It will probably come as no surprise to some of you that men and women differ in some important respects. Whether it is the simple task of asking for directions, or different preferences in entertainment, it is obvious that women and men often approach the world from different perspectives. These differences have important ramifications on the negotiating table.
To this effect, studies have found that women set lower goals than men prior to negotiations, are more passive than men during negotiations, and feel less satisfied than men after negotiations. Of course, negotiation skills are of critical importance to women entrepreneurs, whose ability to negotiate may mean the beginning or the end of their business.
These tendencies are by no means pre-ordained. Rather, they stem from societal influences that foster a desire in women to be perceived in a certain way. The good news is that they can be recognized and overcome.
Here are two common problems women have with negotiation and how to resolve them:
1. Appearing Too Aggressive
Many women have difficulty negotiating without feeling overly aggressive. Many women do not want to be perceived in a negative way and restrain from making demands. This can be remedied by preparing for a negotiation and focusing on external criteria. For example, in making an offer, you can point to external sources which take the onus off of you. Instead of “I want $500 for my services”, you can say, “this is what other individuals charge for similar services.”
2. Not Using Natural Strengths
Women have natural skills that make them powerful negotiators. Women often feel they have to play the men’s game and negotiate “like a man.” Women should use their tendency to listen and engage to open discussion to finding out more about their counterparts interests. The better you understand these interests, the more you will know what matters to the other side (and it will help you demonstrate how you can meet these interests.)
You will get more out of a cooperative environment than a competitive one. Open the negotiation by setting a cooperative tone. Your job in a negotiation is a joint one – and that is to reach a deal that works for both of you. If one party fails, so will the other. And don’t be afraid to mention the importance of the business relationship – studies show that when women include mention of the business relationship in their offers, it is less likely that they will be perceived as being aggressive.
If you would like to hear more, join my friend Harvard lecturer Matt Smith for a 30 minute webinar on Negotiation for Female Entrepreneurs next Wednesday, March 10, 2010.
For readers in the Los Angeles area, there is a full-day workshop being provided on March 20, 2010.