7 Ideas for Being a Better Negotiator with Your Team, Boss, and Board
In this post, the first in our "Beyond Banking" series, we'll be talking about some of the more personal aspects of banking. We will talk about things like leadership, culture, diversity, conflict-resolution, and in this post, negotiation. Whether you're a natural negotiator or are working to improve your skills, you'll learn some new tips to help you walk away from the next conversation in a better position.
If you've been in banking for any length of time, in compliance or in marketing, there's an approximately 97% chance that you've had to try to negotiate something or sell the rest of your team on an idea. However, if you're not a sales person, negotiating can seem like a daunting task.
From getting a bigger budget for compliance, to trying to expand your marketing strategy in new and creative ways, successfully negotiating can help you get buy-in, explain your perspective, show the benefits of a specific course of action, articulate your goals and how you plan on getting there, and even get you that raise!
Learn 7 time-tested tips for improving your negotiating skills - no matter your position in the financial institution!
We've gathered these 7 negotiation tips from personal experience and from other industry experts. Have one to add? Include it in the comments below! Anyone can learn how to negotiate better; here's how.
1. Consider if the Negotiation is Worth It
It may seem counter-intuitive, but your first step should be considering if the negotiation is actually worth it. That's not to say that you should be intimidated by the risk or the challenge of negotiating - just the opposite! It's just that you should take a moment to consider what you and your team have to gain, and what you have to lose.
If it seems that those things are out of balance, then begin considering ways to re-frame the discussion (and what's at stake) so that the potential outcomes are worth it. If the stakes seem too high, it may be a good idea to try to break the items on the table down into smaller, more manageable (and achievable) goals. However, if you need to enter a difficult negotiation, make sure that you keep your options open and feel comfortable walking away. We'll talk more about that at the end.)
2. Negotiate the Process and the Game-Plan First
The negotiating process is an important factor in your success. Remember that you have options in how, when, and where you negotiate! It doesn't always look like sitting at a conference table for a few hours.
If that's not a format you're comfortable in, you can pitch a lunch meeting to get the conversation started, and many people like to have important business conversations over shared hobbies like sporting events or community events. These environments also have the added benefit of being more personal, which inevitably makes the process more collaborative.
Before you even begin to meet, make sure that you will be having discussions in an environment that feels comfortable to you, to the best of your ability. A formal meeting may be necessary, but at least you can do the right stretches and get yourself your favorite coffee before you to in, to make sure you're starting out on the right foot.
One thing you absolutely need to get right about the process: it shouldn't be a contest. Successful negotiations in today's environment rely heavily on collaboration. Remember, you're looking for a mutually beneficial outcome for both parties. In internal negotiations, remember that everyone is comfortable, the whole company wins.
3. Listen and Try to Connect Personally
Try to spend more time actively listening than talking, so that you can really hear what the other parties are saying to you. If the conversation feels a little stilted or the other parties aren't communicating very much, try to ask open-ended questions. As we'll talk about in point number four, do your research before the negotiations. During the research, you will likely come up with lots of good questions; consider bringing these with you to the negotiation so you make sure to cove everything.
In high-pressure discussions, it's easy for conversations to become adversarial. This is something to really try to avoid, if at all possible. When a negotiation feels like a winner-takes-all war, it's really difficult to find nuance and compromise. Remember, "that which you work against, works against you."
You don't need to be best friends with the people across the proverbial table, but it's a good idea to have a respectful, cordial business relationship. That way, the negotiation will be more collaborative.
Body language is fundamental for building any personal relationship. If you seem relaxed, comfortable, and engaged, it will make it easier for your colleagues, Board, and bosses to also be relaxed and positive.
3. Be Clear on What You Want, and Don't Be Afraid to Ask For It
To be successful in getting what you want, you have to be clear on exactly what you want. Don't be afraid to make it clear to your negotiating partners, either! That may be a valuable strategy.
You can be assertive in these situations. That is, you can feel confident standing up for yourself and what you think is best. However, remember that respect is critical. That being said, don't forget one of the golden rules of negotiating: no asky, no getty. If you don't ask for it, it makes it immensely difficult to get it in a business setting.
In healthy environments, you may even be able to start the negotiation by inviting everyone to share what they think a successful deal would look like. When you start with clarity, success is easier to achieve.
In those kinds of scenarios, your willingness to share information will signal that you trust and respect the other parties at the table - a gesture that may even be reciprocated without your asking for it.
4. Do Your Research
Make sure you spend some quality time learning about the other people involved in the discussions, and what they want. When I was studying journalism, my editors would always say that a good reporter spends as much time preparing for an interview as actually conducting one. That's a good idea for a negotiation, too.
Do your best to truly understand their perspective. That may mean talking to other colleagues, reviewing older meeting notes, articles or reports they've shared or posted. Try to make sure you understand what all involved parties want, how they like to negotiate, and what they expect from you.
5. Try to Take a Win-Win Approach
In your negotiations, consider that all parties want success. They all enter the negotiations hoping to get something beneficial for their efforts. If nothing else, everyone can agree on that.
Starting with that perspective means that you're in a better place to focus on win-wins. It's key to remember that everyone has their own individual goals that are separate from yours. A successful leader, and a successful negotiator, is one who is able to understand and respect everyone's individual goals and then find a way to work those goals into the overall team goal and objective. It's amazing how this approach builds a more cohesive and transparent team structure.
6. Don't Take Anything Personally
In sensitive negotiations, don't take anything personally. While this is much easier said that done, it's still a good thing to aim for. If you get derailed by interpersonal bickering, or by ego, it's less likely that you'll be able to actually get what you want out of the discussions.
Not only does it engender distrust and erode collaboration, it also creates bad blood that will likely spread beyond the negotiation room. So remember, don't take it personally; take it professionally.
7. Be Comfortable Walking Away, if Necessary
Negotiations may not always go your way, and that's okay! However, your options are open. If they aren't, there's really no need for a negotiation. However, if you don't feel you can walk away from the negotiations, you're trapped before you really begin.
You don't have to be walking away forever. It's perfectly acceptable to say that you'd like to take some time to think, or that you would like to discuss with your team. If the discussion gets heated, it may be in everyone's best interest to recommend picking up the discussion on another day, after everyone has an opportunity to take a step back, relax and think.
Ncontracts Viewpoint: As a banker, negotiations can be difficult. Every area of the business experiences some level of economic, social, environmental, and regulatory pressure.
As we work on this "Beyond Banking" theme for the next few weeks, we would love to address some of the issues that are important in your day-to-day life. Productivity? Work-life balance? Attracting a millennial workforce? Let us know what you'd like to see, and we will work to create it!