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Five questions on negotiation: BC Tech CEO Jill Tipping

Each month, BIV Magazine asks a local business leader five questions on a select topic
Jill Tipping is a skilled negotiator and the president and CEO of the BC Tech Association | Submitted

Have high expectations, ditch sunk costs and have a next-best option: three pieces of negotiating advice Jill Tipping shared at a recent BC Tech Women in Tech Series event.

Tipping is the president and CEO of the BC Tech Association, a diversity champion and a skilled negotiator. She shared five insights on negotiation in the February 2020 issue of BIV Magazine.

1. You and BC Tech recently delivered a workshop on negotiation for women in tech. Why is negotiation a skill worth honing?

Negotiation is a key life skill. Sometimes people think about negotiation in simplistic terms – like how to get a great price when we buy a car – but in reality it is much broader than that.

I like to define negotiation in terms of relationships and give and take. What is the purpose of the relationship – what are we hoping to create together? And once we are clear on that it can get much easier to identify who will give what and who will take what to deliver that.

You really need to make sure you’ve spent time on both value creation and on value capture. You’ll lose out on creating something truly worthwhile if you just fight for your slice of the pie. But on the other hand, you don’t want to be the master of value creation, none of which you capture for yourself. It has to be fair.

We’ve had feedback that women are especially prone to feeling insecurity or stress when negotiating. So we wanted to provide skills training to get rid of the fear and equip people with practical strategies. It’s important in business to get not just any deal, but the best deal available – for everyone.

2. What are three valuable things you’ve learned about negotiation? 

First, it’s important to have high expectations. You get the deal you think you deserve, so be sure to enter negotiations confident and secure in your abilities. 

Second, focusing on sunk costs will get you nowhere. Instead, focus on the opportunity costs you may be able to leverage in your negotiations. 

And last but not least, negotiation is not a zero-sum game. To get a good deal, we need optimal outcomes – there can be no good result if one side feels like they lost. 

3. How do you prepare for a negotiation? 

I spend a lot of time getting clear about what I really need and want in the situation. But then I spend at least as much time thinking about what the other party needs and wants so we can start to see what a win-win situation looks like.

The key to this is what the alternatives for each of us might be. If I can’t get to a negotiated agreement, what’s my next-best option? And what’s theirs? I think about what questions I might be able to ask to get more information. Finally, I try to reflect on my own ego, and how any overconfidence on my part could complicate my performance. 

4. When is the ideal time to negotiate a raise, a promotion, an employment opportunity? 

When the other side is in a position to say yes if provided the right motivation. When they have both the means (budget, time of year) and the will (perhaps after you’ve nailed a big project or when your company is performing well).

But before you open up negotiations, do the one thing most people completely neglect: research. Know the data on market salaries for your role, know when promotions are typically made, prepare the business case for what the return on the investment you’re asking for would be. Be forward looking and positive – assume that you have a shared interest in getting to yes and build the case that way. Then make your ask and make it clearly and calmly, being sure to leave the other party with time to think.

If you don’t get an immediate yes, ask questions: “What more information would you need to have before you’d be comfortable moving ahead?” or “Would you be willing to reflect on my ask and have a further conversation next week?” If you are the one making the ask, you’re interested in keeping the dialogue open for as long as possible. Don’t close it down prematurely. 

5. Who or what has significantly shaped how you think about negotiation?

The single biggest influence on me are two of my Stanford professors: Margaret Neale and Jeffrey Pfeffer. They wrote fantastic books I’d recommend to anyone: Negotiating Rationally and Power. And if you like books, here are some other classics: Influence: Science and Practice by Robert B. Cialdini; Women Don’t Ask by Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever; and Getting to Yes by Roger Fisher and William Ury. But I’d say that parenting my daughter Veronica (now seven) has given me more negotiation experience than anything else – she is great at value creation, always coming up with new ways we can get to win-win.

This article was first published in the February 2020 issue of BIV Magazine, which can be read here.