Byte of Prevention Blog

by Jay Reeves |

3 Bargaining Tips From a Champion Negotiator

negotiatorA great way to improve your odds of landing a dream job is to sharpen your negotiating skills.

And when you get the job, being a good negotiator will help ensure your success in it.

When you walk into an interview room, you might see yourself as a salesman. You’re trying to sell the interviewer on your skills and suitability for the position.

But another approach is to think of yourself as a negotiator. Your goal is not to sell anything, but to meet the needs of the person sitting across the table. You want to leave having reached an agreement that you’re the right person for the job.

The way to get there is through negotiation.

3 Tips From an Award Winner

As a 3L at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law, Mackenzie Drutowski bested students from across the country to win the 2016 ABA Negotiation Competition.

She said the experience helped her personally and professionally. It taught her how to play to her strengths and mitigate her weakness. It made her a better listener and communicator.

Here are three tips she offers to improve your negotiating skills.

1. Prepare, prepare, prepare. Drutowski says there are three levels of preparation. The first is getting a firm grasp on the problem, as well as the needs and interests of your client and the other side. The second level is reviewing the negotiating nuts and bolts – BATNA, opening offers, reservation points – learned in law school. The third level is strategic. “[Work] with your partner to decide how you will strategically approach the negotiation. Discuss how you will frame the issues, come to a consensus on what your client’s priorities are, and think through how you will order your concessions so you can stay on the same page as the negotiation progresses. The year my teammate and I won the competition, we had a chart with all the issues that needed to be negotiated. We had our opening offer on one side and our reservation point on the other, and then we tried to come up with as many offers as we could between the two extremes and we ordered them from best to worst. When competition time came, as the negotiations would progress, we would move across the chart and we both knew what our next move would be.”

2. Give the other side something to say “yes” to. The key here is empathy. “Remember, the best outcome for both sides is coming to a deal that meets their interests. A deal can only happen if both teams believe they can take the deal back to their client and say they won on the issues that mattered most. Always think about this when you are presenting offers to the other side. Highlight how your offer meets their client’s interests and when asking for concessions, have a strong explanation and, whenever possible, objective criteria to justify the ask. Providing solid reasoning for the requested concession makes it easier for the other side to say ‘yes’ because they have an explanation they can bring back to their client.”

3. Grab a beer afterwards. “Before each negotiation, I would draw a beer at the top of my notepad. My goal was to get along with the other side well enough that they would want to grab drinks after the competition. My coaches are diehard advocates of being hard on issues, soft on people. If you are gentle with people, you are able to be fiercer with issues. The most unpleasant and least successful negotiations are the ones where it feels like the other side is just trying to crush you.”

These principles work. Drutowski used them to win a national competition – and to land a job handling mergers and acquisitions at a firm in Chicago.

What negotiating tips would you add to this list?

Source: ABA Journal

About the Author

Jay Reeves

Jay Reeves practiced law in North Carolina and South Carolina. He was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. He is the author of The Most Powerful Attorney in the World, a collection of short stories from a law life well-lived, which as the seasons pass becomes less about law and liability and more about loss, love, longing, laughter and life's lasting luminescence.

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