How to Negotiate
Scotwork director and senior consultant Richard Savage shares his secrets to make us all better negotiators.
by Natasha Raymond
Negotiation is an art, not a science.
Negotiating is a key part of any agent’s role and not something you as a performer should be clueless about either. We can often feel powerless in the industry when it seems like the casting directors hold all the cards, so the last thing we want is to lose an opportunity through conflict. Negotiating is a form of conflict, but it doesn’t always have to end with burning bridges or unmet objectives.
There’s no right or wrong way to go about it. We’re all different people with different perspectives and values, so what we prioritise in negotiations will be different as well. However, all good negotiations can be mapped out into stages that, if gone through correctly, should yield the best results.
Prepare and Plan
Before you meet with the other side, spend some time preparing. Think hard about your objectives and specifically what success might look like. But don’t make the mistake of not thinking about the priorities of those you negotiate with.
What can you do for the other side? What can you get in return? What would you be happy to sacrifice? Maybe you’ll get an idea of what they want before they ask for it.
When you meet, you should share a mutual dialogue where you exchange pleasantries, and both get the chance to say what it is you want. Ensure you listen carefully to what the other side is saying. It’ll be important for when you make a proposal.
Understand Their Needs
Once you’ve heard what the other side is after, try to understand why they want it. If it’s something you can’t give them, what can you offer instead that will fulfil their need? Getting in their headspace will leave you better equipped to negotiate with them.
Make a Proposal
Now for what is the most dreaded step for many: making the proposal. Many are reluctant to make the first proposal, as they think it’ll give the other side the power. However, making the first proposal is the most powerful tool you have.
Make a good proposal, and you gain more control over the deal – it allows you to exploit what power you have. Only you know what you’re after, and if you wait for the other side to make the first proposal, at best they’ll make up what they think you want, and more likely than not it won’t be what you want.
We must be better at learning about the other side, because therein lies the key to getting what we want.
Build the Deal
With the proposal on the table, it’s time to turn it into a deal. The other side might want more than you’re offering, or to give you less than you want, so this is where actual negotiating really comes into play. The basis of negotiation is to offer to do something for the other side if they do something for you.
Alternative strategies to get what you want at this stage can include:
- Persuasion - You might try persuading the other side to let you have what you want. Start spinning a tale about how you getting your way will benefit them as well. Persuasion will cost you nothing, but it can quickly turn into an irritation to the other side.
- Problem-solving - Offering to solve a problem the other side has can actually be an effective thing to do. However, ensure you’re solving the right problem.
- Impose your will – If you have all the power, telling the other side you’re doing or getting something, whether they like it or not, gives you a strong chance of achieving your objective. They’ll have to accept what you want or the negotiation cannot move forward. However, such a strategy could damage the relationship between you and the other side, and taint future negotiations you may have.
- Impose your goodwill - The opposite of above, where you’ll offer to do something for them this time, and in return, they can do something for you next time. However, people can have short memories, and you have no guarantee that your gesture of goodwill will ever be reciprocated.
- Arbitration - Get someone else in the room to make the decision, such as a superior. On deals where you can’t be flexible, this can spare you from looking like the bad guy. However, do note that this comes at the cost of handing over control of your deal to the newcomer.
Negotiation is a trading process. Haggling isn’t negotiating.
Don’t be afraid to stick up for what you want during a negotiation. You can’t negotiate with someone who isn’t interested in negotiating, so the fact that you’re having this discussion with the other side already means they’re interested in what you can do for them.
If you’ve begun with a reasonable proposal, don’t give what you want away if you’re not getting anything back for it. Haggling isn’t negotiating, and if the other side knows you’ll give in, they’ll come back again and again, each time knowing they just need to push a little harder to get what they want.
You must be flexible when negotiating your deal. If you find yourself unable to achieve your objective, be willing to change your strategy. Strategy can often get confused with objective, so make sure you understand what you really want and don’t get too attached to your method of achieving it.
Close the Deal
Finally, once your objectives have been met and the other side is happy, it’s time to close the deal. Ensure you are negotiating right up until the deal is closed, and don’t start giving in to little demands just because the finish line is in sight.
Be Satisfied with the Outcome
The negotiation is over. Hopefully you were able to achieve what you set out to. It can be tempting to walk away from the negotiation scrutinising every detail whilst wondering if you could have made a better deal. Don’t do that to yourself. Be glad that you met your objective and leave it at that. Focus on the next negotiation to come.