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Three Common Negotiation Obstacles and How to Overcome Them

Three Common Negotiation Obstacles and How to Overcome Them

Negotiation is not just for securing the best job offer. Even when you’re employed, you negotiate raises, promotions, and the scope of your day-to-day job all along your career. If you’re an entrepreneur or freelancer, you negotiate pricing, projects, and deadlines. In day-to-day life, you negotiate boundaries with other people, terms when you buy or sell a house or car, or you may negotiate for fun at the neighborhood yard sale.

You negotiate more often than you think, and for more than just money. It’s very important to do this right. Yet, many people shy away from negotiating or even trying to learn how to negotiate. Don’t be one of those people that’s afraid to negotiate and therefore just takes whatever you’re offered. If you don’t ask, the answer is definitely no!

Instead, resolve to advocate for yourself and ask for what you want – and deserve. You can negotiate even if you’re faced with some of these common obstacles.

[Related: Ten Career Tips for Every Working Woman]

1) Even when you hear no.

Don’t panic at the first sign of pushback. Instead, get curious – ask for information, not agreement. Ask clarifying questions. Don’t push on your position. Focus on getting the other person to clarify what they mean by no, so you can figure out what you need to change to get to yes.

You may just need to change something small and not end the discussion altogether. Get creative with what you’re asking for. Maybe you just need to change timing – for example, if you ask for a 10% raise and hear no, you may be able to convince your manager to agree to 5% now and 5% later.

2) Even when the other person has no money.

You ask for a raise, and your manager not only says no, but adds that they have no money. Well, if the company isn’t bankrupt and shutting down right then and there, then they do have money – just not for your request.

Remember tip #1, and get curious about why. It could be that your manager just doesn’t have authority over the budget – therefore, who can you ask? It could be that the budget for raises is all used up – can you pull from another source, say the bonus pool? It could be that there is a salary ceiling they can’t broach – is there another way you can get more beyond your base, such as a performance bonus or company stock?

[Related: The Anchoring Effect in Negotiation, and How to Eliminate It]

3) Even if you’re a freelancer or solopreneur up against a bigger party.

But what if you’re a freelancer and not an in-house employee, so you can’t appeal to HR or to other company pools of money? You still have negotiation leverage as a freelancer or small business owner, even if your client is a much bigger company.

If a lower amount is offered, size your work output accordingly, and charge more as they ask for more. Negotiate for volume – give them a discount on this project if you’re guaranteed additional work. Pitch a bigger project that can warrant a bigger fee, or perhaps cut across multiple departments who can all pitch in to cover the bigger fee.

The point is to play around with how you’re defining the scope of work so you have not just pricing, but all aspects of a project as levers to negotiate and change. See more examples of how to negotiate as a freelancer in 7 Levers to Negotiate as a Temp or Freelancer.

Yes, you can negotiate.

I hope all of these “even if” scenarios show you that you can and should negotiate. There isn’t a situation so problematic that you can’t solve. There isn’t a specific time or set of circumstances or type of counter-party that signals you can’t negotiate.

Negotiation is about sorting out points of disagreement, so expect some pushback (otherwise you’d just agree, and there would be no need to negotiate in the first place!). Just remember that pushback isn’t necessarily bad, hostile, or mean-spirited. Get curious, get creative, and get what you deserve!

[Related: How to Ask for a Raise]


Caroline Ceniza-Levine is a longtime Ellevate member, whose mission is helping experienced professionals in tech, media, financial services, and other industries find work they love, earn more doing it, and achieve financial independence. She is a Senior Contributor to Forbes Leadership and has appeared on CNN, CBS, and other media on job market issues. Visit the Dream Career Club to learn more.

She covers seven more common obstacles to negotiating success in Become a Fearless Negotiator.

Have more questions? Follow up with the expert herself.


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