Getting to Good – Negotiating the Win

Updated: Aug 15, 2018

By: Shann McGrail,

Executive-in-Residence, Innovation Factory

Love it or hate it, we negotiate all the time—in relationships, at work, with friends, and with family. Yet many people feel that their negotiation skills are far from top-notch. The April session of Innovation Factory’s Women’s Entrepreneur Accelerator series, facilitated by Corinne Sharp of Sharp Perspectives, set out to give attendees easy-to-use tips and practices to take their negotiation skills up a level.

Beginning with available research on the differences between how men and women negotiate, Corinne shared that the negotiation style of women is characterized as being mostly indirect, empathetic, and reliant on conversation as a means to establishing rapport in pursuit of a “win/win” outcome. By contrast, studies indicate that men are seen to be more direct in their approach, often displaying a more aggressive “win/lose” disposition. The vital point stressed during the session is the importance of understanding when these differing styles are at play and then, armed with that knowledge, practicing, and being prepared to use it to one’s advantage.

Preparing for Success

The key to successful negotiation is preparation. Consider the following three questions in the lead up to a negotiation conversation:

  1. Why am I asking? Know the desired outcome and how it benefits your negotiation partner, your team, and organization.

  2. How am I asking? This is about “packaging requests” with the benefits to your counterpart in mind and using “if… then” statements. Packaging requests prevents the negotiation from centering on a win-lose count for any one single discussion point.

  3. For whom am I asking? Consider who else benefits if the desired outcome is achieved. For example, is there another group or cause that will also be helped if the negotiation goes in the direction of your proposal?

A handy tip suggested at the session was that you take the time to write down the answers to these questions in advance and have them readily available so that you can refer to them if necessary while under the pressure of the actual negotiation.

Getting a Good Deal

The point of a negotiation is not just to get a deal. It is to get a good deal. The path to a good deal starts with having an alternative. If there are multiple ways to succeed, the odds of doing so increase. Knowing when to walk away from the deal because it is not the right one is critical. In the session, there was a lot of discussion about how this has come up for attendees during their negotiations. We all want to score the win but “winning” a client that ends up not being profitable or referenceable is not good for business in the long run. It comes down to really taking the time to define what is both realistic and the best possible outcome for the deal.

To steer attendees in the right winning direction as they enter negotiations, Corrine offered up a nice, easy-to-remember takeaway coined “the three W’s”:

  • Wish - The “dream” outcome.

  • Want - What you realistically want from the deal.

  • Walk - The point at which you must walk away from a deal because it is not the right one for you.

Avoiding Mistakes

One of the big mistakes that many of us make is entering negotiations thinking that we are bad at it. A negative mindset leads us to more of the same. Corinne reminded everyone to focus on what is positive and treat every negotiating opportunity as a learning experience.

Mistake number two is only negotiating under pressure, when the stakes are high. Negotiating is a skill that is built like any other—over time, with practice. Practice creating solutions and alternatives in low-risk situations.

To avoid mistake number three, not doing your homework, start with researching your counterpart—that way you enter the negotiation conversation with the correct understanding of communication style needed for success and can equip yourself to generate many more alternatives.

Ready, Set, Negotiate!

The examples, stories, and discussion about scenarios in which the group engaged clearly left everyone wanting more opportunity to practice and learn how to apply the negotiating tips and techniques they learned—so much so that Innovation Factory is exploring how to take this forward into a mentorship or peer learning circle.

What’s Next

The mark of a successful session is how long participants stay after the end of the meeting to network and connect. By that measure, this session was a hit, with several women entrepreneurs leaving with new ideas to pursue for their businesses.

A big thank you to Corinne for generously sharing her expertise and ideas with the group.

Next up in the Women’s Entrepreneur Accelerator series is “Money Matters – Women’s Edition” featuring Dedicated Financial’s mother-and-daughter team of Janet Baccarani and Jennifer Black.

This article was originally posted on LinkedIn.

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