“Let us never negotiate out of fear,” said former President John F. Kennedy. “But let us never fear to negotiate.” Fear is everywhere in business, and even the word “fear” can make us shudder.
Overcoming fear is a huge part of negotiation.
A recent Salary.Com survey showed that nearly 60 percent of survey respondents said they dread salary negotiation. I felt strongly that we all (especially women) need tools to strengthen ourselves as negotiators, so I wrote a book that summarizes what I have learned in the sports, entertainment and media worlds. Top business books promise success, but they don’t always address the underlying fears.
Personally, I don’t think success is as likely without a direct look at the fears that hold us back. If you one of the majority that fears hammering out your salary package, how empowering would it be to turn your fear into confidence? The reason I wrote “A Winner’s Guide to Negotiating: How Conversation Gets Deals Done” (McGraw-Hill) was to offer you a simple but powerful set of tools that will help you gain confidence as a negotiator right away. By practicing these tools, habit will override your fear.
A great need
No one majors in negotiation skills. Most of us learned the hard way, studying veteran deal makers and perhaps learning under their wings. There’s a dearth of quality teachers, reflected in results of surveys like Salary.com’s: most respondents said they learned whatever negotiation skills they have on their own, with no help from anyone. If you’re reading this from an office or corporate setting, it’s highly unlikely that negotiating skills are part of your leadership training or professional development. That’s a shame, because I know from experience that negotiation is a skill that can be learned. It’s also something we do everyday, more than we sometimes realize, Creating awareness, fostering courage and applying tools to negotiation were all reasons to write this book. Top business books fill gaps in knowledge, and that’s another reason for “A Winner’s Guide to Negotiating.” The same survey showed that 86 percent of respondents reported a desire to learn how to negotiate more effectively. They aren’t happy being afraid. There’s too much at stake!
What Fear Can Look Like
As a sports agent, I worked in a tight gap, between where elite performers shine, and where they want to—or could—go next. There are multiple layers and complexity to that space. Time may be the biggest factor. For the top athletes, the window for them to excel is very short, and seizing that moment means everything. Payroll caps, free agency, the threat of arbitration, even trends like “money ball” are some of many other factors at play. Negotiating is at the heart of everything, and fear can be there too, believe me. There’s so much on the line that it’s easy for people to get anxious and defensive. Negotiators must stay open and responsive, and always observe and take in as much information as possible.
For 20 years I negotiated contracts and branding deals for 300 clients including top pro athletes, broadcasters, coaches universities, manufacturers, and teams. Together, I’ve done probably more than $500 million in deals—from a record-setting “ball, shoe, glove” deal with Nike, an appearance after Hall of Fame induction in Cooperstown or a multimillion dollar contract for pitcher John Smoltz, or multiple contracts for Cy Young winners, All-Stars, Hall of Famers, Emmy Award-winning broadcasters. None of the deals are linear, and neither is the rest of life.
As the mother of one and then twins born 12 months later, I’ve negotiated deals while standing on the sidelines of my kids’ soccer fields. As in parenting or any deep relationship, negotiating well means always being ready. The most rewarding deals for me haven’t been the ones that are the most lucrative but rather the ones that change lives. Often the change is from fear to desire. Instead of dreading negotiation, I saw how a dialogue put everyone at ease and more open to finding a mutually satisfying agreement. Negotiation is about relationships, and relationships are about conversation.
The Importance of Belief
All the information in the world isn’t going to make a difference if you don’t believe it. Top business books are powerful because they have simplified and clarified the most difficult challenges. That clarity builds enthusiasm and confidence. My book is built around five core tools necessary for any successful negotiation. They are spelled out with personal anecdotes and are easy to grasp, and I believe you will be able to put them to work for you immediately.
Your Game Changer Takeaway
Before we negotiate with others, we have to negotiate with ourselves, and get a handle on our fears. Without that understanding, we cannot clear the way for success that is the aim of so many top business books. Let me leave you with this inspiring thought from author Toni Morrison: “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” That was one of my motivations, my drivers. If there’s a goal that you want to reach, but it requires external support, then you must negotiate it. I know a top business book that can help .
The Molly Fletcher Company inspires leaders, teams and organizations to kick-start growth. A keynote speaker and author, Molly draws on her decades of experiences working as a sports agent. Her company’s Game Changer Negotiation Training workshops teach businesspeople the framework for successful negotiating, so that you can close more deals while building stronger relationships. Sign up here to receive our weekly newsletter and subscribe to the Game Changers with Molly Fletcher podcast on iTunes.