How to negotiate to get what you want
When you negotiate – whether with your boss, family, friend or contractor – it’s a chance to get what you want, and strengthen relationships. Founder of Narachi Leadership Rachel Nyaradzo Adams shares the dos and don’ts of this courageous conversation.
Negotiate at work
Do the prep work before you negotiate
One of the most critical conversations you’ll have in your career is when you want to move up the ladder or get that pay rise. To get a result you’re happy with, and before you’ve even sat down with your manager to negotiate, it’s important to know exactly what a good result looks like.
“Be exact about the percentage increase you’d like, and why you think you deserve it,” says Nyaradzo Adams. “Is it 5%? Is it 7%? Why?” she probes. Then back this up with facts by researching what other people in your industry earn for this role. “This shows that you are treating this conversation with the seriousness it deserves,” says Nyaradzo Adams. The same applies for a promotion: gather your reviews from the past two years to show how you’ve grown in performance and expertise.
Set the stage to increase your odds of being heard and ultimately negotiate to get what you’re after. It’s the difference between setting up a meeting about an increase or promotion vs ambushing your manager without giving them any chance to prepare for the conversation or properly deal with your request. “Set up a meeting,” says Nyaradzo Adams. “This gives them time to prepare for the conversation too, and they will feel respected.” This ultimately works in your favour, since they’ll probably deal with the conversation more maturely and fairly.”
Have the conversation
The day has arrived. Meet with your manager in a neutral space without distractions, and remember to bring the right attitude and body language – it’s key to presenting a strong case. Nyaradzo Adams explains: “Be confident in advocating for yourself. Speak, without arrogance, as though you were advocating for someone else.”
She cautions that most organisations aren’t looking to increase their cost to company (CTC), so you can expect them to push back – but if you have conviction that you deserve this pay rise or this promotion, stay with it! “Don’t be pushy, but be determined. If it doesn’t work this time, state clearly when you plan to revisit the conversation,” she suggests.
Don’t underestimate the power of body language. “In his book To Sell is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others, Daniel Pink talks about how we naturally tend to mimic the behaviour of the person in front of us and how this innately creates trust in humans,” shares Nyaradzo Adams, who herself attests to the power of mimicry. “In the space of negotiation, Pink suggests that we use this same habit strategically to increase the possibility of getting what we want – a pay rise, a promotion, a sale.”
I had the conversation, but nothing changed. Now what?
It’s not the end of the road. Now’s the time to reach out to your network. “Every person who is serious about their career has a sponsor. This is the person who pounds the table for you because you are developed and they believe in your work,” explains Nyaradzo Adams. “We like to think that organisations are meritocratic, but often they are not. They are an ecosystem of relationships and, like a redwood forest, the more your roots are intertwined with others roots, the more likely you are to be seen, heard, understood and advocated for. Make sure that your sponsor is someone senior and respected so that when they advocate for you, they are taken seriously.”
Want to know more about your rights when it comes to discussing your salary at work? Read this.
Negotiate at home and with friends
Strike the balance
Getting what you want from family and friends involves a dance between empathy and resolve. “When it comes to our families, the seduction to be more empathetic to the detriment of the goals that we are trying to drive for is real,” says Nyaradzo Adams. To avoid the risk of disappointing or hurting our loved ones, we feel an innate obligation to be lenient on matters that we actually need to address more seriously. “Conversations become tricky because we are in two minds about how to balance the ‘I understand’ with the ‘but I also expect’,” she explains. For this reason, as with the work conversation, it’ll serve you best to design the conversation in advance to strike the right balance between empathy and resolve.
Keep it simple
Gather the facts – not baseless accusations, but two to three incidents when you have experienced the behaviour you find problematic. Ask to meet with your family member or friend in a quiet, neutral space without distractions. Don’t wait – arrange to meet sooner rather than later. “The golden rule of feedback effectiveness is to have it as quickly as possible,” Nyaradzo Adams says. “Often we endure poor treatment from our loved ones hoping that they will one day come to their senses and see how their behaviour is affecting us. But often life does not let us off the hook that easily. When we let things fester, the magnitude of the conversation we need to have at a later point is huge.”
If you want to address poor treatment, it’s important the conversation is between just the two of you, and doesn’t involve roping in siblings or other relatives. “While our culture sometimes advocates for go-betweens, I find that this erodes trust not only between the two people involved, but the people who are now involved in the misunderstanding or incident,” she cautions.
Be 100% honest
“Be vulnerable in illustrating how the behaviour has affected you,” suggests Nyaradzo Adams. “Often people are doing things because they have no idea what the impact is on you. Stating the impact with vulnerability means they can go beyond the ‘accusation’ and actually see what their behaviour causes,” she adds.
It’s important to be clear on the values that inform your drive to have this conversation. This will allow your family member or friend to gain a better understanding of how their actions negatively impact your personal values and allow you to negotiate more effectively.
Eliminate the risk of a misunderstanding, or your concerns not landing properly, by identifying what the change you want looks like, and outlining the consequences of it not happening. Here is where negotiation is critical – discuss and agree on a way forward. “Be clear that you will no longer tolerate the behaviour,” says Nyaradzo Adams. “Set clear consequences – and don’t backtrack on them.”
When you are happy with the changed behaviour, be ready to move on and leave the past in the past – it’s key to preserving the relationship. “At the end of it don’t keep coming back to the incident or behaviour that soured the relationship. Remember that conflict is normal and even necessary, and if you treat it as such, it can strengthen the relationship in amazing ways,” says Nyaradzo Adams.
Still not getting what you want?
There is help out there for your situation. “Where necessary, don’t be afraid to suggest the service of a family therapist or family coach to help you work through the situation,” encourages Nyaradzo Adams. Are you in the middle of a family feud? Here are some tips for ending it peacefully.
Negotiate with a service provider
The skill to negotiate effectively will serve you well in your everyday life. Nyaradzo Adams shares some pointers.
Start off right
Before you’ve reached a point with a service provider where you want to negotiate or lodge a complaint – whether it’s a waiter or a customer service agent – remember they’re human and should be treated as such. “Acknowledge and see people for the human being that they are from the outset,” urges Nyaradzo Adams. “Call waiters by their first name. If they are not wearing a badge, ask them what their name is.” It’s simple, but surprisingly effective to establish this respect from your first interaction. If it’s appropriate and you feel comfortable enough, show interest in how their day has been, and perhaps where they are from. “My first boss taught me this and it always set us up for a pleasant dining experience and for any hard conversations that were yet to come,” shares Nyaradzo Adams.
Be firm but kind
“If a mistake has been made with your food, remember: nobody died!” says Nyaradzo Adams. “The person in front of you either made the mistake or someone in the restaurant’s value chain did. Unless you have an allergy, kindly state that a mistake has been made and you’d like a new plate.” It was more than likely an honest error, and one that can easily be fixed if you negotiate fairly enough.
Set yourself up for good service
Were you happy with your service? Let your provider know! “Tip well,” says Nyaradzo Adams. “When you come back, you have set yourself up for better service,” she continues. This applies to almost any service provider – the waiter, petrol attendant, bartender, barber, etc. And if you weren’t blown away? Give them an incentive for your return. “If the service is undeserving of a tip, don’t tip your service provider. Instead, tell them that next time you will give double if they do a better job,” suggests Nyaradzo Adams.
Negotiate with your contractor
The golden rule: guard your money
“Never pay everything upfront,” cautions Nyaradzo Adams. “Pay the required deposit and only pay the last chunk when the contractor is done. If they still have money to make, they’ll work faster.” Substandard contractors are notorious for spending all the money before the project has been finished, which will create a headache for you as you organise for them to come complete what they’ve started. If a deposit doesn’t form part of their quote, request one and negotiate to pay the outstanding balance once the work is complete.
Compare and compare some more
“We are often lazy to make comparisons, but comparisons are what make you wiser,” encourages Nyaradzo Adams. For a major job, she suggests getting at least five trusted service providers and comparing not only their fees, but the quality of their materials, who they partner with, how long they take and examples of finished products they have created.
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