Negotiating is something you can do. No matter how intimidating you might find it or inexperienced you may feel, you can be a negotiation rock star.
Part two of the rock star “How To” guide starts after the jump. If you’re just joining us, catch up by reading part one first.
If you’re going to try and find a solution that works for both parties, you need to know what everyone wants. The easiest way to find out what people want is by asking questions and listening, really listening, to the answers you get.
Not all questions are created equal. Here are a few of my favorite types:
- Priming Questions These are a series of questions to get the other person comfortable sharing information. If you’ve ever played the school yard game of asking someone a series of questions where “Orange” is the answer and then asking “What color is the sky?” you understand the basic concept of primer questioning. The primer questions all provide you with useful information, but their real goal is to get the person primed to answer a question they might otherwise hesitate to answer.
- Open Ended Questions These are questions to which the answer can never just be “yes” or “no.” When we think we know the answer or we think we have a sense of where things are headed, we tend to only ask questions that can be answered “Yes” or “No.” Open ended questions ask for stories, for information without any assumptions. The easiest way to turn your question into an open ended one is by starting it with the words “Can you tell me about….”
- Rapport Building Questions These are questions that really have next to nothing to deal with the subject matter of the negotiation; they have to do with the person you’re negotiating with. Innovative and revolutionary questions like “How was your weekend?” and “Did you catch last night’s episode of 30 Rock?!” help you see your negotiating counterpart as a person instead of an enemy. It can help them see you in a similar light. And that’s important, because the more you see one another as potential collaborators, the better your chances of being able to work together to solve the problem of your negotiation.
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The worst thing you can do as a negotiator is to treat each and every negotiation as if it is a new endeavor. Keep notes on how each negotiation goes with a client; record what you were trying to accomplish, what worked and what didn’t. Also note if you learned anything about the client’s business that might help in your next negotiation with them.
Review your notes every once and awhile to see if you can spot themes. Do you always start off a negotiation talking about your rate? How does that impact the rest of the negotiation? How about the rest of the project? Do you see any correlation between how the negotiation went and how the project turned out?
You can try to keep these details all in your head and assume that you’ll remember the finer points of each and every negotiation you have, building to your ultimate success and dominance as a negotiator. If you end up doing that successfully, please give the Neuroscience Department at MIT a call; they’ll be interested to discover you. For the rest of us, I recommend keeping a business log of some type.
Despite the independent nature of the work, freelance artists do not work in a bubble. What one freelancer accepts or rejects in a contract can have a significant impact on what will show up in the next contract that client gives a freelancer. So don’t just keep those notes to yourself. Talk to your peers! Talk about your experiences with particular clients, things you asked for in contracts, what worked and what didn’t.
And, more importantly, if you’re talking to a new client about a job, ask around and see if anyone has worked with that client recently. If so, ask them how their job with the client went and then: listen. Use what you learn to improve your experience, then report back to the person you spoke with to tell them how things turned out.
If art is going to be your business, learning how to stick up for yourself and your interests in business deals is necessary. The good thing is that with practice you can become a better negotiator. Breaking your goals down into interests, asking questions and keeping track of your experiences create the foundation for excellent negotiating, and they are all things you can start doing today.
Featured image by SPW/ via Flickr.com.
Categories: The Rest