Angeley Mullins is a successful commercial leader with over 20 years experience leading growth and expansion in top technology companies across different markets and cultures. Throughout her career she has learned what is required to be a great negotiator, amongst other things, which is why we asked her to share some of her advice on the topic.
Is it possible to learn to be a good negotiator? If so, how?
Yes- it is absolutely possible to be a good negotiator. Most people go into a conversation thinking that they will not be able to achieve their outcome or they are just not “good at negotiating”. However this is not true at all. The key to understanding negotiation is to take away the fear or apprehension from it. As with all things, once you learn to conquer this, the rest becomes easier from there.
How do you prepare for a negotiation? What steps do you usually take?
The best way to prepare for a negotiation is to become more comfortable with discussing both sides of a topic. There are plenty of books on negotiation techniques however most people freeze during a negotiation because they are not comfortable with a “back and forth” conversation. Some of the best negotiations I have witnessed or been involved in can go on for a long time. Understanding that a negotiation is not always a single conversation is important. Be prepared to have a series of conversations over a longer period of time if needed. There are so many variables to negotiation that include: timing, marketplace, etc. Take your time to understand all the variables and don’t be afraid to have more in depth and continuous conversations in your negotiation process.
Do you have any favorite negotiation techniques which you use?
The basics of negotiation is to understand what you are willing and not willing to accept. In addition to this it is always good to understand what you are willing to compromise. One of the most difficult things to understand is that you have to be willing to walk away from the table if you feel that you are not getting a fair deal or if the parameters of the deal are not favorable for you. If you can be strong enough to walk away then you will also be strong enough to fight for the situation and outcome you are looking for. There are many other negotiation techniques however by far this is the most important one to not only understand, but to be comfortable with.
Do you have any specific tips for salary negotiation? What works, and what should one avoid?
Salary negotiation has a lot of different variables. It is extremely important to be very clear about what you are looking for. Is the base salary the most important thing to you? Are you more incentivised by longer term compensation such as equity/stock?
The first thing to do is to get a proper understanding of what the compensation ranges are in the particular market that you live in. Compensation in San Francisco or New York can be different to London or Paris. Start by asking your colleagues or network. Communication regarding this issue is to your advantage. If you start asking your colleagues you will get information about what different types of compensation packages are offered in different cities for different roles at different companies. You can draw more accurate baseline information from this. In addition, start reaching out to recruiters and asking about what they are seeing in the market. Recruiters usually have up to date information about different salary ranges for different company sizes and locations. I cannot overemphasize how much communication is going to help you. I come from the US where people are more open and vocal about compensation. However in other markets, there might be cultural stigmas about speaking out about your compensation. One of the barriers to more equitable and fair compensation levels between men and women for the same roles has been a lack of transparency and communication. In order to overcome this, communication is key.
Secondly, it is important to differentiate the types of companies you are looking at. Scaleups at different stages have different compensation packages as they scale based upon ARR, GMV, or funding amount. Larger Corporate organizations usually have much for defined compensation bands that are heavily researched and matrixed. In this case it matters more about the “band level” that you join within the company. Understanding the basics about the type of compensation offered within different types of companies you are negotiating with will be extremely helpful in your discussions. Most people feel like they are not good negotiators because they don’t have this information.
The best advice I have on “what works” is to ask for what you want. So many people do not get the salary or compensation package they are looking for because they did not ask for it. I hear from many people that they feel they got taken advantage of because they settled for something they felt was too low. The best way to avoid this is to do as much research as possible and then ask for what you want. Even if the answer is a “no”- that is still a starting point. It is still a vital piece of information that you need to have. Then ask “why not”? This is also another vital piece of information. If you don’t ask the company the “why’s” behind the answer then you will never understand their decision making process. If you can’t get to the heart of how they make compensation decisions then it will be harder to negotiate.
In your experience, is there anything one can do if the other side isn’t willing to negotiate and is blocking your efforts?
If the other side is not willing to negotiate and is actively blocking your efforts then this is a red flag. It is important to remember that the negotiation process is one of the most important parts of deciding if you want to join a particular company. The way the company treats you during the negotiation process is a key indicator to how they will treat you once you are working inside that company. Negotiation is not just about compensation, it is also about showing an example of the company culture and how they handle decision making and what are their key decision making parameters. It is a key learning experience that should not be overlooked. So if a company is not willing to negotiate or actively blocks you, then what do you think will happen once you join that company? How much flexibility do you believe you will have inside that organisation for career growth, recognition, work life balance, or any other value or attribute that matters to you?
What is your best overall advice for negotiation?
My best advice is to just get comfortable with negotiation. Remove the fear out of the situation. Start practicing by negotiating small things in your life so that you can feel more comfortable. The more comfortable you are with negotiating the better you are going to become. And don’t forget to ask for what you want!