QUESTION: Part of my job is to do some financial negotiations with clients, and I'm struggling with it. I don't feel comfortable, and I don't think I'm getting the best outcomes. What can I do?
ANSWER: Address your discomfort and learn tactical skills to become more successful at this aspect of the job.
Money can be a charged subject, certainly in personal areas of life, but also in the professional realm.
Taking some deep breaths, set aside any anxiety and focus on getting into a calm state of mind. From there you'll be able to assess the causes of your discomfort, noticing the underlying emotions.
You may observe some fear. If so, what are you afraid of? Conversations about money often lead to mild disagreement and some conflict. Or maybe you're worried about failing to "win" the negotiation. Whatever your feelings are, take the time to understand and accept them.
Now focus on the value that your company brings to your clients. List the assets and benefits that you provide, and use them as an anchor to solidify your sense of the validity of your entering position in the negotiation. After all, if you don't believe in the services you provide, the client certainly will not.
Consider the personal characteristics you bring to the process and what it would look like to authentically and confidently engage in negotiations. Determine ways that your strengths could help you, and also note areas that you need to build to be successful.
Ask others for feedback, as well. You may be too close to have a clear view of your performance. Your boss or a colleague will be able to help you realistically assess your strengths and areas for improvement. You may be underestimating yourself, particularly since you are not comfortable with the process.
Make a plan that helps you acquire the skills and mind-set you need for gaining comfort with negotiations. Don't try to do too much at once — just select and practice one factor at a time.
To select your first focus area, consider which would have the most impact. Will you gain confidence if you gain a tactical skill, or do you need to focus on managing anxiety before you can put a new skill into play? Then find ways to practice, finding low-risk opportunities to negotiate outcomes. Role-playing will be very helpful, as well.
When preparing to negotiate, understand the other party's needs and point of view. You'll be better positioned to help identify a win-win outcome.
Find a mentor to help you, perhaps someone you know who is an effective negotiator. Also, look for training opportunities for specific skills. After conducting negotiations, reflect on successful aspects, as well as aspects you'd like to improve.
Be sure to celebrate your successes, and don't be too hard on yourself if you feel that you've fallen short.
You're not just trying to learn skills, you're also changing your way of thinking about yourself, and that's not an easy task.
If you build your confidence and learn some skills, you can become an effective negotiator.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Liz Reyer is a credentialed coach with more than 20 years of business experience. Her company, Reyer Coaching & Consulting, offers services for organizations of all sizes. Submit questions or comments about this column at www.deliverchange.com/coachscorner or email her at email@example.com.
©2012 Star Tribune (Minneapolis)
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