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Business Intelligence: Negotiating Skills for Women



KNOW YOUR STUFF: Doing research helps in the negotiating process for everything from salaries to car prices.A Stronger Resolve

Even the Girl Scouts recognize that females struggle with negotiating: The organization created a Win-Win badge that girls earn when they successfully negotiate to settle disputes.

But for moms of Girl Scouts and all females in the workplace, it’s not too late to improve skills for women to get what they want out of negotiations. Knowing how to negotiate is essential when approaching salary discussions, executing business contracts and leases, or confronting other situations in business.

Women need to do a better job of asserting themselves, which can go against how society expects females to act, experts say.

“We don’t want to look like we’re being overly aggressive. We don’t want to look like bitches,” says Naples attorney Rebecca Zung-Clough. “I think we’re trained that way as a culture.”

Some companies and organizations recognize that women need to improve their negotiating skills. Zung-Clough and attorney Sharon Hanlon, who both spoke about negotiating at a recent Neapolitan Chapter of the American Business Women’s Association meeting, shared some tips with Gulfshore Business.


Know what you’re negotiating

Whether it’s a salary, a car, fees for an investment management account or an office lease, if you don’t do the research, you will lack confidence in negotiating. Know the lingo and numbers, which will make you appear to be an expert.


Recognize your value

Women tend to undervalue their worth in the workplace—and often do make less. MSNBC’s Morning Joe co-host, Mika Brzezinski, shares this in Knowing Your Value: Women, Money, and Getting What You’re Worth: “The truth is, like most women, I didn’t know my value, and even if I had, I wouldn’t have known how to get it. Looking back, I realize that every time I sat at the negotiating table, my greatest enemy was myself.”

The key to knowing value is doing the research beforehand, so you have an idea of salaries in your industry and for your position and experience, says Hanlon, an attorney with Zelman & Hanlon, P.A., in Naples.

In a lease negotiation for an office space, research area rental rates for similar properties and bring in a list of concessions, such as improvements to the space, to negotiate. Zung-Clough suggests emphasizing the “added value” you offer as tenant, such as bringing high-end clients to the building, and promoting the building name and address in your company’s marketing efforts.


Focus on weakness is weak

In salary negotiations, some females err when they bring up areas where they could improve as a worker. Even if women are being honest, it can cause an employer to question if you are deserving of a raise, Hanlon says. Meanwhile, men often approach salary negotiations without making degrading or negative comments about themselves, Zung-Clough says. That error could contribute to the fact that women earn, on average, 77 cents to a man’s dollar.


Anticipate criticism

Some employers during salary negotiations may question your work hours and productivity, and you might not have an answer—until you’re driving home or wake up in the middle of the night with that “aha” moment. Have that conversation beforehand in your head so that you can confidently respond to their questions, Zung-Clough says.

For example, an employer may bring up the fact that you leave at 5 o’clock while other employees stay later. Be prepared to share how you have balanced work and family obligations, such as by coming into work earlier, or being more efficient in your time.

“Back in the ’60s as women we wanted it all and we really ended up getting it all. That means we’re kind of trying to deal with the home front and the children, and maybe we feel less confident going in to negotiate a higher salary,” Zung-Clough says.


Know your limits

Consider your best- and worst-case scenarios, so that you will know your “choke point,” Zung-Clough says. “Once you realize that the other side has hit that and they’re not willing to negotiate past that, you stand up and walk away because you know the negotiations are not going to be productive.”


Dress the part

Select a favorite outfit to wear during a negotiation, which can boost your self-esteem. “It makes you feel more confident about yourself,” Hanlon says.

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