“You’re negotiating for your company?”
I was in my 20s at a social gathering when that statement rocked my confidence. Sure, I wasn’t the "typical" kind of person you may envision negotiating in a conference room full of seasoned male managers, but was my effectiveness really defined by that difference?
Without a doubt, a successful negotiation is the marriage between a scientist and an artist — namely the logic of a scientist and the creativity of an artist. The result of such a coupling produces the powerful wisdom of a negotiator. No one underestimates the importance of financial data and supporting analysis; they are the foundation of negotiation. Yet equally as important is the ability to weave a story and objective so beautifully that your counterpart not only supports you but finds value in it themselves. In my experience, there are five key components to finding your negotiating sweet spot.
1. Find your niche.
Understand your negotiation style and double down on this strength. I’ve sat at a table with very aggressive negotiators and some that are as mild as Dove soap, but every great negotiator is comfortable in their style. If you wouldn’t wear high heels to a ballgame, don’t. You will never have the ease of someone who truly finds that comfortable, nor will you convince anyone that you aren’t actually dying inside for your favorite pair of Crocs.
The same idea goes with negotiating. Early in my career, I had the pleasure of working alongside a seasoned purchasing manager. He was old school, straight to the point and quite the character. I unsuccessfully tried to mimic his style which resulted in a massive failure. My attempt to be overly assertive resulted in severe pushback from my supplier which took significant effort to regain a positive ground. The fact is, that just wasn’t me. I’m a happy and energetic female, frequently seen with a smile on my face (well documented through my childhood!) and have been surprisingly successful by using what my colleagues would call “charm” rather than a forceful edge. I fail miserably when trying to be someone else, and so will you. When you harness your strengths, you are far more convincing.
2. Connect with your counterpart.
Developing a deeper bond with the negotiator will help you become successful in getting to the best end result. I once had a coworker tell me he got a deal done by a mutual love of Seinfeld. Now you may ask, what did Seinfeld have to do with negotiating a contract? Nothing and everything at the same time. It’s the way the connection fuels the desire to do business with another. Not only will you be able to engage more deeply with an individual on subjects they value, but you may also find a common bond that accelerates your relationship and desire to reach a mutually beneficial agreement.
3. Look for growth.
Of course, if you 100% believe in the cause, you will always negotiate stronger. But let’s say you are struggling. Perhaps it is an amendment to a contract for a supplier that you don’t necessarily agree with, but it’s a highly-visible initiative from senior management. Find a reason to grow. Look at it as an opportunity to test out a style that you feel may accelerate a positive result. When you push for growth, you should never be disappointed by an outcome. In fact, you are likely to find a method that works even more effectively than one you are currently using.
4. Read between the lines of a “best offer.”
There’s always room after someone states it’s their “best offer.” Okay, maybe not always, but you better believe it’s worth a shot. Let’s say you are selling your home in a buyers’ market and attempt to close the deal with a counter-offer, stating, “This is my rock bottom price.” You may be already prepping the champagne when the realtor comes back with a price a thousand dollars lower than your rock-bottom-can’t-go-any-further best offer. How likely are you to give in at that point? You’ve spent days negotiating this deal and it all rests on $1,000. I’d say the probability is high.
The alternative is to keep your house on the market with the hope you will get another buyer that will be willing to pay a similar price. You start rationalizing why that $1,000 is not that big of a deal versus the alternative “unknown” of not accepting it. As a result, you accept the offer and although you feel slighted, you know you did the right thing. Right?
Truth is, there is usually always a little room, or at least, always enough motivation, to attempt to squeak out a tiny more value at the end. The longer the negotiation, the more likely you are to overlook or rationalize the small concession at the end. Your home buyer was well aware of that.
5. Educate yourself on your counterpart's goals.
Everyone has something to lose or a weak spot. Keep your eye on the prize and don’t discount your platform too quickly. Back to our home selling example: yes, you may be selling a home with an older furnace, but perhaps the property is in the exact location the buyers were hoping to live. They really want the house, but you can’t see past their response of “older mechanicals.” You may believe you are losing the deal when in fact, they are worried you may get another offer or you refuse to drop your price at all and walk away from the offer in its entirety. There is always a weak spot, and if you can identify that, you are in a great position.
Understanding your strength doesn’t make you just a wise and powerful female negotiator, it makes you a wise and powerful negotiator. And next time you are preparing for a negotiation, remind yourself that the most important information you have is already within; it’s just using what you’ve got and believing in yourself.
This post originally appeared on ellevate.com and has been reprinted with permission.
Amanda Hamilton, CPSM, C.P.M. is a Commodity/Category Manager for Supply Technologies, LLC a subsidiary of ParkOhio and Founder of Bait Free, a company that supports medical care of rescued bait dogs and other dogfighting survivors.
More from BUST
Ellevate Network is a global women's network, serving as the essential resource for professional women who create, inspire and lead. It is operated on the belief that the research is clear: companies and the economy perform better when women are fully engaged. The most dynamic network of its kind, Ellevate is made up of successful, motivated and passionate professional women from various industries and walks of life with one common belief: that investing in themselves and in other women is good business. To learn more, go to www.ellevatenetwork.com.