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5 Negotiating Tips for Solo PR Pros

Everyone negotiates, but not everyone does it well. Negotiations are an exercise in power where both parties fight to the death for the win. In a negotiation, the parties are working to find mutual agreement. In other words, it’s not a contest but a collaboration. Below are 5 tips to help you master the art of negotiations and obtain successful results.

1. Plan ahead. Before going into a negotiation with a new or existing client, you want to gather as much information as possible so that you can prepare your options in advance. Consider the following questions:

  • What are the challenges or pressures that your client is facing?  
  • Are there external factors that will influence the outcome?
  • What options are available to them?What are the alternatives to working with you?

Entering a negotiation means understanding the company and those who will sit at the table with you. Knowing the end goal of your negotiator(s) will allow you to formulate a win for you, them and the company. You will want to attempt to learn the following:

  • What is motivating the negotiator(s)?
  • What do they need to get out of the negotiation?

2. Ask questions and listen to the answers. Make no assumptions in negotiations. Research shows that the best negotiators ask far more questions than average negotiators. Don’t accept answers at face value but ask follow-up questions to gain deeper insights into the “why” of decisions. For example, if a prospect says, “We simply have to cut the budget.” You could follow up with, “I understand completely. Can you tell me how cutting the work we do will impact the goals you’re trying to reach this year?” Don’t be afraid to ask two or three questions in a row. As your questions are answered, listen and confirm that you heard by paraphrasing answers. This will allow the client to hear their words and ensure you are on the same page. It also shows that you are engaged and care about what they are saying.

3. Set the tone. In the Art of War, Sun Tzu advises that one of the essentials for victory is knowing when to fight and when not to fight. Come to the negotiating table with a positive attitude and show your client that you are not there for war but to come to a mutually satisfying conclusion. Negotiations can get tough but remain calm and respectful. Show your client that you are their advocate by seeking a great outcome. After all, you will want to start or maintain a great relationship once negotiations have ended.

4. Know when to hold them. It is important to know what you want to get from the negotiation before it ever starts. Determine the absolute best outcome as well as the baseline needed to make you feel good about working with the client.

5. …and when to fold them. Conversely, you will want to be prepared to compromise if necessary.  Remember that concessions don’t have to be things you give up, but things that you give, such as a value-add service that won't cost you much to do but will show good faith toward your client. Preparing your concessions in advance will help you to think strategically about what you can give or take away that still results in a mutual win. When you concede, negotiate for something in return. For example, tweak the scope of services, or eliminate a task. In this way, it is truly a give and take and not a win-lose.

What are your tips for negotiating with prospects or clients? Please share in the comments or on social media using #solopr.

Photo by Luiz Hanfilaque on Unsplash

  • Daria Steigman

    Great post! I would just add one tip: be comfortable with silence. There are often points in a negotiation when your best strategy is to say nothing. For example, you give a price (or pricing options). Then there’s a silence. Your instinct might be to hedge, or equivocate, and then end up giving away something. Waiting and being comfortable with often uncomfortable silence forces you not to give away information. And if you’re willing to wait, the other party will usually eventually say something. That “something” generally moves the conversation forward.

    Of course, I’m not talking about black holes. When people go radio silent you’re perfectly right to check in. Just don’t forget, as you say in tips 4 and 5, to know when to hold them and know when to fold them.