Whether you’re fresh out of college and considering job offers, well ensconced in your career and working on high-profile deals, or you’ve opted to stay at home to raise your children and run your household, negotiations are a part of everyday life.
In my role as executive vice president of development and acquisitions for the Trump Organization and founder and CEO of my own lifestyle brand, I’ve had a lot of practice negotiating. I’ve successfully convinced others to let me redevelop the historic Old Post Office Pavilion on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C. I also led the acquisition of the iconic 800-acre Doral Resort & Spa from my hospital bed after giving birth to my daughter, Arabella. (Speaking of children, I get to hone my negotiation skills each day at home; no one negotiates more aggressively than a toddler—and I have two!)
Meticulous preparation, an even temperament and a genuine love of the game are all factors I attribute to my success in this arena. If you’re working on your own skills, there are several tips I consider crucial when it comes to sealing the deal and (graciously) getting what you want:
1. Set your goals in advance
Know what you want to achieve prior to starting to negotiate. It’s the golden rule but the one most people fail to heed. Without a plan, you allow the opposing party to define your goals instead of the other way around.
2. Think long-term
When forming your goals, consider that negotiations are the beginning—or the continuation—of a long-term relationship, and there’s nothing worse than being in a relationship with someone who feels like they’ve been screwed. Oftentimes, the best negotiations result in a deal that benefits both parties. There are times when you simply want to go for the jugular, but often, you want the other person to feel pleased with the outcome, even if you are the clear victor. Which brings me to my next point…
3. Try to understand the other person’s objectives
The most valuable thing you can do is correctly identify the other person’s top priorities. Often, they’re not at odds with yours; you can give them what they want so they feel like they’ve won, all at little cost to yourself. Yes, negotiating is about money and the bottom line, but a lot of times, it’s much more emotional and complex than that. Realizing that the economic outcome may not be the other party’s top priority gives you more chips to play with and will enable you to achieve better results than you may have anticipated.
The more you know, the stronger your position. Are you asking for a raise? Do your research and know your market value. Having an informed sense of your worth, as dictated by the broader marketplace, will give you greater confidence in requesting increased compensation. It’s tough to dispute someone who can back up her assertions with facts and a smart, articulate argument.
5. Don’t negotiate via email
It’s a cop-out that benefits the weaker party by allowing them to avoid a direct confrontation and take more time to craft a strong response. It’s also easy to misjudge tone, which can be dangerous. I always prefer to speak face-to-face, typically in my own office, where I’m most comfortable.
6. Listen more than you speak
When people are uncomfortable, and many people are when they have to negotiate, they start rambling as a way to fill the vacuum of silence. Some of the strongest negotiators I know just sit back and listen. The less they engage, the more likely the other person is to slip up and offer information they otherwise would have kept guarded.
7. Pay attention to the messages you’re sending with your body language
It has been said that only 7% of communication is verbal. The rest of the message is conveyed through nonverbal cues, including facial expressions, gestures, posture and audible elements, like sighs. Consider this as you think about how you present yourself. Don’t fidget. Don’t pick your nails or tap your foot. Do you look overeager because you’re literally on the edge of your seat? Are you hunched over and drumming your nails—communicating aggression or frustration—or do you appear meek and intimidated, with your arms crossed protectively? The way in which you carry yourself, even when seated at a desk, matters. Regardless of how fast your heart may be beating, sit upright, make eye contact and focus on breathing evenly.
8. Be mentally prepared to walk away
Be it a job offer or a rent renewal, you may at some point need to let it be known that you’re willing to walk if you can’t get on the same page regarding terms. If things get too heated, you can always take a break. Say, “We’re obviously not on the same page. Let’s take a day or two to think about things and then reconnect.” Negotiations can get back on track pretty quickly when you allow people the time to cool off.
If you do decide to walk away, it doesn’t have to mean that the deal is dead. If you decide later that you want it badly enough, you can still go back and accept the deal on the other person’s terms—even if you have to swallow your pride a bit in order to do so.
9. Practice when the stakes are low
Practice negotiating, and hone your style and skills with low-consequence transactions. Call the phone company, and threaten to switch providers if they won’t give you a better deal on your service going forward. Go to a boutique, and ask for a discount. Sales associates usually have the latitude to discount an item up to 10% without a manager’s approval. When the stakes are low, it’s a great time to work on your skills. Plus, it can be fun.
When I bid out our construction projects, I call contractors personally to close the deal and get the best price or enhance the scope of their deliverable. You don’t get what you don’t ask for.
Ivanka Trump is the executive vice president of development and acquisitions of the Trump Organization and founder and CEO of the Ivanka Trump Collection and the #WomenWhoWork initiative.
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