Negotiation expert Natalie Reynolds delivers online masterclass for Cass Global Women’s Leadership Programme.

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Negotiation is something we do every day: at home, at work and even with ourselves. When we make small deals with ourselves, our partners or our children, we are negotiating. It is an important lesson for us all to learn in business and in life.

Negotiation expert Natalie Reynolds delivered a masterclass on for the Cass Global Women’s Leadership Programme via Zoom on Monday 18th May 2020. She spoke about her five-step negotiation method, her tips for negotiating online and the myths surrounding women as negotiators. She also answered questions from Cass women about redefining success during difficult negotiations and how to deal with aggressive negotiators.

Natalie joined Cass as an Honorary Visiting Professor in 2017. Eve Lacroix, a member of the Cass Global Women’s Leadership Programme Board and Postgraduate Marketing Officer at Cass, attended the event and spoke to Natalie about her top tips for negotiation.

In light of Covid-19 and much of the global workforce shifting online, what are your top tips for negotiating virtually?

“Negotiation is a key skill in times of change and uncertainty. Many businesses I work with are facing the difficult situation of trying to re-negotiate their terms of existence and business in light of Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Don’t be caught out— people might call you announced in an effort to make you to agree to their requests. Don’t be afraid to withdraw from the conversation if you are unprepared. Rehearse saying, ‘I’m between meetings, let me call you back’ or ‘I’m not free right now.’

“Treat a virtual negotiation as seriously as a boardroom-style negotiation. Set the same ground rules as you would in person.

“Watch out for your email tone: things sound much harsher behind a screen. Give your counterpart some leeway. Don’t be afraid to suggest a phone call if email exchanges are getting tense.

“Beware of common virtual errors, such as accidentally clicking reply all or attaching the wrong document. Re-read your emails before sending them and check whether everyone needs to be on the email thread. Remember if you are on a video call that your counterpart can still see you—including if you roll your eyes!”

What are the most common negotiation mistakes to avoid?

“When researching my book 'We Have a Deal', I compiled a list of negotiation mistakes made by people across all industries worldwide, regardless of their level of experience. The top three most common mistakes can be understood as three types of negotiators: the Avoider, the Giver and the Fighter.

“The Avoider will avoid negotiation. It is natural to find negotiation uncomfortable— we don’t want to jeopardise relationships and we may have a pre-conceived idea of what the outcome will be. Negotiation is a fundamental and unavoidable part of being human; it is how communities coexist and how business gets done. My advice to Avoiders is to approach each negotiation as a new situation.

“The Giver makes too many concessions in their desperation to get something they want. Be wary of the impact of your concessions and try trading instead to get something back in return.

“The Fighter views each negotiation as a battlefield. It’s okay to want to win, but you should always act with integrity. If you make the other side feel embarrassed or humiliated, these feelings will colour all your future interactions with them.”

What myths have you have encountered in relation to women in negotiation?

“One of the biggest myths I have come against is that women don’t negotiate. Research by Dr Amanda H. Goodall’s research paper Do Women Ask? found that women negotiate just as readily as men, but are less likely to be given what they ask for.

“If women aren’t present at the negotiation table, there are negative outcomes. A UN research paper published in 2012 found that the likelihood of coming to a peace agreement increases and is more sustainable when women are involved in the negotiation process.”

Tell us about your award-winning five-step DEALS® method.

“I launched advantageSPRING in 2012 because I had become disillusioned with the old-school, aggressive type of negotiation being taught around me. Working with clients as diverse as the United Nations, Bumble and JP Morgan, I learned that the skills that make a good negotiator are universal. I created the DEALS® method, which are the five steps to follow no matter what you are negotiating for:


“The first stage in negotiation is information gathering and research. Don’t leave any stone unturned. Figure out who the key influencers are in the decision-making process. Ask yourself, ‘Who are they? What do they want? Why do they want it?’“Create a variables mapper to track all the elements or issues that will be coming up in your negotiation process.


“Establish boundaries: create a possibilities plotter of what you will be asking for and what you are willing to give in return. What is your worst-case scenario and your best-case scenario? Plan multiple proposals.


“Negotiating is a delicate balance of giving and taking. Recognise that each side of the table is coming together to find out what the best deal they can get is.“Neither you nor your counterpart will begin the discussion with your best offers for each other. Start with your most ambitious opening offer to allow yourself some wiggle room in the negotiation process, but make your request credible— you do not want to disgruntle your counterpart.


“Get in the driver’s seat and take the lead in the negotiation process. If your counterpart has offered you a deal that is far below what you were looking for, do not give their offer credibility by exploring it. Saying ‘no’is an opportunity to refocus the negotiation and suggest a proposal that better suits you and also keeps your counterpart happy.“Be solution-focused instead of barrier-focused: instead of saying what you can’t do, focus on what you are able to give your counterpart.


“If your counterpart immediately says ‘yes’ to your proposal, it means that they were willing to offer you much more. Understand that a ‘no’ is a good thing: it is the start of a negotiation.

“I believe the best skills a negotiator can have are perseverance and resilience. When life shuts a door, open it again! Seal the deal and get to a ‘yes.’”

Find out more about the Cass Global Women's Leadership Programme here.

Natalie Reynolds joined Cass Business School as an Honorary Visiting Professor in 2017. She is the CEO and Founder of advantageSPRING and taught her award-winning five-step DEALS® negotiation method to organisations as diverse as the University of Oxford, Deloitte and the dating app Bumble. Described as “a leading negotiator” by Forbes, she is the author of the best-selling book 'We Have a Deal: How to Negotiate with Intelligence, Flexibility and Power'. Her Make Your Ask Project for the United Nations aims to empower one million women worldwide.

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