Seven Tips for a Successful Negotiation

Master the art of negotiation and be your own best advocate.

Image courtesy of the Lean In Collection by Getty Images

You just had your final interview and have been offered your dream job!  However, the offer did not meet your expectations. What do you do next? Do you negotiate? We have all faced this question at one time or another. While I was taught that I was supposed to negotiate in this situation, it is easier said than done.

I encountered a similar dilemma on whether or not to negotiate early in my career when I learned of a substantial salary disparity between myself and a male co-worker who had the same position I had, a similar education and comparable prior work experiences. I weighed the pros and cons of speaking up versus staying silent and the impact either decision could have on my career. I decided to lean in and mustered up the courage to address the pay disparity. This situation was a pivotal moment in my career. Although the conversation was uncomfortable, I ultimately negotiated equitable pay and learned several negotiating skills that have served me well ever since –– even when I did not have all of the facts upfront (or in my favor).

Negotiation is an art that can be learned by anyone. I have applied the skills I learned from my equitable pay negotiation to both professional and personal life situations and have come out ahead. I learned that I am my own best advocate and that negotiating effectively takes practice and courage. I want to share with you some lessons that I learned:

1. Do Your Homework! Success in a negotiation is directly tied to the preparation done before the negotiation starts. Do not underestimate the importance of preparation in a negotiation. Walking in prepared also gives you the confidence to ask for what you want because you have done your due diligence.

2. E-Mail, Phone Or In Person? Avoid negotiating over email at all costs. While it may be intimidating to talk on the phone or meet face to face, doing so will help you build rapport with your counterpart and can lead to better outcomes. It is easier for someone to say no to you over email but often harder to say no over the phone let alone in person. Keep in mind that what is best for your negotiation outcome may not be what is easiest or what comes most natural to you.

3. Don’t Ask If It Is Negotiable. My wedding coordinator once asked a vendor, “Is this rate negotiable?” and was abruptly told, “No.” I called the vendor back and negotiated the rate. Never ask for permission to negotiate; assume that everything is negotiable in some shape or form and ask for what you want with confidence.

4. Silence Speaks Volumes Embrace awkward silences! Silence communicates your commitment to your cause and demonstrates that you will not back down. Let your counterpart respond without you providing further justification. While against my natural instincts, my ability to embrace awkward silences has worked in my favor.

5. Focus On The Facts Use facts and figures to help frame your negotiation -- it is hard to argue against objective information. When selling our condo, my husband and I secured our desired asking price with an analysis of comparable condos in the area by price per square foot. It is easier for someone to say no to what you feel or think you deserve, but harder to say no to facts.

6. Only The Curious Have Something To Find You tried 1 through 5 and still heard “no.” Don’t give up! I urge you to ask “Why?”-- it will help you get to “Yes!” When negotiating a job offer, I was told, “We don’t negotiate salary.” I politely asked “Why?” After listening to the rationale, I used the information shared with me to find a mutually agreeable solution that ultimately led to a salary increase. By asking “Why,” you learn what is important to your counterpart and you can leverage that information in your favor.

7. Time To Get Creative So you went through lessons 1 through 6 and are still facing a brick wall; it may be time to let go of your primary ask and think of what else is of value to you in your situation. When price negotiations hit a wall when buying my used car, I asked the dealership to include some additional services and minor cosmetic bodywork to repair some scratches on the car. These items were of additional value to me but cost the dealership very little to seal the deal. In a job offer negotiation don’t forget about the non-salary items that may be of value. Consider your start date, vacation time, signing bonus, amount of travel or range of responsibilities. Price or salary is only one lever to consider.

Remember that no negotiation is easy –– even if all of the facts are on your side –– but you need to be your own best advocate to come out ahead!