The unvarnished truth about what really happens when you hire a negotiation consultant

Published on by Lisa Gates.

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In case you're wondering what we do all day--that is, when Victoria or I are not writing (here, or here, or here) or speaking or training -- here's a little tale about the core of our business -- private negotiation consulting. Get ready for the unvarnished truth.

It starts with an email. A little missive usually tinged with some kind of urgency, upset, worry or regret. Like this:

I just finished my third interview with Badass Tech Giant for Lead Product Manager and I'm on the verge of getting an offer. I have no idea what to ask for and I've frankly never done a good job of negotiating. I usually fold and say yes to whatever is offered. Like most tech companies, it's run by men and I think they're going to lowball me. Can you help? 

Or a phone call like this:

I own the patent to an invention that a Badass Mega Corporation wants. I need to craft a deal that will help me retain control, but frankly [everyone is always so frank...weird] I may need to leverage them with a rival interest. Tell me you can help me!

Then Victoria and I determine who is the best fit for the potential client. "This is part negotiation and part career development, and it has Lisa written all over it," Victoria says. Or, "I don't know anything about patents," Lisa says, to which Victoria responds, "Well, neither do I, but what 25 years as a commercial litigator gives me is the skill to figure it out."

The next step is negotiating about negotiation.

After people get over the shock about our immediate response to their query, we ask a boatload of diagnostic questions, the heart and soul of interest-based negotiation, to find out what their needs, goals and preferences are. And their fears. Lots of that.  Then we tell people, "you can hire us for $350 an hour, or we can settle on a mutually agreeable flat rate."

If we were talking in person, this is the point at which we would see our prospective client's eyes glaze over. "You mean I have to negotiate with the negotiators?" To which we say, "Relax. We're just having a conversation, getting to know each other, and finding a way to bring each other value."

At this point, people want to know about process and outcomes.

Over the years, Victoria and I would share notes about our clients, and source each other for support and two-for-the-price-of-one brainstorming. As a result, we discovered we were routinely engaging in 10 common themes or areas that we then captured into our Strategic Negotiation Planning process. 

  1. Assess Your Career
  2. Research Your Value
  3. Construct Your Narratives
  4. Gather Your Support System
  5. Prioritize Your Requirements
  6. Sequence Your Ask
  7. Identify the Decision Makers
  8. Develop Scripts and Stock Phrases
  9. Practice Your Ask
  10. Completion

But what people really want, and what they really get, is transformation.

We like to say, Be ready, your DNA is going to be altered.  We like to say, Let's turn your $3,500 investment into $35,000.

It's all true and possible. But when people are testing the waters and sniffing around the edges for what we can deliver, making claims about transformation sounds huckstery and smells of white patent leather. 

So in the course of our conversations, we listen. We hear the themes so often expressed by women everywhere:

Fear of conflict, rejection and the word no; fear of asking for too much; fear of being perceived as demanding or selfish; underestimating our value; not having a plan; constantly over delivering without recognition, promotion or raises; having responsibility but no authority; being a yes addict.

So How Does it All End?

In the end, we make a deal. We bond as women, first, and client/consultants next. We agree on a rate that is a match between the value we deliver in the hands of our market: you. The truth is, we serve multiple markets--from the C-suite six-figure exec to the hourly-wage administrative assistant, so every client is different. And getting to yes with each client is in and of itself a lesson in negotiation for our clients and for us.

The takeaway here is that you are already learning to negotiate when you negotiate your relationship with us. I had a conversation recently with a IT software engineer who was stunned that I would respond to her query personally and so quickly. I felt a pang of guilt that our branding or media coverage might have induced a sort of bloated, unapproachable aura. I reminded her that out mission is to transform lives, one woman at a time, and that where ever you are, we are.

This is where the transformation begins...

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Published on by Lisa Gates.