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Everyday Negotiations To Get What You Want

“Let’s make a deal.” If negotiating was that easy, the three professionals who took the stage on July 26 at 1871 wouldn’t have made careers brokering deals and transactions for global corporations. At the inaugural Women at The MART (WAM) event, our powerhouse panelists shared tips and tactics to help women (and men!) win at everyday workplace negotiations. 


  • How hard should young women professionals negotiate when accepting their first job?

Always negotiate, if you don’t ask the question, you’ll never have the answer."Allyson Wilcox, Beam Suntory, Inc.

It never hurts to broach the topic of a higher salary, but young professionals should be careful to read the room. If it looks like salary is likely to be a sticking point, a candidate might not want to be too aggressive as it might create a negative impression early on. Candidates in these situations may want to be a bit more conservative. A general rule of thumb is to accept an offer that’s anywhere between 10 to 15-percent of what was expected up front. If a candidate is able to “hit it out of the park” in the first six-months to a year of employment, they put themselves in a great strategic position to negotiate.

Additionally, candidates shouldn’t just limit themselves to monetary benefits. As in any negotiation, creative thinking can often bring desired outcomes. Extra time off, shadowing another area of the business or other “intangibles” might make up for not getting the exact dollar amount desired. Asking for a formal review in three to six months to review salary or other benefits is another tactic, but one that should be thoughtfully used. 

“There’s nothing wrong with asking for something on the front-end, but watch your style; you haven’t built up any credibility [within the company] yet.” —Courtney V. Welton, Motorola

  • How should young professionals approach re-negotiating salary or title when responsibilies have increased over time? 

Six months is about the right timeframe to think about having a conversation with a manager about performance and possible advancement. But it shouldn’t be done hastily.

“Give your manager a heads up on what you want to talk about; you don’t want to surprise them.”—Colleen Batcheler, Conagra Brands

While it isn’t easy to hear, research shows that women are often promoted based on what they have done and how they have performed, while men are advanced based on their future potential. It’s an unfortunate reality, but one that women should consider when strategizing their negotiations.

In all negotiations, empathy is important during the conversation. Remember that a manager may want to advance an employee’s career, but they represent the company, and may not have the power to do so. Also, an employee should not take anything personally, and be prepared for an unfavorable outcome.


  • What's the most challenging aspect of negotiating?

Some of the hardest negotiations in life aren’t professional, but personal. Divorce, negotiations involving children or family members and other life decisions can be difficult to navigate and see through to the end. They can also be costly.

“It can be really expensive and tiring and traumatic to be right,”—Allyson Wilcox, Beam Suntory, Inc.

Another hurdle good negotiators overcome is the tendency to think you need to be a subject matter expert on what is being negotiated in order to be successful. Not true; soak up information like a sponge when in new situations and be confident in conversations. Sometimes knowing just enough can lead to good outcomes.


  • Is there such thing as "over-negotiating" or "bad negotiating"?

Not being prepared when entering into an important negotiation can lead to a bad situation for all parties involved.

“The prep time you put into negotiations, personally and professionally, will come back to you 100-fold.”—Courtney V. Welton, Motorola

When talks on a deal might be going south, those in the room need to be creative and think outside the box. “Don’t think of your negotiation as limited to the people in the room who are sitting there trying to figure it out,” Wilcox said. “Who else can you talk to? What are your other alternatives to break the roadblock?”

There’s nothing wrong with reaching into preexisting relationships -- former colleagues, those within a professional network or third-parties -- who may be able to help. This, particularly, is a pitfall women sometimes make more than men.

“Existing relationships can pave the way for smoother negotiations. Sometimes women tend to not want to network outside their organizations. Get lunch with a colleague, contacts from other organizations, former colleagues... Invest in those relationships."  —Colleen Batcheler, Conagra Brands 



Women at The MART (WAM), is a grassroots, multi-company, collaborative initiative to share resources for programming that develops, retains and motivates female talent. In its inaugural event held at 1871 — attended by female professionals who work in the River North office building — the group brought together the General Counsels for MART tenants Beam Suntory, Motorola and Conagra for an all-female panel to speak frankly about negotiating tactics, pitfalls and best practices.

“We recognized the amazing resource of talented women we have under a single roof.  We brought some companies together with a desire to leverage our collective resources across industries for an innovative, collaborative initiative…to showcase the diversity of thought, background and experience.”—Charlene Kelly, Conagra Brands


Allyson Wilcox, Associate General Counsel for the Americas Region at Beam Suntory Inc. She joined the company in 2009 as Sr. Counsel, was promoted to Assistant General Counsel in 2011 and has held her current position since 2014. 

Colleen Batcheler, Executive Vice President, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary for Conagra Brands. In this role, Colleen oversees all legal and governmental affairs activity for the company. Colleen joined Conagra Brands, formerly known as Conagra Foods, in June 2006 as Vice President and Chief Securities Counsel and, in September 2006, added Corporate Secretary responsibilities. 

Courtney V. Welton, Global MBG General Counsel leads legal matters across Lenovo’s Mobile Business Group in North America, Asia Pacific, Latin America, and EMEA. Previously, she led commercial legal teams focused on relationships with Lenovo’s key suppliers and channel partners. 

Moderated by Esther Barron, the Director of the Donald Pritzker Entrepreneurship Law Center at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law and Clinical Professor of Law.

The July 26 WAM event was the first in a series planned for women at The MART hosted at 1871. We’ll continue to recap the insights, lessons and takeaways on the 1871 blog after each event. 

Interested in more awesome happenings at 1871? Check our Upcoming Events calendar.

Topics: Events, Insights

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