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Negotiate Like a Pro: Three Questions with Communications Expert Fotini Iconomopoulos

Negotiate Like a Pro: Three Questions with Communications Expert Fotini Iconomopoulos

With a childhood nickname of “the negotiator”, it’s no wonder that today Fotini Iconomopoulos is an expert communicator with a passion for helping organizations and individuals get what they want.

For the last decade, Fotini has worked with Fortune 500 clients and audiences to help them achieve their business goals, increase profitability, and create a competitive advantage. She thrives in high-stake scenarios, so of course we had to tap into her knowledge so we too can be negotiation-ready.

Fotini shares some of her insight below into the do’s and don’t’s of the negotiation process.

Why do you think people tend to fear the negotiation process?

A combination of a couple of things. There is some legitimate fear that the other party might rescind the offer, but most of the time it seems that it’s ego that holds people back. There is so much fear of rejection, fear of making a mistake, fear of looking foolish, and fear of not being liked. That emotional ego element is what drives so much irrational behaviour and can prevent one from maximizing the opportunities in front of them or from attempting them at all.

Is there a popular technique you see people using that you would recommend against? And what would you suggest in its place? 

The most common mistake I see is letting the other party make the first proposal. People will say “but I don’t know what their reaction will be or if I’ve over/underestimated my proposal.” Here’s the thing: in this day and age, you are rarely entering into a negotiation where you don’t have some general idea of what to expect. There is market data, historical precedent, and, beyond Google, people to speak to for advice and guidance. If you’ve done even a little preparation there’s no reason to go in clueless or fearful about what to propose. You’re unlikely to piss off the other party or sell yourself short.

There is a benefit in going first. If you go into a salary negotiation with an expectation of $100k and, before you have a chance to say anything, they tell you “the offer is $85k” you’re going to have panic wondering how you were so off base and doubting if you should even counter with your ridiculously high figure because they must know more about market values and the experience you bring. But wait—no they don’t!

You did your homework and you know that you’re more skilled than the average applicant so you shouldn’t be paid the low end of the salary range. But all of that logic went out the window when they went first. They set an anchor and they manage to create doubt. If YOU had gone first, they would have been thinking, “maybe we underestimated this person so we should put together a more competitive offer.”

Study after study shows us that, when prepared, the person who goes first ends up getting a better deal. That’s the reason why when you walk into a used car dealership, you’ll see a giant sticker on the windshield. That’s their chance to anchor their number first before you’ve even had a chance to exchange pleasantries. If you’ve done your homework get your number out there before they have a chance to rattle your confidence! You’ll get much closer to your figure instead of theirs.

You mention that likeability is key in the negotiation process. How do you straddle that line in remaining likeable while firm in your stance?

That’s a difficult one as it requires self-control. The key thing to remember is that we want to work with people we like BUT likeability doesn’t come from being generous and giving people everything they want. That just manages their expectations to want more next time.

We like people who we have something in common with, who pay us genuine compliments, and who are perceived as cooperative. All of that happens before the negotiation starts and gets you TO the negotiation table, so stop sweating about being liked during the negotiation process. Once you get to the negotiation table focus on being respected because you already checked enough likeability to get you on your way to a great deal!

When she’s not strategizing with clients, Fotini is a sought-after speaker on negotiation, communication, leadership and conflict management, and is passionate about helping people develop the confidence to take on whatever challenges come their way.

Interested in learning more about Fotini and what she can bring to your next event? Email us at [email protected].

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