Negotiation Is Not Confrontation
7 June 2019
Women in Business
I learned a lot when I sold SixDegrés, my medical communications and health marketing company to Edelman, an international public relations agency. The negotiations went on for nearly ten months. Ten intense months of negotiating absolutely everything: the sale price, my role in the organization, my working conditions, even my title of senior vice-president. I learned, above all else, to trust myself.
Throughout the sales process, I negotiated directly with the CFO (chief financial officer for North America). Mario was an avid negotiator, a real pro. He knew finance like the back of his hand. The type of negotiator that makes you nervous. It was impossible to know what he was thinking. It was my very first negotiating experience, and it was the most important one of my life. And to make matters worse, the discussions were in English, my second language. Picture this: Caroline vs. Goliath (a.k.a. Mario).
At first, I felt paralyzed by the situation. As if I were trying to climb a wall that was too high. When this paralysis hit me, I did two things. First, I attempted to understand. And secondly, I tried to find a solution.
“Women often perceive negotiation as confrontation, which paralyzes us,” explains Ruth Vachon, president and CEO of the Réseau des femmes d’affaires du Québec, whom I interviewed on the subject. “They tend to avoid confrontation, consequently steering clear of negotiations, which harms their careers.”
Negotiate like a boss
Up until then, salary negotiations had been quite comfortable for me. However, this time, negotiating with a cunning fox was intimidating. My solution was to surround myself with professionals (accountant, lawyer, notary) to help me understand the value of my business.
During conversations with them, I took notes and asked many questions. Together, we reviewed all the details of the file. During difficult discussions, my experts were by my side. That’s when I went from being paralyzed, to looking forward to the discussions. I was well supported and well prepared.
Throughout the long negotiation process leading up to the sale of my business, I not only got the majority of the things that were important to me, I also discovered Mario’s kindness and managed to build a friendship with him.
5 tips to negotiate with self-assurance
Here are a few things I learned, and I hope they help you gain confidence for future business or salary negotiations.
- Master your topic Before every phone call with Mario, I reviewed my numbers and my financial terminology meticulously. My argument was prepared. The success of a negotiation lies in the details. Review your documents, research the company and its financial statements. My advice: imagine what you will say and repeat it two or three times to prepare yourself mentally.
- Have a clear, strategic vision Know who you are talking to and have your priorities straight. What do you want from this negotiation? Establish three key points. (Obtain a certain price for your company, get the whole team integrated into the company, negotiate their working conditions). Then decide what you are ready to give up (be prepared to leave the title of executive vice-president, for a senior V-P position). Always have a compromise or a counterproposal in mind, and use that leverage to compensate for the things you didn’t get.
- Adopt a winning attitude Be authentic, confident and positive. Learn to ask for what you want. You don’t get what you don’t ask for. Sometimes you have to be creative to come to an agreement.
- Aim high Ask for the maximum, but be realistic. Step out of your comfort zone. Not comfortable? Maybe your request is unrealistic, or perhaps you’re not quite ready to negotiate. Respect yourself.
- Listen Listening and taking into account the other party’s needs are key factors for a good negotiation. Don’t talk too much, listen. The goal is to reach an agreement both parties will be satisfied with.
Play the game, negotiate with confidence. And don’t forget to have fun! Negotiation should not be seen as a confrontation, instead look at it as a step forward in your career.
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