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8 Powerful Negotiation Tactics for Assistants


"20 percent of adult women (22 million people) say they never negotiate at all, even though they often recognize negotiation as appropriate and even necessary" (source: Women Don't Ask).

In a profession dominated by women, it's important to address learning how to negotiate. It's a skill that will not only help you in your personal life but can increase your value as an assistant.

Last month I shared a free webinar with my subscribers about how to win negotiations and wanted to share an overview of those tips as well as a few others.

Tip 1: Connect on a human level

"[I]f you go in anticipating a war, that’s exactly what you’ll experience" (source: Entrepreneur). It' s not a battle; it's respecting the needs of all parties and focusing on an agreement. As assistants, we typically have a high emotional intelligence, so this should be an easy one.

  • Focus on "I" statements instead of accusatory "you" statements to keep the conversation non-threatening and any possible negative energy at bay.

  • Use their name. If you use the other person's name at least four times during the conversation, you will generate approximately 20% more value (source: How EAs Can Win Negotiations webinar on 12/2/16).

  • Opt for face-to-face meetings whenever possible to increase the ability to really connect with the other person.

  • Be mindful of keeping your body language and tone cool and composed. Not only will it help to bring a positive air to the table, but will help to ensure your principal is represented in a positive manner as well.

Tip 2: Ask a lot of questions

It's important to not assume you know exactly all the details and what their frame of mind is. Use both open-ended and information gathering questions. Doing so not only shows your level of interest but ensures you capture as many details about the other side as you can, especially when comes to their motivations and limitations. The number one reason why people do not succeed in negotiating is not asking enough questions (source: How EAs Can Win Negotiations webinar on 12/2/16), so it's worth taking the time to prepare your inquiries and ensure you address each one.

Tip 3: Know the worst-case scenario

Get with the person you support to nail this down. Not only will you know their baseline but it will give you a means to measure how much you surpass that mark. As a top assistant I know how good it feels to surpass expectations, and doing so will also demonstrate the value you added to the final outcome. Be sure to keep records of these gains (ex: money saved, additional free services obtained, etc.) so you remember your wins during future yearly reviews and interviews. For tips on how to keep these records, check out the following article: Tracking Accomplishments.

Tip 4: Be optimistic and aim high

If you are optimistic you will be more successful in the negotiation, so go ahead and ask for more. According to Brodow, it's a self-fulfilling prophecy; conversely, if you have low expectations, you will most likely wind up with a less than desirable outcome. One example is negotiating a car purchase for the person you support. You could ask the dealer to throw in free lifetime oil changes and an upgraded stereo system.

Tip 5: Mirroring

Mirroring is a technique in which you repeat the last or most important 1-3 words the other person just said. You not only can use this technique to get someone to do a better job of explaining when additional details are needed, but you also can get someone to bid against themselves. One example is repeating the price you are quoted ("$65 per hour?"). By simply repeating the rate you were told, you can get the other person to lower their cost without asking. Easy! (Source: Quora).

Tip 6: Make sure both sides FEEL like they win

This should really be the goal in the end. If you help the other side to feel satisfied, they will be more inclined to help you satisfy your needs, which in turn will help you shine as an assistant. There are a few tactics in which to do so:

  • Give away something that has no downside to you or your principal. Using intangibles are a great way to do this, such as promoting the other person's services on your company's website. Be sure to discuss these in advance with your principal to ensure you are aware of the options he/she has to offer.

  • Use MEO's (Mutually Equivalent Offers). When you give someone options to choose from, it makes them feel as if they have power. An example is in negotiating a salary. Let's say you'd be happy getting either $100k with 20 vacation days or $110k with 10 vacation days. Offer up both options and let the other party choose (source: How EAs Can Win Negotiations webinar on 12/2/16).

Tip 7: Don't feel rushed

Although your principal might give you a deadline, be sure to not let that affect your actions as being patient is key. Whichever party demonstrates a time-constraint is inevitably at a disadvantage because of their need to close the deal sooner. Consequently, they will be more willing to make compromises (source: Quora). In addition, the more time the other side puts in the more they will want to close the deal… and the more likely they will be to make concessions so they can close the deal (source: Quora).

Tip 8: Practice!

As I mentioned initially, negotiating is a skill. Like any other skill in life, practice helps in order to become a master. Try practicing in smaller situations, such as divvying up household chores with your partner or getting a refund on an item that is outside of the company's return policy. Work your way up to larger ones, such as working with your office supply vendor to get better deals on items you order on a regular basis.

Do you negotiate? Please share your experiences in the comments below!

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