Lauren: Hi, I am Lauren Stiebing and welcome to this episode of the Career Success Podcast. Today, we will address the topic of negotiation. Negotiation is a part of everyone’s day to day, whether in their personal or professional life. I’ve spoken with many individuals who feel very uncomfortable when negotiating. And for this reason, I’ve invited Minerva Acevedo to discuss with us how she has been successful in negotiations. Welcome Minerva.
Minerva: Thank you so much for having me.
Lauren: Thank you for joining us today. Why don’t you share with us a bit of background on yourself and your experience with negotiation?
Minerva: Certainly, I have worked in consumer-packaged goods in both marketing and sales roles, in global companies, in the health and wellness industry with Johnson & Johnson and in food with McCormick & Company. Through both experiences, I have been exposed to negotiations with large corporations such as Costco, Wal-Mart and some of the top Canadian retailers and media companies. I have received one-on-one training from top firms industry and also from business school.
My experience ranges from contract negotiation, releasing a brand on shelf. As well, I have experienced challenges and business impacts from making assumptions about you know what the other party expected and not really understanding their motivations and objectives. Internally, I also negotiate every other day with supply chain marketing and finance, mostly on an ongoing basis and lastly at a personal level, negotiation has been key especially for example, at the end of my marriage, which was really not a conscious uncoupling experience like Gwyneth Paltrow. So, I tried to use some of my learning’s to ensure an outcome I would be satisfied with.
Lauren: Okay. So you’re using it both in your professional and personal life then?
Lauren: And what do you think are some of the biggest misconceptions about negotiation?
Minerva: I think that many people assume negotiation and selling are the same thing and try to approach them in the same way while they are not. Selling is promoting the attributes of a product, service or an idea while negotiating should about you know, maximizing value and really involves a lot of planning, research, questioning, listening for what’s being said but also to what’s not being said in order to have better control of the outcome. Also, some people think that negotiations are only for unions or heads of state or sales and procurement departments, major corporations conducting mergers and acquisitions but we all are involved you know, conscious or unconscious negotiations almost every day from buying a car, getting your kids to sleep at bed time or who’s going to take the garbage out. To also negotiating a salary increase or even as a severance package really depending on the situation there might be value in taking the time to negotiate, but it’s also important to know that not everything is worth negating.
Lauren: Why do you think many people feel uncomfortable in negotiations?
Minerva: I think it really is human nature and the perception that negotiations are about having conflict or maybe they fear that our proposal might be rejected by the other party which really feels very personal and it makes us feel vulnerable. It may seem like an intimidating process because we also have our egos and they get in the way and we let our emotions get involved. We tend to associate negotiations with being fair or about compromise when it really depends on the specific situation and how well we can control the process in order to achieve the outcome we desire. It’s not really necessarily about winning.
Lauren: Yeah. And what can be done to overcome these challenges?
Minerva: Well, I think that we need to start by understanding our own position and the outcomes that we are striving for. Then at the same time, we need to identify potential trade-offs that provide value to the other party. We then need to get out of our own heads and into the other party’s head. This means doing research, asking questions to understand their strategy, their positioning and really more importantly listening to them to identify areas where we might be able to influence. Really creativity is very important. I think that maybe of the table at some point, may become a bridge to move through difficult negotiations thing; you know, carry this process forward. As an example, a contract doesn’t necessarily have to be about financial value only, maybe improved delivery times or a reduction in packaging would help the other party in their effort to be more sustainable and it would be perhaps a welcomed proposition that can help deliver satisfaction to the other party as they send… as they get a sense of accomplishment.
Lauren: mm-hmm. So in order to come out of a negotiation feeling successful, what would you say are the top three takeaways?
Minerva: Well, I would say try to come out of every meeting with something even if it’s only securing another meeting and do not be afraid of putting your proposal on the table first so that that’s the one that gets talked about.
Minerva: Second, once you’re being comfortable… being uncomfortable, you get more clarity to choose the strategy and be flexible but never lose sight of your expected outcome and the kind of relationship that you want to have in the future after you’re done negotiating. And finally, I would say embrace negotiation as a process to learn more about the other party, being curious and being genuine, being engaged; this is going to help create value not just for your own interest. Again, once the negotiation is over, continue to be aware of any changes in the other party strategy so that you’re not caught off guard when their objectives change; it’s an ongoing process.
Lauren: Minerva, thank you so much for joining us today on our Career Success Podcast.
Minerva: Thank you so much to you, Lauren.