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Rebecca Buckman  |  October 12, 2015
Are You a Good Negotiator?

Lots of business people think they are. But many are going about the process all wrong—viewing it as a win-or-lose proposition, or using incendiary language and sneaky tactics to try to drive the best deal, even though those gambits usually don’t work.

Those were a few of the insights shared at an event in San Francisco last week by Holly Schroth, a negotiation expert and senior lecturer at the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley. The event—co-hosted by investment firms Battery Ventures, Canaan Partners and Scale Venture Partners—drew nearly 30 C-level female executives and venture capitalists to share insights about negotiation skills and other topics.

The session was held at the offices of Nitro*, a Battery portfolio company, and was part of an ongoing effort by the three investment firms to bring together and invest in their female leaders.

Schroth told the session attendees they should view a negotiation as a problem-solving exercise, not a fight. Ideally, participants should share information and view the negotiation as a “package” to be discussed, not a list of individual items on which to win or lose. She also introduced terms like the “aspiration point”—what one participant really wants out of the negotiation—and the “resistance point”, or the point at which one side will walk away. When entering a negotiation, she counseled to offer your aspiration point first, before the other party, and not to reveal your resistance point.

“Ideally you should spend five times longer planning and preparing” for the negotiation than actually sitting at the table, Schroth said.

Participants were urged to avoid what Schroth termed the “major sins” of negotiating:

  • Settling for too little (being a “bottom-line dweller”);
  • Leaving money on the table (creating a “lose-lose” scenario);
  • Walking away from the table when there is a good offer (also known as a “power loss”); and
  • Settling for terms that are worse than your alternative (called the “linkage effect”).

They were also urged to avoid emotional trigger words, such as “you are being unfair,” which negatively labels the other person, and “this is how we’ve always done it,” which implies abdicating responsibility or blaming the other party. Attendees also participated in a brief, mock negotiation exercise to practice some of the skills they’d learned during the afternoon.

Hosts for the event included Chelsea Stoner, a general partner at Battery; Maha Ibrahim, general partner at Canaan; and Stacey Curry Bishop, partner at Scale.

*For a full list of all Battery investments and exits, please click here.

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