Ten Tips to Always Get What You Want

Renee Weisman

March 13, 2012

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Are you missing out because you don't like to negotiate? There is an old saying that "You don't get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate." But for most women, negotiating is at best something they don't think about and at worst something they avoid.

When I was a hiring manager at a Fortune 500 company, I made many job offers to both men and women. In almost every case the woman accepted the initial offer, and the man asked for something more.

Many women dislike car shopping because they hate the "process." When asking for something they will often accept a "no" rather than make a fuss. So for those of you who have settled for less because you were afraid to negotiate, here are a few tips.

1. Everything is negotiable.

You don't know what you can get if you never ask. If someone quotes a price, ask, "Is that the best you can do?" If you want a promotion, if your children want to stay up later, if your spouse wants to buy a new TV, and you want a new dishwasher; if your boss has asked you to take on a new assignment, if your company is trying to sign a new client, or whatever situation you find yourself in, recognize that almost everything can be negotiated.

Here's just one example. Suppose you have just been offered a new job. The salary may be less (or more) than you had expected. Should you just accept it? In most cases, my answer is no. Test the water by saying "Thank you so much for your offer. I am excited by the possibility of working for you and will get back to you by (provide a date)". Then do some homework on competitive salaries. When you call back, indicate that you are interested in the position, but the starting salary was a bit lower than what you would have expected for someone with your skills and experience. In many cases, they will sweeten the pot, and if they can't raise the salary, you might be able to negotiate a bit more vacation or the ability to work some days from home or a higher moving and living stipend or . . . The point is, you don't know until you try.

2. Know what you want and learn what they want.

The basic principle in negotiating is to know where you want to end up and know what the other side is looking to achieve. Sometimes this takes a lengthy process, and sometimes it is obvious at the start. But without boundaries on each side, negotiating will go nowhere.

3. Aim higher than you want to end up.

You will most likely have to give a little to get what you want so it is always better to start high and leave yourself a little wiggle room. Be patient; the process is iterative.

4. Find some small things to agree on.

Getting a few little agreements accomplished early can establish a positive rapport and makes it easier to tackle the bigger things.

5. It's not about you winning; it's about both of you walking away satisfied.

In many negotiations, what is most important to you may not be that important to someone else. You may give in on something less important to you that the other side thinks is crucial and vice versa. The true winning is when both sides feel they have achieved a satisfactory settlement.

6. Learn all you can about the other side's position.

Since the other side is probably aiming high as well, ask questions and listen carefully to the answers. Never box yourself into a corner or issue ultimatums, just listen politely and unemotionally. Let the other side finish talking before you start.

7. Consider timing and location.

When you are under time pressure, you are often at a disadvantage, but the same thing goes for the other side. Understand how you can use the timing to your advantage. Many high-pressure salesmen will tell you that you have to decide by a given date. In most cases this is just a ploy to push you into giving in. Even that date is negotiable. Whenever possible, negotiate on your turf or at least on neutral territory.

8. Negotiate with the person who can commit to what you want.

We often give our positions and make our requests to someone who is not empowered to give us what we want. Whenever possible, you want to negotiate with the decision maker.

9. Know when you will walk away and be prepared to do so if necessary.

Some salaries are just too low, some costs are just too high, some positions are just not what you want, and some issues you just cannot accept. Know what these are and consider what you will do if you have to walk away. What is your backup plan? How low will you go before you walk?

10. Be fair.

You may have to work with, work for, or deal with the other side again. In fact, if you have negotiated in good faith and the other side feels they have been treated fairly, they will look forward to working with you again.

Negotiation gets easier with practice. Start small and gain confidence, and don't let fear of negotiating hold you back.

Owner and principal, Renee Weisman, is the author of Winning in a Man’s World, 5 Ways to Get a Man to Listen, 7 Steps to Bragging the Right Way, and Why Hillary Lost.

She is a featured writer for Excelle, Smallbizlink, Scientista Magazine, and the Poughkeepsie Journal. Renee was a distinguished engineer and director of engineering at IBM Corporation prior to retiring. Her nearly 40-year career included executive/ technical leadership positions. Having been one of the first women engineers, managers, and executives in the heavilymale dominated engineering field, she learned by “living it” how to capitalize on gender differences for individual and organizational profitability, especially during challenging times. She can help your firm do the same.

As a scientist, Renee’s classes provide hands-on exercises participants can use over and over again to perfect their skills. She also provides seminars to better prepare college students for corporate life.

Opinions expressed by the author are not necessarily those of WITI.

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