Negotiating is always going to be a big part of your job as a recruiter, whether it’s negotiating with your clients, your candidates or even your own boss!
We all know these sorts of conversations can be hard work, so here are some negotiation tips that will help you come out with a better deal – and not just for you, but your candidates too.
1. Go in high, but stay realistic
By the very nature of negotiation, your first price will be higher than your prospect is willing to pay. With this in mind, you need to put enough ‘padding’ on your first offer to allow your prospect to negotiate you down a bit.
But beware that this doesn’t mean you should present a ridiculously high first offer that shows poor business acumen and alienates your prospect.
To make a great first offer, consider your prospect’s budget and the current market rate for your services to come up with a figure at the upper end of this range – and your prospect’s reasonable expectations.
2. Know your BATNA
No, not ‘banter’, BATNA! BATNA stands for Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement. In other words, what happens next if we fail to reach an agreement?
It’s important to consider BATNA from the perspective of both sides of the negotiating table to understand who really has the power.
For example, if you fail to negotiate terms, does the client have any other candidates they can fall back on? Once you know where the power lies, you know how much leverage you have and ultimately, how much you can push for with your prospect.
3. Butter them up before you start
Before you begin any negotiation, you need your prospect to feel comfortable talking to you. So ask some relevant ice-breaking questions that get you both on a familiar footing before you try to push for what you want.
Don’t over-think it, just have a chat about something you have in common and give your prospect the chance to see that you’re a likeable recruiter who’s pleasant to work with. It’s a great way to keep the negotiation friendly and prevent either of you losing your cool when it starts getting tough…
4. Keep your cool
During a negotiation, your opponent is going to push and challenge you, but don’t take it to heart. It’s all just part of the game! You’re both competing to get the best deal possible, so it’s natural that you’re going have a bit of conflict.
But no matter how heated a negation gets, never lose your cool. Otherwise, at best your client will think you’re totally unprofessional and at worst, you’ll blow the deal entirely.
5. Focus on value
Even if you’re negotiating specifically on price, price should never be the focus of your conversation.
If you only talk about the cost of your services, you’ll set yourself off on a downwards spiral to the rock bottom of your margins.
Instead, focus on your USPs (unique selling points) and the value that you bring to your prospect (i.e. why are they talking to you in the first place). This will help your client understand why you’re worth the money you’re asking for and ultimately, convince them to pay it.
6. Listen first
A savvy negotiator will be just as good a listener as they are a talker, so take your time and listen to what your prospect has to say before you go in, all guns blazing.
The key to successful negotiation is having empathy, making the effort to understand your prospect’s needs (for example, understanding the differences between their ‘must haves’ and ‘desirable’ even if they themselves can’t tell the difference) and then using this information to leverage a deal that works for you both.
7. Use the power of silence
Awkward silences might be unpleasant, but they’re an excellent negotiation tactic.
If your prospect is avoiding answering a difficult question, avoid jabbering on in an effort to convince them – just keep quiet instead. No one likes an awkward silence, so let it linger for long enough and eventually your prospect will crack and give you an answer.
8. Offer something extra
One really effective to way to get a prospect to agree on a price is to offer them an additional service instead of a discount.
This tactic is a ‘double whammy’ as not will only will you get the price you want, but the additional service you provide will show off your skills and help you build a stronger relationship with your client.
9. Don’t be afraid to say ‘no’
Being able to say ‘no’ to a prospect is an essential negotiation tip, but just make sure you have a good reason for pushing back when you do.
Back up your reasons for saying ‘no’ with evidence, data and even some anecdotes from your own experience if they’re really relevant. They should appreciate your honesty and expertise, and once they begin to see your perspective, you know you’re close to winning them over!
10. Let both sides win
To build a business relationship that can prosper, it’s essential that everyone walks away from a negotiation feeling satisfied. To do this, you need to know when to stop pushing your agenda and let your prospect get a win too.
Even if you get what you want this time round, if you push a prospect too hard, they won’t want to work with you again. And what’s the point of all that effort if you’re left with a client who doesn’t want to do business with you afterwards?
There’s no better deal in recruitment than a retainer. Our eBook will show you how to negotiate retained contracts like a pro:
David is a Senior Growth Outreach Specialist at Firefish. After working as a 360 recruiter, he loves innovating recruitment with Firefish Software.