At the April program meeting of STC New England, participants learned valuable tips for sharpening their negotiating skills.
Jack Molisani was the featured speaker of the meeting, hosted by GE Digital in Boxborough, Mass. on April 19. Jack is president of ProSpring Technical Staffing and executive director of the LavaCon Conference on Professional Development. In his presentation, “Honing Your Workplace Negotiation Skills,” he shared colorful stories and lessons learned from over 25 years of buying and selling corporate services.
What is Negotiation?
Negotiation is the attempt to come to an agreement through discussion and bargaining. It is fundamental to business transactions from market stalls to boardrooms throughout the world. In Jack’s practical definition, negotiation is the art of giving up as little as possible to get what you want. As individual contributors or managers we enter into negotiations all the time:
- Job compensation (salary, training and development opportunities, vacation, comp time), at either hire or review
- Contracts (hourly rate, duration)
- Workload (scope, deadlines)
- Resources (headcount, budget)
Negotiation can be competitive or collaborative, but Jack thinks only win-win or lose-lose negotiations are truly successful. He recommends trying to deal with people who value your services and are willing to negotiate with you (those he calls “your people”), not those out to bilk you (“I can pay you more on the next job”).
Jack offered negotiation strategies, tips, and best practices based on his experience. He stressed doing your homework beforehand. Before buying a house, you learn the market price; similarly, before applying for a job, use the STC Salary Survey or other information to learn the current market rate in your area. You also need to set your success criteria—when to say yes, when to walk away.
In negotiation, it’s best to build a rapport first before throwing out numbers. Try to let the other side make the opening offer, which shows if the deal is even worth pursuing. But if you have to open, use a qualifier you can back away from (“my normal rate is …”) and gauge the reaction. If, as sometimes happens, you discover the salary or rate is not what you want, you can educate the other side about the going rate and your worth, and even ask about the title, which might open up a different salary range (and a job at a higher title can be valuable to you in the future).
Most people expect some concessions in a negotiation, so objections are normal. Jack offered advice on dealing with them.
If you listen more than you talk, you can discern why the other side is objecting, learn what’s important to them, and respond accordingly. Keep your portfolio, project plans, prototypes, and historical data handy. By doing your homework first you can justify your own estimates (how you add value, save money, make money, or increase satisfaction). You may be able to move negotiations from cost numbers to project scope.
Build some wiggle room into your offer. That way you can offer a concession and still get what you need. But if a demand is out of your range and you can’t get them to change, be prepared to walk away.
Keep your options open: if you have another offer, you can confidently negotiate, or walk away. Avoid getting emotionally invested, which salesmen can spot and which interferes with walking away. Likewise, avoid making emotional decisions, such as responding to an “only good for today” offer.
Jack wrapped up his presentation with an exercise so attendees could practice their new-found negotiation skills.
Jack cited these sources for more information:
- Zero to Zillionaire, Chellie Campbell
- How to Outnegotiate Anyone (Even a Car Dealer!), Leo Reilly
- Be the Captain of Your Career, Jack Molisani
- “How to Create a Database to Track Historical Data and Bid Future Jobs,” Bonnie Graham, LavaCon
At the end of the evening Chapter President Paul Duarte raffled off a free registration to LavaCon that Jack donated.
More information about LavaCon can be found here.