The Girl’s Guide to Negotiating

Negotiation is discussion aimed at reaching an agreement. When you want to accomplish a certain goal, it is important to consider the whole situation carefully before making commitments. It’s a big game and, if you play your cards right, you can get to your goal.

  1. Most importantly, get to know the rest of the players at the table.
    • Imagine everyone at the table. Role play conversation. What do they say? How do they interact?
    • What is most important to each of them?
    • How might they define success?
    • What do they really want?
    • Build a slide deck outlining the other players and what you learn about their motivators. Study the deck.
  2. Know your numbers.
    • Build a spreadsheet to help yourself understand what all the numbers might mean to the players at the table today and down the road. That spreadsheet might look different for each player.
    • Give everything a value (including the intangibles).
    • Consider what everyone could get today and what they might be able to earn later.
    • Go in knowing what you want and what you’re willing to give.
    • Be prepared to be surprised at what someone else wants.
  3. Know the language.
    • Industries have a common language. Make sure you’re ready to talk the talk or at least understand what they are talking about.  If you don’t understand, ask for clarification on a term and then make a note.
    • Buzz-word bingo is exhausting. Don’t use it.
    • Beware the articulate incompetent.
  4. Ask around.
    1. People know people.  Carefully ask those people questions that might be able to help you gain some early insight.
    2. Seek advice from people smarter than you.
    3. Trust wisely.
  5. Be you.
    1. It’s easy to wonder if you’re right about a certain conclusion.  Do your research and then follow your gut.
    2. This is a value exchange. You aren’t a candy jar full of free treats.
    3. You know your business better than anyone else.
  6. Never tell secrets.
    1. Confidentiality matters.
    2. You may be able to negotiate with each payer individually.
  7. Be generous with intangibles.
    1. You can teach anyone how to succeed.
    2. Find things to give that add value.
  8. Give yourself permission to follow through with change.
    1. If you need a minute. Take it.
    2. It’s ok to say no.
    3. It’s really fun to win, so go get it done!

Lastly, gender roles affect negotiations.  If you’re negotiating with men, they might walk into the conversation unconsciously planning to fill a particular role in the conversation ahead of them. I’ve been called “honey”, “kiddo”, and “girlie” by men talking down to me. I’ve been called “shrewd” when someone who was behaving deceitfully was “surprised” by my relevant questions.  All that said, in some cases, I’ve also been treated as one of the smartest, most successful people in the room.

  • They might take an advisory type position, acting like a caring father.
  • Someone else may be the playboy, acting as if you’re going to become his new side piece.
  • They might show up assuming that you’ve been home raising the kids and ask for your husband.
  • In an ideal world, they show up ready to treat you respectfully, as their equal.

When you’re prepared, offensive behavior is less surprising.  Mentally walk yourself through each of those scenarios. How would you react?  How can you prepare your team to achieve the best result?

Jenn is the Founder and CEO of Cotton Babies. She holds an Executive MBA from Washington University. She was awarded Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year award in the Emerging Category for the Central Midwest Region in 2011. Among many other awards, she recently received a 2017 YWCA Leader of Distinction Award for Entrepreneurship. Jenn holds many patents on various inventions in a number of different countries and is listed as one of 50 Missourians You Should Know. She is particularly fascinated by languages, chickens, and children (she has four) when she’s not reading economics journals.

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