A 4-Step Blueprint To Help You Negotiate With Confidence
Developing good negotiation skills can make a real difference in your career; instead of potentially being stuck on a low salary or in a job you hate, these skills can help you to climb the corporate ladder and create a life that you love.
When you receive a pay rise, promotion, secure a new business opportunity or additional support that frees up your time, it increases your confidence and motivation.
However, as we explored in a previous blog, many people (women in particular) are reluctant to enter into negotiation because they are scared of the consequences, believe that their work should speak for itself and automatically be rewarded, and/or because they ask for too little too late and have created strong emotions around the issue in the meantime (which clouds objectivity).
Four steps to a better negotiation
A negotiation is a conversation where the purpose is to reach your intended outcome, and as with any skill in life, it takes time to learn the best strategy for success.
Let’s look at how each step fits into the process.
It’s often said that when we fail to plan, we plan to fail. Planning is the foundation of any successful negotiation.
If you freewheel into a negotiation and just hope for the best, you are likely to fail (and potentially negatively impact future dialogue around this topic). When you prepare well, you build your own confidence and develop the agility to anticipate and navigate objections.
Approach any negotiation with as much objectivity as possible. I was recently coaching a client who was preparing to ask for a pay rise. She told me that her boss gave certain people a pay rise but not others. She was hinting that her boss was making a subjective decision, but what she didn’t consider was that some of the staff who had received a pay rise had prepared well and were skilful negotiators (while others had simply hoped for the best).
Planning is important, and there are a few things you need to consider:
- Be clear on your ideal outcome (and how much you are willing to compromise).
- Make a note of specific (and factual) points you want to make during the negotiation.
- Role play (in your mind or out loud) different scenarios so you develop the flexibility to keep the conversation going.
It’s also crucial that you take into account the individual that you are speaking to; who are they? How have you contributed to or supported them in the work environment? What do they need to hear in order to react positively? It’s time to see things from their perspective.
When you are able to see things from another person’s point of view, you gain insight into what you need to do or say to create the best outcome. Think about their professional objectives; is your team leader tasked with making savings or creating new senior positions? One would hinder your request for a pay rise while the other might enhance your chance of promotion.
If there is a company-wide pay freeze, consider what other benefit you might want (for example, another member of staff giving your team a few extra hours of support, freeing up your time).
We have said this once but we will say it again; a negotiation is a conversation with a purpose (or a series of conversations with a purpose). Be open and listen to what the other person has to say.
Although it might seem that it’s up to the person you’re negotiating with to decide whether or not to give you what you ask for, your thinking is often the biggest stumbling block (not the other person).
Your own feelings around whether you deserve this pay rise or promotion will affect the outcome, which is why it’s vital to fully back yourself.
Be honest. Do you feel like you deserve a pay rise or have you reached your personally imposed income ceiling? Do you think you’re ready for promotion or a new opportunity? At the planning stage, you will have written down the reasons why you want what you’re negotiating for and provided the evidence to back up why you deserve it; this helps to build your confidence and quiet your own inner critic. Gaining psychological permission puts you back in a place of power and helps you negotiate better.
If you know that you have been holding yourself back, The Big Leap, by author and transformational coach Gay Hendricks, offers some valuable insights into how we can remove inner barriers and step into our true potential.
Once you have completed the planning process, viewed the situation from the other person’s perspective, and given yourself permission, it’s time to practise.
It’s easy for a negotiation to be blown out of proportion and become intimidating, but most of us naturally negotiate on a daily basis when we arrange meetings or deadlines. Start to pay attention to how often you are asking for what you want and how often you succeed in obtaining it; start small (so that there is less emotion around the outcome).
For example, in banking, I regularly worked with legal documents. I had to phone ten different people before I could gather the information I needed to give my boss a complete update. It was frustrating and time-consuming. I wanted it to change; I asked, and the legal team agreed to nominate one point of contact to simplify the process.
We have said this once but we will say it again: a negotiation is a series of conversations with a purpose. If at first you don’t succeed, be persistent. Find out the criteria that you need to meet in order to achieve whatever it is that you want. If you are told that the timing is not right, agree on another suitable time (for example, three months down the line, or perhaps at the end of the financial year).
Bear in mind that being told “no” does not have to be personal or mean you can never have what you asked for. Reflect on your next step and keep practising for the outcome you want.
It’s also essential that you practise getting what you want the first time you ask, so that you don’t look too surprised if things go your way. And, if you’re told “yes” immediately, take time to reflect on whether you should have asked for more!