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What Are Top Negotiation Strategies for Women in Sales?

Make sure you’re getting paid what you’re worth.

I don’t like to negotiate for my services. It’s uncomfortable, because I know the pricing and terms for my referral system are fair. When clients pull out their negotiation strategies, it’s easy to get sucked into defensive mode and cave on price—even though my clients always agree that building a referral culture takes more than training. It takes commitment to a referral sales strategy. It’s a discipline that requires metrics, building skills, integrating referrals into their sales process, providing reinforcement and coaching, and ensuring accountability. Without these components, there’s no chance a referral sales strategy will gain traction. Everyone loses.

I used to be hesitant about quoting price (their investment), even though making the ROI case was easy. Let’s face it. Every client wants to get the best price. Negotiation strategies are part of their job. I’m no longer hesitant, because I know (and my ideal clients know) what it takes to get results. If they can’t find the budget for a referral system for 15 people, I suggest they start with 12. If they want to pay over several months, that’s OK. Either way, they get results, and I’m paid what I’m worth.

Of course, it took me decades before I got to this point. Many women in sales still lack the negotiation strategies they need to confidently insist they get what they deserve.

It’s well-known and researched that women typically don’t negotiate for salary. Women tend to have anxiety about negotiation, which messes up any chance of success at the get-go. But why do women in sales have a different attitude about negotiating on their own behalf, and how can they get better at it?

Suzanne de Janasz and Beth Cabrera answer those questions in their recent HBR article, “How Women Can Get What They Want in a Negotiation.” Below is a sneak peek at their research and insights:

How Women Can Get What They Want in a Negotiation

Tara, an MD/PhD who works for a large public university, contacted one of us (Suzanne) a few weeks after participating in a negotiation workshop she ran, wanting to share some positive news about successfully negotiating an 11% pay increase. A faculty member for six years, she had come to learn that she was not only underpaid but also had a higher teaching and clinic load than others in her group. She, like many women, accepted her job offer without negotiating.

How common is Tara’s situation? Research suggests that 20% of women never negotiate at all. A woman who opts not to negotiate her starting salary upon graduation will forgo an average of $7,000 the first year, and will lose between $650,000 and $1 million over the course of a 45-year career. Why would women leave money on the table? There are several factors. When selecting metaphors for the process of negotiation, men pick “winning a ballgame,” while women pick “going to the dentist.” Expectations drive behavior. If women see negotiation as a chore, they either don’t negotiate or do so in ways that can hurt the outcome. There is also the (very real) fear, backed by research, that negotiating may come at the cost of being disliked.

The good news is that negotiating skills can be enhanced. Based on a growing body of research on gender in negotiations, combined with burgeoning research on positivity and mindfulness, we offer five strategies that can help women both choose to engage and perform more effectively in negotiations.

(Read the rest of the article on HBR.org.)

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