10 Tips on How to Get What You Want

A women's guide to negotiation.
photo by Jeff Janowski
Fran Scarlett shares her best negotiating tips.


Women tend to think they are bad negotiators.

We tend to get emotional. We think we are the underdog and feel intimidated. But, it doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, some of the skills that come naturally to us like, multi-tasking and asking people how they are, are valuable at the negotiating table.

“We use our empathy. We use our multi-tasking. We do that unconsciously. All I’m saying is bring that to a conscious level to move yourself, as well as the other party, forward,” said Fran Scarlett, the regional director of the Small Business and Technology Development Center at UNCW.

Scarlett, a Harvard MBA graduate with years of corporate business experience negotiating everything from contracts to buy-outs, shares her top 10 tips on how to negotiate successfully.

Know your priorities - make a list.Tip 1. Know your priorities. Keep an updated list of what’s most important to you in rank order. For example, salary, benefits, a flexible schedule, time-off, mentorship, etc. This will help you stay grounded.

Tip 2. Research and prepare. 80 percent of negotiating is research and preparation.

a.     Know the industry standards. For example, what is your industry’s salary range for someone with your level of experience in this geographic location?

b.     Find out what the company has offered new hires in the past by asking current and former employees or its human resources department.

c.     Find out what the company’s priorities are for this new position. For example, are they looking for someone with a specific skill set, is the budget tight or do they need someone to work specific hours? “It’s very difficult to find the other person’s BATNA (Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement). But, you need to have some idea,” Scarlett said.

Tip 3. Determine your best and worst case scenarios. And, make multiple offers for the same job. Determine your best and worst case scenarios.

Figure out what is your “aspiration” or your optimal scenario based on your priorities. And conversely, figure out what your Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement (BATNA) or the minimum offer you’d need. Unfortunately, if you have only one job offer, your BATNA is being unemployed.

“Never go into a negotiation without knowing [your BATNA.] In business, it’s a dollar amount. What’s the contract worth? You can calculate it,” she said.

From there, create multiple offers that would work for you. For example, if you are negotiating work and flexibility is your priority because you want to pick up your child from school every day, you may want to counter-offer with a lower salary for more flex-time. Or, if salary is your priority, ask for a higher amount with less vacation time. You must be willing to give up something to gain another.

You can learn more about the other party’s priorities by gauging their response to the multiple offers.

Tip 4. Don’t be first. When negotiating salary, you never want to be the first to throw a dollar amount out, because you may unintentionally low-ball yourself. But, after they throw out a figure, quickly respond with an anchor point, which is where you want to set the negotiation, based on your priorities and research.

            For example, if a salary range for a specific job is $40,000 to $65,000 and you want at least $55,000, but the employer offers you $45,000, immediately say, “In my mind, I thought that $55,000 would be a place to start given my experience, skill set, etc.”

You’ve just shifted the anchor point up and narrowed the range to between $55,000 and $65,000.

“That’s a very important strategy. You never want to be the first one, because if you set it, that’s where you’re going to play. You can never reset the anchor. You let them set it, but you reset it very fast, immediately,” she said.

Tip 5. Maximize your potential. If you have another job offer, use it as your BATNA. For example, if a job offers $40,000 for salary and a second job offers the same, leverage it to get your aspiration.

“Your intent is to maximize and not leave stuff on the table. People tend to leave stuff on the table, women especially, because we don’t know what we’re worth. We didn’t do the research,” she said.

Aim for a win-win scenario.Tip 6. Aim for a win-win scenario.

Expert negotiators say instead of viewing negotiations as adversarial with one winner and one loser, approach it as trying to find a way both can win. For example, if you and your roommate both want the one orange in your house, begin by asking your roommate what she wants to use it for. You may find out that she just wants the juice while you need the rind.

“Win-win is called a pie expansion strategy where we just make the pie bigger so we all get more of it,” Scarlett said.

a.     The first step in win-win is ask questions about the other person’s interests and priorities.

b.     Step two is tell the other person your interests and priorities. But, don’t tell them everything. For example, you don’t want them to know your BATNA.

“Western negotiation is based on a win-lose scenario. That’s our culture. That’s how we were trained, because we are part of an individualistic society where competition is the highest order. This is not how negotiation happens in a lot of other cultures,” she said.

Anyone you want to build a relationship with – your employer, vendors, contractors, even car dealerships and childcare providers – is worth approaching with a pie expansion strategy.

For example, if you are hiring an afterschool caretaker and you don’t ask them what their interests and priorities are but assume it is money, you won’t know if they would take less if the job offered them something else that is more important to them such as, Fridays off or the freedom to have meals with your family, etc.

“Ask first their [priorities]. Tell them yours,” she said. “That builds trust. It’s like a relationship.”

This takes practice to master.

Tip 7. Practice, practice, practice.

Don’t wait to try this strategy for the first time on your biggest contract or deal. Practice on your friends and family, the ones who you have the strongest on-going relationship with.

“I feel like I do win-wins with my child all of the time,” Scarlett said. Oftentimes it’s over the issue of homework.

“I say, ‘Here’s what I want. I want you to complete your homework in a timely manner. You want to be done so you can have time to go play. Ok, we both sort of want the same thing. Here’s how we get it,’” she said.

Tip 8: Understand if you are dealing with someone from a different culture, how that culture differs and then, adapt.

“Part of a good negotiator is adapting to the style of the other person. If they are very formal, you have to be formal. If they are casual, you have to be casual,” she said.

Tip 9: You’re a better negotiator than you think.

I think as women we tend to be more prepared. I think we are better multi-taskers. So the concept of package deals and multiple offers are things that we come up with naturally that I think guys would have to be more deliberate about,” she said. “My experience is people really want to do the right thing. Most people want to help you, but you need to tell them how.”

Tip 10: Lastly, review what happened during a negotiation, so next time you can improve.

“[People] tend to take each one singularly and don’t realize that it’s a process to get better, because it’s not an overnight skill. We, as women, have an advantage, because some of this stuff is innate within us. So we just have to bring it out and utilize it in a way we’re not accustomed to,” she said.