You don’t get what you deserve; you get what you negotiate. You’re going to be negotiating constantly as you scale your startup; might as well get a jump on it.
Consider this book from Stanford professor Maggie Neale: Getting (More of) What You Want. It highlights dozens of lessons from studies of high-stakes negotiations she teaches in her Stanford course.
For example, in one study she cites, male MBAs negotiated a 7 percent higher starter salary than the women MBAs got. However, most of the women MBAs didn’t ask for more. When women MBAs negotiated, they were also able to get an average 7 percent higher starting salary. In other words–you don’t have to accept; you have options if you open your mind to higher expectations.
Here are three big ideas Neale teaches in her top-ranked Stanford negotiating course that you can apply right now at your startup, without paying the Stanford tuition:
1. Set an aspiration
Most people are pretty sure of their bottom line. Many are also relatively fluent in coming up with next-best alternatives. These are your “fallback positions.” Few people focus on creating an aspirational goal for the negotiation. You should.
Setting an aspiration sets your focus, so you don’t focus on your bottom line or your fallback positions. If you just have your alternatives top of mind, you tend to drive toward them. In other words, you settle. Setting an aspiration acts like an antidote to settling. The research is clear: Negotiators who focus on an aspiration perform significantly better than those who don’t.
A little warning to you Type A’s out there–if you set your aspirations high, you’ll feel worse after the negotiation, even though you will have performed better than if you had not. That’s why so many negotiators shy away from creating the aspiration–you end up doing better overall, but because you missed the best-case outcome, you feel like you failed.
2. Use the word agree
If there’s a power word in negotiating, it’s not yes or no–it’s agree, says Neale. Using it liberally can create a positive synergy that helps move your negotiation forward. For example, listing all the issues you and your other party agree on can build consensus so that the other party wants to agree with you on more things. This is similar to another tactic that effective negotiators use–mimicry. Reflecting some of the physical cues of your other party can increase their trust and liking, which also helps build consensus.
3. Hire a woman to represent you
Women are 14 to 23 percent more successful than men are when representing others. Neale jokes that this means you simply must hire more women litigators and board members. In all seriousness, though, much of the negative bias associated with women and negotiation flips when the woman is negotiating on behalf of others. “As a woman, it is unacceptable for me to be greedy on my own, but it’s completely acceptable for me to negotiate for someone else, because that is a caretaking thing, a communal thing,” says Neale. “So the question is how can you, in your own mind, frame your negotiations as representative?”
Negotiating is a learned skill–that’s why it’s a course at Stanford. By applying these simple techniques and learning more, you can increase your options and your opportunities.
Originally published in Lisa’s column in Inc. Magazine.