Negotiating tips from a master-level negotiator

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Stuart Diamond is a professor at Wharton Business School.

From behind the lectern at Wharton Business School, to the candy-colored halls of Google, to an upcoming trip to a military base in Afghanistan, Stuart Diamond wants people to know how to negotiate. His book, “Getting More: How You Can Negotiate to Succeed in Work and Life” takes a realistic perspective — coaxing a cranky toddler to bed, asking for a raise, getting a job after switching careers — to teach people how they can achieve more. Diamond says the key to negotiation is just to have a good conversation. Here’s what we learned from our good conversation with Diamond:

Focus on your skills
Experience is not why people give you a job. It’s all about skills. I encourage people to figure out not what experience they have, but what skills. It’s the skill the employer wants. I once counseled a medical doctor about moving into a financial consulting career. He had leadership abilities, he was organized and he had a vision. He said: “You can teach me the financial stuff I need to know,” and he was right. People assume experience means skills but it doesn’t.

Negotiating a job or a raise is about them — not you.
A good negotiation is just a conversation. The less stressful it is,the better. When somebody is sitting across the table looking at you, they’re thinking, “can I stand this person every day?” That’s the pictures in their head. People think it’s a game, it’s not a game or a dance – it’s just a talk.

Know the pictures in their head
My first question to an employer is: “why are you looking for somebody?” I want to find out who they are, I want to find out what’s in their head. Finding out the pictures in their head is the most important way to get more. I once applied at Morgan Stanley. I said: what criteria do you use to hire people? The interviewer replied “what criteria should I use?” I listed all the things I was good at and she hired me! The more you know about the other party, the more you know what to do.

Attitude is really important
If I have a can-do attitude and I’m willing to work any time and anywhere, if I find solutions not problems, that’s what will get me the job. If some one has a lot of experience and bad attitude, I wouldn’t take them over a person with no experience and a great attitude.

The first salary negotiation isn’t as vital as you’d think.
A lot of people think that it’s really important to get the best salary you can going in. I don’t think that’s true. I think it’s important to get a commitment for them to pay you more if you add value going forward. The salary they’re paying you for is budgeted for, but if you say if I add a lot of value to you, people are much more willing to pay out of additional future revinues. What will they pay you next year? People hardly ever do that and it’s a lot better of a way to approach the negotiation.

Ask for intangibles
If they can’t pay you the salary you want but suggest intangibles that don’t cost much, you can sweeten the deal. Moving expenses, tax advice, mortgage cosigning, education and training – there are all kinds of things that HR has at their disposal that don’t cost very much and that people hardly ever ask for. Companies are often only too happy to give you these things.

Talk to your elders
There is always somebody old that’s been put out to pasture at any company, some old guy or woman who’s been there for 40 years who’s about to retire and nobody talks to them. They have the whole company at their hands. They will tell you everything you need to know about succeeding in that company.



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