Whether you know it or not, project negotiation simply goes with the territory. If you are a project manager you probably don’t even realize how often you are negotiating for something to help your engagement along or to keep the customer happy or to get the right team member added for an upcoming project task. It happens more often than we realize. And if you aren’t already a good negotiator, you better work on getting there because some type of negotiation is required of the project manager and possibly even some of the project team members on nearly every single project.
The key is to win these negotiations
When you are negotiating salary or an hourly or retainer rate on a consulting engagement, do you always win? No, probably not. When you’re negotiating with your wife on who is going to get up at 3 AM to feed or change the baby, do you always win? Possibly never. But on our projects, when we know there has to be a conclusive give and take, we’d like to always get our way. I don’t mean “I want it my way or else” – nothing like that scenario. We need to be ready to give up things if there is something we need badly on our project – so I’m not talking about “getting ahead”. I’m talking about getting that thing that WE need. Getting that thing that is important to the project to keep it on track. That is what we want to win. Every time? But how?
5 steps or practices will help you get there. They won’t guarantee negotiation success as I suggest in the title. Nothing can guarantee any success – but these 5 actions or steps can certainly help make sure you win nearly every single time. Let’s consider…
Document your side well. Never go into any negotiation – especially an important one with the project customer – without good documentation showing why you need what you need and how what you are trying to negotiate will help the project in the long run, not hurt it.
Practice the discussion. Practice what you’re going to say. You need to be well-spoken and ready to answer questions. Anticipate what the client will throw back at you at every turn. That way you are ready with follow-up information. You want this to go fast and end well for you.
Give at least as good as you are getting. Make sure you’re making it at least as good for them as it will be for you. We understand that you’re really not trying to be selfish…you’re doing this for the project. But if you need it you’ll need to be ready to give something to the client as well. That’s why it’s called negotiation.
Include something free and make sure they know it. Always try to give away something free to the client and make sure they know you’re giving it away to them for free. Again, the goal is to make it an easy “yes” for them.
Look, sound, and act confident even if you aren’t. Finally, in the “fake it till you make it” vein, make sure that you look, sound and act confident. You’ll eventually get good at it, but you always need to exude confidence to the project client. That will help get a “yes” and keep them happy at the same time.
Summary/call for input
Let’s face it, as PM’s we have to be good negotiators. There are going to be those times when we need to get things done, get the right resource, or move some dates around with the customer. We can’t always just ask. We must justify, give something in return for what we want, and prove that it won’t hurt the project in the end.
How about our readers – when have you found yourself in the negotiator role? What tactics did you employ to get what you needed to be done for your project? What tips do you have for others reading this article?