Thursday, October 20, 2011

Women in Negotiation

“Ty Gitou?”

A young woman stood in the doorway of Tyler’s office. Tyler came out from behind his desk to greet her.

“Yes, hello. I am Tyler Gitou. How can I help you?”

“My name is Janice Lumere. My friend Kevin Delclinchy is in sales with the company. He said you were the Deal Whisperer and you might be able to give me some advice on how to become a better negotiator.”

“I’d be delighted to speak with you,” Tyler said. “Please sit down. What are the issues you are dealing with?”

Janice sat in one of two chairs in front of Tyler’s desk. Tyler sat in the one next to her.

“Well, nothing just yet. I just got a job in the sales group and wondered if you had any advice on how to talk with potential clients. Most of the people I am working with are older and usually they are…”

“Male.” Tyler said. He smiled. “Let me compliment you on two points. First, your ability to recognize the fact that there is a difference between men and women in how they sell and negotiate. As much as we try to convince ourselves that we are all equal, women truly do have more hurdles to overcome when negotiating with men and other women. Second, your desire to address and overcome the problem. For someone so early in her career you are showing great maturity in taking action to resolve issues that might limit your success. Many young professionals believe that when they ask for help it is a sign of weakness. In fact, it is a sign of strength when you leverage others’ skills and knowledge to make an organization more successful.”

“Thank you,” Janice said. “Kevin spoke highly of you and I can already see why. So what are the differences and what can I do to address them?”

“There are many and we can’t cover them all in one conversation. But let me give you a start. First, when I say the word ‘negotiation’ what adjectives pop into your head?”

Janice thought a moment. “Difficult; confrontational; demanding…”

“And why do you have that perception when you think about negotiation?”

“Because I need to win and the other side wants to win and I have to overcome some overly aggressive male in order to succeed.”

“And what if you can’t overcome this challenging man?”

“I guess I have to hold my ground as long as I can and then in the end give in for the relationship.”

Tyler laughed. “That’s perfect. You have articulated a universal perception many young women and men have about negotiation. The difference is in what women and men typically view as the ideal outcome of that ‘competition’. The studies I have read on this topic say that women are challenged by a cultural barrier that causes them to believe that negotiation is confrontational. Because women generally focus more on relationship they often won’t counter an offer or ask for more because it might create a negative perception of them as ‘difficult” or ‘pushy’ thereby hurting the relationship. Their negotiation style then often runs from ‘compete’ to ‘accommodate’. Make a demand to get some movement but stop and concede before it might hurt the relationship.”

“That all resonates with me. I feel like I have been through that scenario. So what do I do about it?”

“Come see me next week and we will discuss two elements a Deal Whisperer uses to build a collaborative sales and negotiation environment: legitimacy and perceptions. If we focus on those two first, you will soon find yourself a more confident salesperson and negotiator.”

(See "Women in Negotiation Part 2.")

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