4 Steps to Improve Your Negotiating Skills
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4 Steps to Improve Your Negotiating Skills in the Office

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By now, there is an impressive body of evidence confirming what many of us may know to be true from personal experience – women negotiate less often than men. Studies show that women are anywhere between 16% and 50% less likely to negotiate than men. Negotiating skills is one area where women repeatedly say they are less comfortable and want to get better.

The most disheartening negotiation-gap study of all? Perhaps the study of Carnegie Mellon’s MBA program graduates which found that while over half of graduating males negotiated their next job offer, just one-eighth of their female counterparts did the same. Even when equipped with graduate-level education in business and resumes freshly-pressed with the letters “MBA”, women are refraining from negotiation.

Why Don’t Women Negotiate More??

A 2016 survey of women who did not negotiate their last job offer asked this very question and uncovered the following trends:

         66% reported not knowing how to ask for more

         63% reported the thought of negotiating made them uncomfortable

         58% cited fear of losing their job offer

         56% did not know what to ask for

Using this insight into why women are backing away from the negotiating table, we’ve developed four strategies for less stressful, more successful negotiating.

Remind Yourself the True Purpose of Negotiation

The fact that more than half of survey respondents linked the inherently negative feelings of discomfort and fear with negotiation tells us a new perspective is in order. If you’re thinking that the end result of negotiation is one happy winner and one disgruntled loser, then your understanding of negotiation is far too limited.

The key to decoupling fear and discomfort from negotiation is to understand negotiation for what it really is – an opportunity for two parties to make the most of a mutually beneficial relationship. Entering negotiation with this mindset can create an entirely different experience.

Take Inventory of What Matters to You

Perhaps the most critical element of successful negotiation is having a crystal clear understanding of what matters to you. Prior to opening a negotiation discussion, make a short list of your personal values and important lifestyle standards. Personal value might include time with family, health and wellness or continuing education. Lifestyle standards could be related to vacation time, flexible schedules, and opportunities for rapid career advancement.

The reason for taking this inventory is to help you brainstorm a suite of potential negotiable items. Salary is certainly an important element of any compensation package, but it might one of the elements your employer is least flexible on. Having more discussion points allows for more creative and collaborative approaches to arriving at that mutually beneficial agreement. In lieu of increased salary, perhaps additional vacation time, an annual tuition subsidy or an alternate title can be arranged.

Signal That You’re Considering the Other Side of the Table Negotiating with confidence

For those who are uncertain how to ask for more, the “I-We” statement strategy is a strong tool. “I-We” statements are designed to show you’re seeking an outcome that works for both parties. For any statement you make about what you want, follow it up with an explanation of why you want it in terms of a benefit for your employer. Here’s a template for building an “I-We” statement:

“I’d like to discuss the possibility of [your ask], because I [explanation of why you are asking] and I believe that will translate into value for the organization by [how does what you’d receive from the ask bring value to the organization].”

These statements make it clear to an employer that, instead of advancing your own agenda, your goal is to find win-win opportunities.

Put Your Negotiating Skills to Practice!

practice your negotiation skills

Practice breeds confidence. If it’s in the car, in the mirror or with a friend, the more you hear yourself deliver strong “I-We” statements, the more naturally they will come to you during actual negotiations. To jump start your negotiating skills practice, the two scripts below offer opening lines, a pushback statement from an employer and a countering “I-We” statement.

Sample Script 2

You: “Hi Monica, I’ve had the opportunity to thoroughly review the offer and there are a few items I’d like to review with you. Regarding salary, based on my education, experience and performance record at my previous job, I’d like to explore the possibility of increasing the base salary from $55,000 to $60,000.”

Monica: “We were definitely impressed with your past performance and we have factored that into our original offer. You would be eligible for salary review in six months. Unfortunately, we cannot offer a higher base at this time.”

You: “I understand. Knowing base salary is not flexible at this time, perhaps we can discuss a tuition benefit? I’m interested in an annual tuition subsidy because I greatly value ongoing education. I know that if I stay on top of the latest techniques in big data analytics, it’ll help us build stronger strategies for our sales team.”

Monica: “That shouldn’t be a problem, let me clear it with HR.”

Sample Script 1

You: “Good afternoon, Scott. I’ve taken some time to review the offer. There’s one item in particular I’d like to see if we can land on an agreement for.”

Scott: “Sure, what’s that?”

You: “Regarding title, I’d prefer Senior Sales Associate because, aside from it being a better reflection of my experience, it will signal to our customers that they’re in able hands.”

Scott: “I can look into that. Anything else?

You: “Given I will be traveling to visit customers on-site, can we discuss a monthly stipend for a wireless HotSpot? That will help me stay connected to the office intranet when I’m visiting some of our more remote customers.”

Scott: “Yes, something like that makes sense.”

Looking for even more help improving your negotiation skills?

Sign up for a negotiating workshop. The nonprofit, nonpartisan organization AAUW now offers Work Smart Salary Negotiation workshops in select cities across the country. Did you take on all tasks in the BossChix Network 31 Day Challenge? This is an excellent opportunity to double down on Day 27 by inviting a friend or colleague to attend a workshop with you.

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