b, the other side, not you, will have the upperhand. So how do you define the low bar and your big win? Ask yourself “what value does this deal have for me?” And this applies to every type of deal –– finding a job, selling a product, buying a home. Think about where the deal will provide you with value and where it won’t. Then repeat the exercise, this time thinking not about about yourself, but about the other side. Where’s the value for other party and where does the deal lack value.
As an example, I just marketed a revolutionary product to the wheelchair market in the United States. In order to negotiate with a certain dealer that sells hundreds of millions of wheelchairs, knowing that he’ll only sell tens of my products during the entire year, I needed to define what’s in it for him –– what am I bringing to the table that will make it worthwhile for him to sell my product? And while I couldn’t significantly add to his revenue or cash flow, I could add innovation to the list of things he could say about his products. In other words, I could influence his company’s image. By carrying my product, he could become known as a dealer who carries revolutionary wheelchairs. Having a plan b is vital, even if it’s half baked. But once you have it in place, you’re ready to walk into any negotiation, even if the other side is more powerful.
6. Ora Sar Shalom – Develops and heads a leadership programs with an emphasis on looking inwards
Whenever we go into a negotiation, we’re usually very focused on the results and less focused on the relationship. So if I go into a negotiation about my salary, I might be very focused on the raise I want to achieve but not on the relationship with my company. But we need to look at the process of negotiation, not just through the results they bring, but also through the type relationships they will foster. In other words, don’t just as
ask yourself what result will I achieve, but more importantly, ask what type of relationship will I achieve. The reason I say this is because most of the interactions that we have in our lives are not one-time interactions, but continuous relationships. And that’s why it’s important to ask what did I leave in the room with regard to my relationship with the other party. If I achieved the result that I wanted but I left the relationship depleted, I missed out big time. Because it means that at the next round, it will be much more difficult for me to achieve good results. Based on my experience in working with organizations, I’ve found that if one gets into a discussion about a raise with an HR manager and makes an ultimatum “listen, if don’t give me a raise, I’m leaving,” and the company is at a critical point where they need you because they’re embarking on a project where your talents are crucial, they may decide to give you the raise. But they also might view you as an extortionist. And the next time you come to ask for a raise, they’ll be prepared for you and show you the door. In other words, if the discussion depletes the relationship, you may be getting more than you bargained for. Remember, that in a discussion about salary, the real issue may not even be the money. It might be recognition, or lack thereof, in which case, you have to think about if you’re ready to have that conversation. With any negotiation, it’s very important to understand the essence of the negotiation and talk about that. It’s through the essence of the negotiation that we build the foundation of our relationship with the other side.
7. Sigal Shavit Traub – Organizational Psychologist and Management Expert in the New Working World
While working with a company that markets office supplies, I met Yael, a sales rep. Her love for her work was evident from the good relationships she forged with her clients, who she enjoyed visiting regularly to understand their needs. She enjoyed innovation and keeping up with new technologies. Thanks to her broad knowledge, customers loved to consult with her, which would help her generate sales. But when it came to talking about price and closing the deal, Yael would shut down; the process of agreeing on a price would cause her considerable anxiety and even migraines. Yael didn’t know how to present her conditions to customers and she feared losing them to the competition.
Like many women, Yael refrained from clearly presenting the demands for a deal as she feared being presented as aggressive and even ballsy. This fear trapped her into not being taken seriously and selling herself short.
Our work began with building self-confidence through understanding the added value Yael brought to the negotiating table. We compiled a list of all of Yael’s personal strengths, for example: her knowledge of innovation in the field, her personal relationships with customers and her professional recognition. In order to help her understand that the other side is not doing her a favor, but rather gaining from the transaction, we compiled a list of benefits to the other side.
The list of Yael’s personal strength help empower Yael at her meeting as it helped highlight her excellent communication skills. The list of benefits to the other side outlined the logical arguments Yael could use to convince to the customer to buy the product at the price she offered. Recognizing self worth on the one hand, and understanding client needs on the other, are vital to closing any deal.