Editor's Note: This article is part of "10 Ways To Be A Better Employee In 2015." Read the full list here.
You’ve been offered a job but the salary wasn’t the number you were hoping to hear. Or you’ve received a bid on a project and it’s under what you think it’s worth. Instead of accepting the deal in disappointment or firing back with another amount, sports agent Molly Fletcher says it’s time to start a conversation.
"There’s room for negotiation on most prices," says Fletcher, author of A Winner’s Guide to Negotiating: How Conversation Gets Deals Done. "Certain things, like school tuition, for example, might have fees that are set in stone, but for many things, like salaries or even orthodontics, the value can be more vague."
Unfortunately, most of the world doesn’t ask for what it wants. A recent survey by Salary.com found that just 44% of people negotiate for a better salary.
And companies are happy when you don’t negotiate, says Fletcher: "Few offer their best price out of the gate," she says.
So how do you get what you want at a price that makes you happy? Fletcher says good negotiators have an ability to do five things well when striking a deal:
Doing your homework and understanding the market is half the battle, says Fletcher. This means knowing what you want, understanding the comparables in your industry, and considering the intangibles in every deal, such as reimbursed expenses, vacation time, and the amount of time it takes for a promotion or raise.
"Good negotiators also develop a ‘360-degree awareness,’ knowing the goals, needs, gaps, values, and fears of the other side," says Fletcher. "This data will be even more valuable as your strategy unfolds throughout the negotiation," she says.
Too often people approach negotiations with their cards held close to their chest, not wanting to reveal too much too soon. But coming to the table wearing a shield can stunt negotiations, says Fletcher. Instead, she suggests people spend time finding common ground.
For example, while negotiating a deal with then Atlanta Braves General Manager John Schuerholz, Fletcher noticed he had a screen saver on his computer of famous golf holes. She recognized hole number 12 at Augusta National, and asked Schuerholz if he had ever played Augusta and what he got on number 12.
"We went into a 20-minute conversation about golf," says Fletcher. "This let us take down our guards and be people. When you talk, connect, and communicate, both sides create a better platform for a discussion; the ability to truly connect is an integral part of success."
After you receive an offer, begin the counter process by asking questions, but be sure to do so in a kind tone. For example, "Can you tell me how you got to that number?" "What are you paying other people in this position?" "Is there room to move the needle?" "Why do you feel that number is fair?"
When you ask questions, you get data that helps you position your case, says Fletcher. The more data you have about their perspective, the more power you have to continue the conversation.
"The questions you ask should help you understand why they’re at the number they’re at," says Fletcher, who recommends doing the negotiation process in person. "The answers make it easier to gauge their position according to their tone, timing, and energy."
Fletcher cautions against immediately countering an offer: "If they offer you X, don’t go back and say, ‘Thank you, but I need Y.’ Why cap it at Y? What if there is more available?"
In the world of negotiations, silence is golden in more ways than one. After you ask a question, Fletcher says to stop talking.
"Negotiating is like a big medicine ball," she says. "You throw the medicine ball—the big question—back at them and you need to stop. They can’t do anything with it but hold it."
Fletcher says most people can’t stand silence and will try to fill it, but the willingness to sit in silence sends the message that you’re confident with what you have to offer. Use the power of the pause when asking and answering questions.
A simple mistake negotiators make is forgetting that walking away is an option, says Fletcher, but when you’re clear on what you want, the decision to walk or stay becomes easier.
"You can still leave open the option of returning to the table," says Fletcher. "The space and time created by walking away can foster greater creativity in problem solving."