Two scenarios come to mind when I think of negotiation: a car salesman trying to convince someone to buy a used car, or two lawyers arguing over assets and terms of agreement. Unfortunately, both of those scenarios solidify my knee-jerk assumption that someone who knows how to negotiate is comfortable engaging in [at least what I find to be] an intimidating and stressful process.
I want to shift my mindset, because I know that negotiation doesn’t have to be such a negative experience. Being a successful negotiator requires skills many of us already possess and utilize on a day-to-day basis. Learning how to hone these skills helps with everything from getting a higher salary to paying less on a monthly cell phone bill.
Here are seven rules to help you learn how to negotiate your way into getting what you want:
1. Be Clear About What You Want
Being assertive doesn’t come naturally for everyone, but it is often necessary in a negotiation. It is important to articulate what you want in a respectful yet firm manner. Learning how to negotiate is also about mastering the art of compromise. You may not get everything you want out of the final deal, so prior to entering a negotiation, identify your non-negotiables, and be ready to walk away if an agreement cannot be reached that includes those must-have components.
2. Do Your Research
Before negotiating on a contract, your salary, or a deal, do your research. Your arguments will have much more power if they are backed by data. Is there an internet service available to you that offers the same speed at a lower price? Know that information before you call up your internet provider to negotiate your contract. Make a solid case for why you want what you want. Remember that negotiating is not the same thing as begging — you are also bringing value to the table. The opposite party may try to make you feel like your requests are unreasonable — so have the data on hand to prove that they’re not.
3. Think Outside of the Box
Sometimes in a negotiation, we can get so hung up on accomplishing one specific caveat of a deal that we lose sight of the larger goal. When learning how to negotitate, remember to stay open to creative solutions that could ultimately be even more mutually beneficial.
Negotiating is about both establishing your boundaries and maintaining flexibility. This is why it’s not always a good idea to go into negotiations with only one outcome in mind. The person or company you are negotiating with may be more flexible than you think. If the first offer thrown out to you doesn’t fully meet your needs, present a counter offer.
For example, I have a fashion and lifestyle blog for which I occasionally do collaborations and promotions with beauty and fashion brands. After hearing my fees, one company I was working with told me they could only offer me free product in return for a feature on my blog. While this was an exciting prospect, I still thought it was fair to be paid for the editorial. I decided to counter offer by telling them that I would prefer to receive less product and get paid. They agreed to the deal and we were both happy! If either of us had refused to budge, we wouldn’t have ended up working together, which doesn’t serve either of our best interests. In the art of negotiation, a little business savvy can go a long way.
4. Balance Giving & Taking
Learning how to compromise is tantamount to learning how to negotiate. Compromise is key, so be prepared to give and take. Negotiation isn’t about establishing a winner and a loser; it is a back and forth process where assets and values are agreed upon for a mutually beneficial purpose. When you offer something, remember that you should always get something in return and vice versa. Depending on what you are negotiating, you may ask for more perks and benefits for the price you are paying, or concede some things you don’t need in order to get a lower price. Negotiation is a constant balancing act.
5. Take Your Time and Think it Over
One of the most important parts of knowing how to negotiate is taking your time. Rushing the process could lead you to agreeing upon shoddy deals, or passing on potentially great opportunities. If the opposing party does not agree to your requests, stay calm and respectful, acknowledge their perspective, be patient, be persistent, and continue to discuss the deal. Remember that in many circumstances, you have the option of putting the negotiation on hold for a week, a month, or longer, and sometimes that is the best method to execute a successful negotiation.
It may start to feel like a tedious and drawn-out process, but holding out for a better deal will be well worth it in the end. If the person you are trying to negotiate with says something like, “I don’t have the authority to do that”, ask to speak with someone who does.
When learning how to negotiate, it is just as important to understand what the other party wants out of the deal as it is to understand your own agenda. Everyone wants their perspective to be heard, so ask questions to the opposite party. They will most likely appreciate that you are trying to understand their point of view, and they may become more accommodating as a result.
If you’re ever unsure about whether or no you want to agree to a deal, you are fully within your rights to request some time to think it over. Sleeping on it or discussing your thoughts with other people is likely to give you increased perspective and ultimately will increase your odds of making the right decision.
6. Pick Your Battles
This is a key point in knowing how to negotiate: if someone offers you a great deal, don’t get greedy. Over-negotiating a deal will make the other party feel like you are only out for yourself and it is likely to leave a bad taste in everyone’s mouth. You are wasting everyone’s time if you’re trying to squeeze the final drops out of an already-juiced fruit. This may even result in the opposite party not wanting to work with you anymore, so pick your battles wisely.
7. Be Strategic
When preparing to negotiate, know your bottom-line goal and devise a strategy to achieve it. In certain negotiations, it may be advantageous not to open with your end goal. For example, if you’re a freelancer negotiating compensation and you’d ultimately like to be paid $500 for a project, you may want to start by asking for $750. This way, you leave the other party with room to negotiate so they will end up feeling like they got a better deal. In general, try to avoid stating a range of compensation because this will incentivize the other party to argue for the lowest value of that range and will limit what you can reasonably ask for.
Follow these tips on how to negotiate and you’ll be amazed at how much you’re able to accomplish!