How to Negotiate Like a Rock Star, Part I

Negotiation isn’t magical or special or overly difficult.

Negotiation is just two people talking about how they can solve a shared problem.

How you talk about that problem, how you use information, and how you approach the other person makes the difference between a good negotiation and a difficult one.

Here’s how to make your negotiations not just good, but rock star good.

Know What You’re Working For

When you were a kid, what did you dream of doing when you grew up?

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What is it about your art that makes you say, “I need to do this”?

In 5, 10 or 20 years what is it that you hope to have achieved in your career?

Answer these questions to help you identify your goals.  Each and every negotiation you enter must help fulfill one of your goals.  If it doesn’t help fulfill a goal, you shouldn’t be doing it. (Because, seriously, that means you’re working for something that isn’t important to you.)

Most people have more than one goal in life, so spend some quality time identifying which ones are yours.  And once you’ve identified them, don’t ignore them.  Check in on them every six months or so and ask yourself, “Is this still what I want?”

Just like you no longer want to be a ballerina or a astronaut, five years from now you may no longer be hell bent on publishing your own book.  That’s OK.  Just make sure you know what your goals are so that you can gear your negotiations toward fulfilling them.

Know What You Want

Knowing what you want sounds like a simple task.  But knowing what you want isn’t just about knowing the things you want, its about knowing the reasons behind why you want those things.  Those reasons are your interests and your interests, when gathered together, are what will help you meet your goals.  The more interests one particular negotiation can fulfill, the closer that negotiation will get you toward your goal.

Sounds simple enough, but how do you use your interests to evaluate different offers during a negotiation?

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Let’s take a simple negotiation over a pay rate for example.  You want to be paid $1000 for Job X and your potential client wants to pay $700 for you to do Job X.  In an effort to settle the negotiation, your potential client offers to split the difference: $850. How do you know if you should accept the offer?

    • Does $850 fulfill your interests?

Why are you taking this job?  To pay bills?  To get more experience in this particular style?  Is this a client you’ve been wanting to work with for a while now?  Or someone you have a long term business relationship with?  Each one of those reasons is an interest and each and every interest is completely valid. Depending on which one is most important to you in this particular situation, the answer to whether $850 is a good deal.

If this job is important because of the experience it gives you, then $850 is fine; getting the experience is more important than how much you are paid.  But if this is a job you need to pay your rent, do not let anyone talk you down on price by going on about “experience” and “exposure.”

Figure out why you want what you want before you start negotiating and you’ll have a much easier time evaluating different offers.

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    • Is $850 better than your back up plan?

Never go into a negotiation without having an alternative if things don’t work out.  If you don’t have a back up plan, you will always compromise more than is in your best interest.

Your Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement, or BATNA, is a plan you can execute on your own, that you’d actually want to do if you had to do it, and is something that will directly support your goals.  If $850 is better than your BATNA, you know it’s an offer worth entertaining.  If $850 is worse than your BATNA, you know it’s better to turn down the offer and either keep negotiating or implement your BATNA.

 Know What They Want

Knowing how to spot a good deal for yourself is aces, but it’s only half the game.  How do you figure out how to make offers the other side is likely to accept?  By identifying what your counterpart is interested in.

By knowing what they want, you can identify all of the different places where your interests and theirs line up.  And once you identify those places, you can focus your energy there instead of on blindly and erratically throwing out offers.  “Two ducks and a chicken!”  “Half a cantaloupe!”

Let’s take that $1000 job negotiation for example.  Why do they only want to pay $700 for the job?  Are they trying to save money so they can afford other work they need? (Other work, you could perhaps do?)  If there were a payment plan would they be willing to pay the $1000?  How are they going to use the work you’re providing them?

Knowing these things will help you figure out better solutions to offer during your negotiation.  Even knowing some of these things will likely lead to a better solution than just splitting things down the middle.  Splitting things down the middle is lazy and not productive for anyone.

Now just because you’re trying to offer solutions that meet their interests, that doesn’t mean you are offering solutions that aren’t in your best interest. Don’t negotiate against yourself in an effort to end the negotiation.

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Come back for Part Two tomorrow!

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