The Art of Negotiating

When I was asked to speak at Montana State University’s Women’s Circle of Excellence Conference, they inquired if I had any thoughts on the art of negotiating. Oh boy, did I! I spoke there today and thought I would share a few of those thoughts with you:

First, consider your body language:
You want to sit up and forward in your seat—with the small of your back off the back of the chair. (Think ‘dinner at Downton Abbey”) You also want to keep your hands where people can see them: we trust you when we can see your hands, we don’t trust you when we can’t.

Know Your Negotiables and Non-Negotiables:
The reason it’s called negotiating is that you give a little, then you get a little. Given that, you need to decide ahead of time what you are willing to give away and what is not on the table. Plan to have a clearly articulated reason why for each non-negotiable: you may not need it, but “Because that’s what I want” isn’t persuasive.

Know Their Negotiables and Non-Negotiables:
Thinking through strategy from their point of view will help give you a better idea of what you might be able to offer that is important to them and less important to you.

Pick Your Number Before You Sit Down at the Table:
If asked, “So what number are you thinking of?” you don’t want to respond with “I don’t know—what number were you thinking of?” I know some people do this because they don’t want to show their hand and/or they don’t want to ask for too much but it backfires. If you really don’t want to name a number, you might say, “How much have you got?” (If you want to seem caring you can follow that up with, “Because I don’t want to blow your budget.”)

Don’t Do Others’ Negotiating for Them:
Having said the number, it can be tempting to immediately follow up with, “Oh, but I understand if that’s too much.” Or, “But I can see by your face that’s not what you were thinking.” No. Don’t do others’ negotiating for them. Once you’ve stated your number, zip it.

Happy negotiating!