• Diane works as a sales associate for a medium-sized firm. The company recently promoted her to supervisor and team leader for her district due to her ability to produce 20% more closings than any other associate. Since the firm faces hard times with the likelihood of reduced revenues and profits, she was very surprised and pleased to also receive a bonus and a substantial salary increase.At the time of her promotion the district manager informed her that her rise up the corporate ladder and her pay increase were unprecedented. She was very grateful and it made her even more motivated to produce for the company.Shortly after starting her new position she discovered a training seminar on sales skills for experienced sales managers. The cost of the seminar was $5,000, seemingly out of her company’s financial reach. Instinct told her that asking for the money so soon after receiving a raise and bonus would be perceived as greedy and self-serving, and out of touch with the company culture. As a result, Diane decided not to address the issue and to pass on the opportunity.

    Negotiating from Strength

    Do you agree with Diane’s decision? If so, then you have made a very common negotiating mistake. She avoided the opportunity to negotiate and by so doing committed one of the most common pitfalls we make in negotiations – assuming what the other side is willing to offer. She has in effect negotiated with herself and lost!

    Diane needs to view the situation differently. As a new supervisor, she must emphasize the benefits to the company of the additional skills and approaches that she will learn and pass on to her sales associates. Showing the firm how a $5,000 investment will project an increase of 20% closings across the board, for example, offers a strong and forceful argument.

    Negotiating skills are not only used in the work environment, but in everyday transactions and relationships. An effective negotiator needs to possess the following basic skills:

    1. Know your bottom line. You should be brutally honest with yourself as to what your bottom line is and stand by it. If you have no bottom line – i.e., you are willing to accept whatever is offered – then you weaken your position and make it easy for the other side. You should also have an alternative that defines how far you are willing to go if your bottom line is not met.

    2. Try to determine the overlap between your request and what the other side is requesting. By finding the overlap you will be in a more powerful position to have your needs met. Two parties who have come to the table to negotiate usually have common goals or they would not have gotten together to trade. If you don’t know what the other side’s goals are, then you are in a disadvantaged position.

    3. Understand the culture and the people involved in the negotiations. All negotiations are driven by fact and by human perception and emotion. For example, an individual may have the factual awareness that the object for sale is worth 80% of what he is asking but may perceive its value as much higher because of the effort or personal commitment he devoted to that object.

    4. Be aware of the negotiation process. Most people are unaware of the hidden tactics used by adversaries to put you into a weaker negotiating position. An example is a salesman who, upon introducing himself, asks what you do for a living. If your answer is that you are an investment banker or physician, then he is less likely to discount the price of the object being sold.

    5. Most importantly, know the value of what it is you are offering or seeking. Your negotiating strength rests solely on knowing the true value of the product or service. Diane did not see the true value of her request to the company. She was solely focused on the value the seminar had for her.

    Negotiation skills can be learned like any other skill. It can make a huge difference in your life. You can initiate changes on the job, marriage or friendships. Use it wisely!

    Dr. Vanessa Gourdine is a psychologist, executive and life coach and Director of Specialized Therapy Associates, LLC and Life Work Strategies, LLC. She can be reached at DrG@LWSCoach.com. She has a behavioral health column in BC Magazine and is a regular contributor to lifestyle publications. She has developed a coaching model based on using strategies to influence growth and change for successful living. She can be reached at 201-224-5200.