Negotiating is a critical part of doing business in the alcoholic beverage industry, and it can be hard to get right. But with preparation, practice, and confidence, you can become a skilled negotiator, according to panelists at the Women of the Vine & Spirits Global Symposium in Napa, California, this week. Moderated by Michelle Hodges, a Ste. Michelle Wine Estates sales manager for Tennessee and Kentucky, the panel included four pro negotiators: Kirsty Cringan, CFO at Trinchero Family Estates; Melissa Linehan, general manager of spirits for the continental division at Pernod Ricard, USA; Barkley J. Stuart, executive vice president and director of government affairs at Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits; and Katherine Wojcik, director of beverage programs for Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants.
Preparing for the Negotiation
As a starting point, research the client you’re negotiating with, and sketch out your goals for the meeting. “I research the company and look at their brand values and how their products are made,” Wojcik says. “Are they pertinent to environmental and social responsibility? It’s really important for us to be able to match brand values.” Kimpton has a noted commitment to environmental issues, so it will decline to do business with other companies that fail to meet its rigorous standards, she says.
To prepare for the meeting, work through various scenarios that may play out, says Linehan, of Pernod Ricard. “I practice on my children and my husband,” she says. Linehan described a scenario earlier in her career when she was negotiating for a brand and the man she was negotiating with said he wouldn’t continue unless she left the room. Fortunately, Linehan’s male boss stood up and said, “If she’s not here, we will leave.” Though her boss did the right thing, Linehan was rattled because she hadn’t expected such a scenario. “Now,” she says, “I never ever go into a negotiation without role-playing first.”
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But more crucial than anything is walking into a negotiation with confidence. “And that takes time to build,” says Linehan. “We as women tend to think, ‘I don’t deserve to be here or I’m not going to win this one.’ But know that you wouldn’t be in that room if you didn’t deserve to be in that room.”
Forging a Successful Relationship
Target negotiations as a win-win for both sides. “I like the metaphor of a negotiation being more like a puzzle than a game or match,” says Stuart, from Southern Glazer’s. “It’s about finding the right fit.” Additionally, says Wojcik, keep in mind that sometimes, in the middle of the negotiation, your needs and wants can change.
Stuart also suggests the 70/30 rule in negotiations, where you listen for 70 percent of the time and talk only 30 percent of the time. “The more you can listen, the more control you have over the dynamic,” says Stuart. “In many instances it works quite well to say less. As salespeople, that’s hard. We have a sales pitch and we want to pitch it to you.” He encourages bringing materials to present and asking questions, while taking care not to dominate the conversation.
Hodges asked panelists how they deal with awkward silences during a negotiation. Trinchero’s Cringan says she’s very aware of body language during those pauses. “Don’t lean back. Still be active,” she says. “You’re anticipating a response so you don’t want to feel like you’re not part of the conversation.” Alternatively, she suggests having a prop—a bottle of water, for example. Then you can take a drink until the moment passes.
Be aware that gender expectations—and biases—can also come into play during a negotiation. Cringan told of a time when she was leading a negotiation, but the male negotiator from the opposing company refused to address her directly. “It’s very tough in this situation—tough to not take it personally,” says Cringan. She tried to keep eye contact, but he spoke only to her male colleagues. Cringan’s colleagues helped resolve the situation by directing questions back to her to answer.
Rooting Out Your Own Biases
Research shows that women aren’t as likely to negotiate their salaries. One survey revealed that 57 percent of male MBAs negotiated their salary where only 7 percent of female MBAs did. But women need to negotiate as hard as men to get to salary parity. “You deserve to make as much as your male counterparts,” Linehan says. “But you have to ask for it. Nothing frustrates me more as a hiring manager when I see the pay gap and I can’t figure out how they got there. Why didn’t these women ask?”
Linehan herself overcame this fear after being coached by a male colleague. “He said, ‘Do not take this job if you’re going to get anything less than X.’ I remember shaking on my way to the interview. But he was chirping in my ear, and I asked for it—and I got it.”
Hannah Wallace writes about food, wine, sustainable agriculture, health, and travel for CivilEats.com, Inc., Food & Wine, Vogue, Portland Monthly, and the New York Times.