Negotiation tips for women

Why are women battling to close deals? Here are 10 tips to help women negotiate better.

According to a recent study done on challenges faced by South African women in business today, it seems like a real issue women battle with is unsuccessful negotiations, whether it is closing a deal or negotiating their own salary or benefits. Ms Elmarie Pretorius, International speaker, trainer, author and owner of The Mindspa Institute (a soft skills training company) elaborates on being a woman in business and fulfilling a leadership role as a business owner. She gives women 10 tips to negotiate better.

It is tough to often be the only woman in a room full of men, knowing they are probably rooting for you to fail. To be fair, not all men are like that. However, it seems that there are still a few issues women have when the need arise to negotiate or engage in a dialogue.

Being in a managerial position for most of my career, it taught me that you will not die if you talk, ask or negotiate within the workplace. Sometimes the other party is more afraid of you than you know. Mostly you just need faith in yourself, but also some soft skills in being assertive, self-confident and a few pointers in negotiation skills.

The first thing you need to remember is to just be yourself. To be successful in your negotiations you need to follow a communication style that makes you feel comfortable. You have to be authentic so as to earn trust and gain credibility.

Secondly, you have to negotiate. Too many women in business take the offer for what it is and they don’t negotiate further. Women mostly look at the decision they have to make and forget that there is always room to negotiate. Grab each opportunity and remember that everything is negotiable.

Thirdly, make sure you are prepared. This enables you as a woman to gain the respect needed and level the playing field if everyone sees that you know what you are talking about. Just be aware that you don’t get lost in all the details that you lose sight of the ultimate goal. Women tend to share too much unnecessary stuff, just because you know, doesn’t mean everybody needs to know that you know.

Four, you must always take yourself out of the negotiations if it is about yourself - meaning negotiate as if you are negotiating on behalf of someone else. Women battle with this, because the moment they get turned down or the negotiations are getting tougher, they experience it as a direct personal rejection. Women in Business need to develop thicker skins.

The fifth thing is to be prepared to say NO with firmness and credibility. According to negotiation specialists, the word “no” is the most powerful word when negotiating. Women have a difficulty in saying it, because they tend to want to keep everyone happy by avoiding conflict. They want to please and be liked.

Canning emotions are number six on the list. While negotiating emotions including anger can effectively interfere in the process. Take a few deep breaths and regain your composure or suggest taking a break and re-grouping your thoughts.

Number seven on the tips list- avoid the old empathy trick! It is a fact that women tend to be better listeners and thus have more understanding for other’s needs. Protect your own needs and interests.

Lucky number eight is to use humour. Women often think that no one will take them seriously if they crack a joke now and then. FACT – during negotiations it eases the tension amongst parties. So lighten up.

Ninth tip is not to be afraid of breaking the rules. There are no rules when negotiating, unless ALL parties agree on them. You can create the rules of the negotiation game, introduce them and make sure everyone is in consensus.

And then the last tip is to remember that all of us are humans and you have to accept our nature. Take other party’s biases into consideration. You can’t change people, but you can figure out how best to achieve your objective if you understand them.

I have been in business long enough to understand how far good negotiation can go. It is not just when closing a deal or engaging in talks about your own salary, but also helps you gain confidence and gain the respect of your peers. Women in Business in South Africa should stop underestimating themselves. We are powerful creatures. If ever you wonder, will I be able to negotiate myself through this deal, remember you negotiate with your kids and husband everyday – so it should be a piece of cake.

It was William Butler Yeats that said: "Think like a wise man but communicate in the language of the people."

Being able to communicate, negotiate and present effectively is a critical leadership skill. Ralph Waldo Emerson said that in leadership “speech is power: speech is to persuade, to convert, to compel. It is to bring another out of his bad sense into your good sense.” This two-day high-level intervention will focus on leadership communication at its highest and most compelling level. It will showcase great leaders and how they have powerfully used their communication skills to bring about strategic change.

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