Have you ever been in a situation where no matter what you did, you would encounter something that created anxiety? Like, if you act it creates anxiety and if you don’t act it creates anxiety?
Yeah. me either…
Asking for a friend.
All jokes aside, I’ve discovered some pretty great techniques for getting what you want or need because of situations exactly like this. We’ll call it the subtle art of getting what you want. No, it doesn’t work 100% of the time, but it’s led to some pretty great things for me.
It doesn’t fix the anxiety but having a framework to operate from helps to be able to act in spite of the anxiety. These tips are great for owning your own business but they are equally relevant to negotiating your salary at work or navigating needs in important relationships in your personal life.
I’m going to outline each step with the help of a story I’m pretty proud of. But it’s also the story where no matter what I did or didn’t do, it was anxiety producing. So brace yourself.
I was trying to establish a long term contract with another business owner and he had offered me a fair deal but it wasn’t quite what I was hoping for. Another guy who was a big referral source for me was encouraging me to negotiate this contract. He happened to also be friends with the person I’d be negotiating with.
I didn’t want my referral source to think I couldn’t negotiate and, since these two guys were friends, he’d know if I didn’t do it. If he lost respect for me it would take away a huge chunk of my business. I felt anxious about negotiating and I felt anxious about not negotiating. What’s a girl to do?
So there I be, sitting in anxiety. Hey, that rhymed…
I couldn’t risk losing my referral source so I decided to face my fear and ask for more money. I was successful in getting what I wanted and when I stopped to break down how I did it, I realized you need to know this, too.
1. Describe the situation and why it’s a problem. For me that sounded something like, “Hey! Thanks for sending your offer. I noticed you were offering X and I know that’s a fair offer but I was hoping more for X. With my expenses, I’m needing something more in that ballpark.”
2. Ask clearly for what you want. We’ve all been to a bad restaurant and you talk to the manager about how bad your food was hoping they won’t charge you for the food only to come away with a piece of pie you didn’t want, still having to pay.
It may seem obvious to you based on context, but you have to clearly ask. For me that looked like this, “I’m thinking that for me to see this as a long term relationship, I’d want something more like X. Can we get there?” Don’t skip this step just because you think that what you want is obvious. You’ll end up with that piece of pie instead of the free meal.
3. Explain why what you are asking for is better for the other person, too. You might be thinking to yourself how in the world are you going to convince someone that paying you more money is better for them. I know, I know but hear me out.
I reminded him that he and I were looking for a form a long term partnership and if the difference between what I could make on my own and what I could make with him was too great, I’d see him as a short term partner.
I reiterated that I really wanted to work with him for the long haul and thought it would be financially better for him to start out giving me more money because me partnering with him long-term would be his best bet in making more money with me. He knew I was right.
This skill is vital. Hear me, I said VITAL. If you are asking something of someone that you know they aren’t going to want to give, you MUST be able to explain to them why it’s better for them.
Don’t get this skill confused with an ultimatum. You’re sentence here should not read “because if you do I won’t leave.” That’s an ultimatum and they usually backfire. I’ve done it and it’s a story for another time. The person should come away thinking “yes, this will be better for me.” If they do, it’s downhill from there.
4. Be prepared to negotiate. You want X, they want Z, negotiating is figuring out what Y is. There are some really important things to keep in mind about negotiating. First, know your absolute minimum before you have this conversation. This number is the “if it’s less than this, I walk away” number (but don’t use that line as your sales pitch because it sounds more like an ultimatum). Then, start out with a higher asking price.
I think there’s some etiquette here that bears mentioning. If the original offer is $10, don’t ask for $1000. You risk offending the person you are trying to get something from. If you don’t believe me, watch Shark Tank.
They may feel like you are trying to take advantage of them and either dig their heels in on their original offer or back out entirely. You don’t want either of those responses. In my case, I asked for a 10% increase, knowing I’d be happy with 5%. He came back to me with 5% and a few additional ways I could make more money with him and I accepted.
You have to be willing to negotiate here. You can’t ask the other party to give you $50 more, they offer you $30 and you counter with $48.5. That’s rude. If you are going to ask them to negotiate, you have to negotiate.
5. Know when and how to walk away (if necessary). Thankfully, I got what I wanted but there are times that even with your best skills in place, you can’t come to an agreement that works for you. If they offer you $10 and you know you really need more like $1000, you can try to negotiate but chances are your expectations and their expectations are too different to meet in a satisfying middle. That means it’s time to walk away.
It’s really important not to burn your bridges when you part ways. You never know when your situation or their situation will change and you might re-enter negotiations. You also want to preserve your reputation and your self respect so walking away with a “screw them” mentality leaking out in your communication can really come back to bite you.
If you have to walk away with, go with something like “I hate that we weren’t able to come to something that works for both of us but I wish you well and hope that we can work together in the future.” Professional. Kind. Clean. That’s how you walk away.
Using this framework, I’ve been able to negotiate some pretty sweet deals for myself. I used this to convince my graduate program to allow my class to receive our degrees early. I’ve used this to network with other business owners in my field and substantially increase my referral base despite us technically being in competition with each other.
AJ even used this to get a promotion at work. It works! It doesn’t work 100% of the time but following this outline improves your chances of getting what you want or need professionally and personally.
I’d love to hear your success stories! Have you used this and if so, how did it work for you? Do you have tips you’d add? Leave it in the comments and share this post with your friends. They may need it too 😉