- Negotiating is a useful skill in any profession and accounting is no different.
- Resilience is a crucial characteristic required in negotiations because it’s the ability to meet adversity, adjust the goal posts and recover from setbacks.
- Showing respect and understanding in the professional environment goes a long way to achieving a better outcome, where both parties feel like they’ve been heard.
Negotiating is a useful skill in any profession and accounting is no different. Whether you’re employed in a large accounting firm or working for yourself, you will probably need to negotiate with management, potential or existing clients, and/or service providers at some point in your career.
Sales strategist and professional negotiator Julia Ewert is a big believer in using honesty in negotiations.
“The reason companies hire me is because I teach firms like accounting firms a repeatable system that helps them convert more contracts, increase their margins and win more negotiations,” she says.
A common situation where good negotiating skills come in handy is when you need to raise your fees. Accountants are not immune from rising inflation in the current environment and you could find you may need to pass some of your increased costs on to clients. This is a tricky negotiation for anyone.
The best way to go about the process of raising fees with existing clients, Ewert says, is through a two-part strategy, the first part of which is a phone call to the client.
“We connect better when we can talk to someone. It gives us an opportunity to find more common ground because it’s much more friendly talking over the phone than it is sending someone an email,” she says.
In that phone call, let the client know you would like to arrange a time to meet them to discuss the increase in fees. It can also be helpful at the beginning of the call to let the client know you are nervous and anxious about having the conversation, but it is something you need to discuss with them to maintain a viable business.
“When we’re negotiating, we should always tell the truth,” says Ewert. “If you’re a bit nervous, say you’re a bit nervous; say that you feel a bit uncomfortable. What that does is it allows someone to connect better to you.”
“When we’re negotiating, we should always tell the truth. If you’re a bit nervous, say you’re a bit nervous.”
Once you arrange a time to meet the client, it is important to go into the meeting being truthful too. Ewert advises against bargaining – for example asking for an initial 15% increase in the hopes of getting 10%. Instead, ask for the exact increase you believe your business needs to continue to be viable.
The two-step strategy enables a client not to be caught off guard and gives them time to think and hopefully understand where you are coming from.
Ewert’s key negotiation principles
Ego: Negotiation is a critical business skill often lost on leaders who use their ego to drive decision making. Avoid confusing yourself and your ego with the issue.
Truth: Make sure it’s clear what you want, and the talks are open and honest.
Trust: When we trust somebody, we are more likely to go out of our way to find creative ways to find agreement. However, if trust isn’t there, people will often go out of their way to find a way to disagree.
Collaboration: In the professional environment, collaboration can leave executives feeling uneasy because they are no longer the sole decision maker. They feel they don’t have the answers or, worse: they withhold information to retain power. Being open and listening to the opinions of others can diffuse tension and conflict, and achieve a result.
Resilience: Resilience is a crucial characteristic required in negotiations because it’s the ability to meet adversity, adjust the goal posts and recover from setbacks.
Empathy: The ability to connect with others is crucial to sales and negotiation. Showing respect and understanding in the professional environment goes a long way to achieving a better outcome, where both parties feel like they’ve been heard.