Updated: Aug 27, 2018
“Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.” John F. Kennedy
The truth is most people don’t subscribe to this maxim. Negotiations are intimidating. They leave people wary; often because they were ripped off, lied to, deceived or got the short end of the stick and didn’t get a good deal. Even if someone is willing, they’re usually not equipped to navigate the process effectively.
However, it’s a critical skill to hone. Just about every facet of our lives – whether it’s going after a new job, promotion, or higher salary or collaborating with a colleague, partner or friend – requires some negotiation.
Don’t Be A Statistic…
According to a Salary.com survey of approximately 2000 people, 87% don’t ask for a higher salary out of fear they won’t negotiate well. The same survey found that 18% viewed negotiations as unappealing, while 32% felt intimidated by them.
Consequently, those who opt out of negotiating their first salary potentially forfeit more than $500,000 in additional income by age 60, according to the survey. Incredibly, nearly half (44%) never broach the subject of a salary increase. It’s pretty clear that our emotions play a significant role in determining if and how we negotiate as well as how we perceive those on the other side of the table. It’s clear most people are highly skeptical of the negotiations process.Karen Walch, a professor at the Thunderbird School of Global Management, spent two decades leading an ongoing negotiation study of her students. It included discovering how the students viewed negotiations – the actual process and levels of cooperation and trust within themselves and their counterparts. The study concluded that 40% believed they were trustworthy and cooperative. However, most felt their counterparts were only interested in winning. It doesn’t come as a shock then that many suffer from negotiation apprehension.
Why Fearing to Negotiate and Negotiating Out of Fear Don’t Work
Let’s take a look at the job and salary scenario.
You land an interview for your dream job. You think you’ve established a good rapport with the interviewer, presenting and articulating your best self. You exit the interview confident that you got the job. As you head home, you fantasize about the prospective employer calling you with an offer and how you’ll negotiate your ideal salary.
Guess what? You’ve just made your first mistake. Negotiations start before the offer, requiring you to lay the foundation for a successful outcome. Jumpstart your negotiation efforts with the following tips:
Do your homework before the interview. Find out what the company’s objectives are and the challenges they’re facing. Are their sales projections waning? Do they struggle to adapt to an ever-changing market? Are they replacing an employee or are they growing? Each of these questions has their own implications and you should prepare for what they might be. If this information isn’t readily available, then these are good questions to ask during the interview.
Think about your experience, knowledge and skills. How do they align with the prospective employer’s objectives and challenges? Where can you add value? What is it in my resume that got your attention? What stood out for you? What does a successful candidate look like? You want to ask these questions to see the world from the prospective employer’s point of view.
Walk through the discovery process with the prospective employer during the interview (more on that later). Good listening skills are essential to a successful discovery process, and ultimately, your ability to negotiate. Don’t hesitate to ask questions about the company. Too often, prospective employees focus solely on the “me” instead of the “you” during interviews. Good questions to ask the interviewer include: “What attributes are you looking for in this position?” or “How would you like to see this position utilized?” or “How will it impact the success of the company?
Articulate your experience and knowledge after discovery to highlight how you can mitigate their problems and/or enhance their goals. You’ll have a clearer understanding of your own worth as well as the ability to drive it home to the prospective employer.
These queries can provide great insight into the organization as well as how and where you’d fit in. In my experience coaching hundreds of people to negotiate through similar scenarios, those who followed this advice attained the position and their desired salary. If you receive an offer lower than you expected, then you don’t truly understand the employer’s perspective and haven’t adequately shown your true value.
Your best ally in negotiations is yourself. However, a good negotiation coach can enhance your chances for success by helping you prepare for the process. Invest the time in understanding your opponent’s pain points as well as how you can help resolve them. You’ll leave the negotiation table satisfied with the outcome. Your counterpart also will feel secure in the knowledge that they’ve attained their own objectives.
Interestingly, the word negotiation is derived from the Latin, “negotiari”, “to carry on business”. If you think about it, it actually doesn’t have a negative connotation. In reality, to carry on business inspires collaboration because you can’t move forward without it. Start viewing it in these terms and soon, you’ll become a fearless negotiator.
Let’s hear from you. How do you feel about negotiating? Tell us what’s worked (and what hasn’t) for you.