Molly Fletcher’s Tips To Master The Art Of Negotiation

By Kristen Jordan Shamus
Detroit Free Press.

CNN called her the female Jerry Maguire, and at one time, Molly Fletcher managed the careers of 300 professional athletes, coaches and media types.

A Michigan native, Fletcher used her experience representing such standouts as Michigan State University basketball coach Tom Izzo, pro baseball pitcher and Lansing native John Smoltz, and broadcaster Erin Andrews to write a new book that can help anyone — particularly women — negotiate pay raises, and get a better deal on everything from dental work to T-shirts.

Fletcher’s new book, called “A Winners Guide to Negotiating: How Conversation Gets Deals Done,” (McGraw-Hill, $18) offers step-by-step guidance about how to build the confidence to ask for what you want and get it.

Fletcher, 43, who grew up in Lansing and graduated from MSU, now runs a consulting business in Atlanta that also offers sports and corporate team-building programs.

During an interview with the Free Press last week, she weighed in on Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s statement in October that women shouldn’t ask for pay raises and the challenges many women face in the workplace.

Here’s what Fletcher had to say:

QUESTION: What led you to write this book?

ANSWER: A large percentage, about 86% of people, feel that what they know about negotiation, they learned on the fly; they learned it throughout their life. They were never formally trained. And 55% of people feel they want to know more about how to negotiate. … That struck me as a really significant gap, and I felt like I had some pretty cool real-life experiences with recognizable names, that people would be really intrigued to understand how that process worked, and hope that it would truly inspire them to find the confidence to do the same thing.

Q: You write about how it’s difficult for many people, but especially women, to ask for what they want. How have you, and how can other women, overcome that fear?

A: What women do really well is getting prepared, which is fantastic and important. We do a nice job of planning. But then at the core, we’ve got to have the courage to ask for what we want.

I think we back into that by practicing more. Practice on the little things. Practice like I did on the orthodontist. (Fletcher notes in her book that she once talked her daughters’ orthodontist into treating all three girls for the price of two if she paid up front and in cash.) Practice so that when you do walk in to negotiate a contract with your boss … you’ve been there before.

Certainly the more you do it, hopefully the more comfortable you become. And then you will find that, “Wow, there are a lot of places in my life where I could be doing this and I’m going to start doing that because my family deserves it, my kids deserve it, my spouse deserves it, right?

To me, there is so much that can happen in positive ways if women start asking for what they want, especially with intangible things inside a job environment, whether it be training, vacation days.

Q: Can you talk about some of the practical applications of asking for what you want beyond in the workplace?

A: I worked in an environment for nearly 20 years where every day I negotiated all day long, contracts, endorsement deals, appearances. … I realized that, gosh, so much of this is applicable to anybody in their lives.

We left a soccer field once, and there was a guy selling T-shirts for 22 bucks. And my girls all said they wanted one. … It’s the end of the tournament, and the guy is starting to pack up. So I looked at him and said, “You don’t want to pack up all these T-shirts do you, and take them all home and unpack them?”

He goes, “Oh, yeah, tell me about it.” And so I go, “Well, I have these three little girls here who like them. … How about three for $30? And he kind of smiled at me, and he goes “Sure. Yeah, deal.”

So I think it’s like what we talk about in the book. You’ve got to set the stage and try to connect. And then when you do that, you’ve got to ask for what you want.

Q: Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella drew criticism last month, and later apologized, for saying women shouldn’t ask for pay raises, but rather wait for good karma to reward them. What do you make of that?

A: Well, I think a lot of good came of it because it started a conversation. To me that’s really powerful, and I’m thankful for that. You know, he clearly tried to backpedal and restate his position, but women do need to ask for what they want. They need to ask in a way that hopefully is built on substance, and built on the success that they’ve had in the careers that they’re in because of the value they’ve added in a certain environment.

As a boss, I’m always excited when my employees don’t ask me for more money. But then I also have this in the back of my head: Boy, they’re so good at what they do. Do they know how good they are? Do they know they should have the courage to ask for what they want if they think that they’re worth more?

Q: MSU basketball Coach Tom Izzo is practically a rock star here in Michigan. As a State alum and a native Michigander, what was it like to have him as a client?

A: As wonderful as the world sees him to be, he is that exact same person at his kitchen table at home. He is so authentic, genuine.

He puts time in with his guys. He’ll have a kid who had a bad night, and he knows the kid’s frustrated. He’ll talk to him a little after the game. But then he’ll call the kid when he knows he’s back in his dorm, and he’ll say, ‘Hey let’s go for a ride.’

And it’ll be 2 in the morning, and Tom will be driving the kid around campus, just talking. He puts in his time, and his success is certainly not an accident.

Q: We’ve talked about gender roles and about how being a woman can sometimes hurt your chances of getting the best deal, but are there instances where being a woman can help?

A: I think there are incredible advantages. … Being a woman in the sports business can be incredibly powerful. It allowed me to connect with an athlete and their entire family. So, yes, I represented John Smoltz, but I also represented his family, and his wife and his parents and his kids. As a woman, I understood what that dynamic looked like a little more than a male agent would have.

Q: You were the agent for former ESPN reporter Erin Andrews during the stalker incident in 2009, when a man removed the peephole from her hotel room door, and videotaped her naked. What was that like?

A: It was terrifying. Fortunately there was a firm in California that was able to do some things from an IT perspective to help quickly squash it. But as with anything from a technology perspective, there was still some of it out there. It was unfortunate. It was terrifying. I felt awful for her. And all we wanted to do was as quickly as possible get it down. …

There certainly is going to be crisis in any athlete’s career. Whether it’s what happened to Tiger Woods or Michael Vick, whether it’s your own doing or someone else’s. The things I always advocate to my athletes is tell the truth. Tell it fast and tell it yourself. That was our philosophy with this situation with Erin. It was, ‘look, you know, we need to say what we know, we need to say it fast and need to say it ourselves.’

Erin has found her lane with Fox (Andrews now works the sidelines of NFL games for Fox Sports), and I am so happy for her. … I think she has progressed in her career beautifully.

Q: You’ve been called the female Jerry Maguire. How do you feel about that?

A: Well, you know, as stressed out as he was in the movie, he had one client and we had 300. So I’m not sure how good the analogy is. It just grabbed hold and it went and here we are. What it does do is it gives people a real quick reference, and they hear about me, they say, “Oh, now I get it.”

Tips for negotiating

In her new book, “A Winner’s Guide to Negotiating: How Conversation Gets Deals Done,” sports-agent-turned-consultant Molly Fletcher says anyone can negotiate for better deals, not only in the workplace, but in other parts of your life by using these strategies:

–Set the stage: Before the negotiations can even begin, do your research. Know what motivates the person you’re dealing with. If you want a raise, for example, find out what other people in your job are making and prepare yourself with reasons why you ought to get more or have a matching salary.

–Find common ground: Put in your time with the person you’re dealing with. Do some favors for that person, build trust, establish a relationship.

–Ask with confidence: Figure out exactly what you want, and present a case for why you deserve it. Strive to be concise, confident and time your request well.

–Embrace the pause: After you make the ask, don’t be a chatterbox. Just be quiet and wait for a response. Be patient. Don’t talk just to fill space.

–Know when to leave: After you’ve done the work of setting the stage, finding common ground and making the ask, if the person still says no, or if he or she is still undecided, it’s all right to walk away. You may give up more by staying in the relationship or situation. And keep in mind that just because you’re walking away at the moment doesn’t mean it’s forever.

There may be another chance in the future.

For more tips, or to read Fletcher’s blog, go to:

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