We have all seen the statistics by now. Women are getting paid less than male counterparts while often putting in longer hours. In addition to this, women are typically hired based on past performance while men are hired based on their future potential, as I learned from the CEO of The Female Quotient and founder of The Girls’ Lounge, Shelley Zalis. She addressed this at the fifth annual “Deal With It,” a women’s conference hosted by the Motion Picture & Television Fund.
The event is designed to give women practical advice and counsel in career, estate planning, finance, health and wellness and more. One thing that was covered that really stood out to me was how negotiation, in any field or context, is something women just don’t learn enough about. If we are going to have equality in the workplace and beyond, negotiation skills are extremely important.
Know who you are dealing with
Whether it is a Fortune 500 executive or the car dealership down the block, knowing who you are dealing with is the first step toward negotiation success. Understanding their background and familiarizing yourself with the logistics of their rank and career can help you maneuver a negotiation. Doing your research on who you are negotiating with can make or break a deal, as I have seen time and again with my own clients and experiences.
As women, many of us are hard on ourselves and are afraid to negotiate firmly. My friend Bryn Freedman, one of the leading speaker coaches at TED, shared with me recently, “Being authentic and standing up for ourselves starts by quieting our inner critic. This critic is in all of us but it’s not your true self no matter how much it feels that way. Your true inner voice is kind, it advocates for you and, without being strident, knows that you deserve to reach your goals. The more you speak to yourself with love, the louder and clearer your authentic voice becomes.”
Before demanding an unrealistic or perhaps undeserved ask in a negotiation, be sure to do your research. Look into what others with your level of expertise are asking for or making. Also, “Never pull the gender card when discussing qualifications, or really in any environment,” stated Beverly Hills Chief of Police Sandra Spagnoli at the conference. Seeking equality is the heart of feminism, and using gender as a reason for a raise doesn’t aid anyone in both a negotiation situation and the greater movement for equality.
Leave emotion at the door
As with purchasing a car or home, don’t show even a glimmer of anger, annoyance, excitement or anything other than calm professionalism. Your emotions and microexpressions are likely being analyzed and assessed during every moment of the negotiation.
Hire a coach, talk in the mirror, or get a friend or colleague to run through scenarios and sample questions that could come up in your negotiation — any sort of preparation is beneficial for a successful negotiation. As my friend and successful entrepreneur, Ashley Sumner shared in my interview with her, “Don’t let the first time you ask for what you want, be said to the person you need it from the most. It’s important to think it through and practice saying it, out loud, to a trusted friend.”
Make a list
It’s a mistake going into negotiations without writing down exactly what your goals are ahead of time and knowing exactly what you will accept and not accept.
Don’t wait for a boss to say, “Here are your benefits.” Ask for what you want instead. You are making yourself more powerful by writing down a proposal for your requirements and never being too afraid to bring it to the table.
Get everything in writing
In any negotiation, you can be promised the moon but unless you get it in writing you are not guaranteed a thing! This is something I learned the hard way over the years. It’s worth it to push for paperwork to back up everything that is said.
Put your offer on the table and then stay silent. Human nature will tempt you into filling the quiet, but don’t! Spagnoli insisted to “use your silence as a benefit.”
Act for what you want
Talk, think and dress for what you want — not what you have. You don’t need to spend an enormous amount on designer clothes. It is possible to look the part – whatever that might be for your profession and come across very polished on a reasonable budget.
Be willing to walk away
Know it is okay to walk away; if they truly want you, they will always come back. Despite what it may feel like at the time, there is always another opportunity, and if the offer was not ideal, it is all right to leave the situation empty-handed. Don’t allow this setback to destroy your confidence, productivity or happiness.
This article first appeared on BusinessCollective.