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Negotiations 0420 1402x672

Winning the Project Negotiation Every Time

April 1, 2020
These 5 steps will help get you there. This article was written for Know How Network by Brad Egeland. Whether you know it or not, negotiation on the project just […]

These 5 steps will help get you there.

This article was written for Know How Network by Brad Egeland.

Whether you know it or not, negotiation on the project just simply goes with the territory. If you are a project manager you probably don’t even realize how often you are negotiating for something to help your engagement along or to keep the customer happy or to get the right team member added for an upcoming project task. It happens more often than we realize. And if you aren’t already a good negotiator, you better work on getting there because some type of negotiation is required of the project manager and possibly even some of the project team members on nearly every single project.

The key is to win these negotiations. When you are negotiating salary or an hourly or retainer rate on a consulting engagement, do you always win? No, probably not. When you’re negotiating with your wife on who is going to get up at 3am to feed or change the baby, do you always win? Possibly never. But on our projects, when we know there has to be a conclusive give and take, we’d like to always get our way. I don’t mean "I want it my way or else" — nothing like that scenario.

Food for Thought from Our 2022 ICT Visionaries

We need to be ready to give up things if there is something we need badly on our project — so I’m not talking about "getting ahead". I’m talking about getting that thing that WE need. Getting that thing that is important to the project to keep it on track. That is what we want to win. Every time. But how?

5 steps or practices will help you get there. They won’t guarantee negotiation success as I suggest in the title. Nothing can guarantee any success — but these 5 actions or steps can certainly help make sure you win nearly every single time. Let’s consider:

Document your side well.

Never go into any negotiation — especially an important one with the project customer — without good documentation showing why you need what you need and how what you are trying to negotiate will help the project in the long run, not hurt it.

Practice the discussion.

Practice what you’re going to say. You need to be well-spoken and ready to answer questions. Anticipate what the client will throw back at you at every turn. That way you are ready with follow-up information. You want this to go fast and to end well for you.

Give at least as good as you are getting.

Make sure you’re making it at least as good for them as it will be for you. We understand that you’re really not trying to be selfish — you’re doing this for the project. But if you need it you’ll need to be ready to give something to the client as well. That’s why it’s called negotiation.

Include something free and make sure they know it.

Always try to give away something free to the client and make sure they know you’re giving it away to them for free. Again, the goal is to make it an easy "yes" for them.

Look, sound, and act, confident even if you aren’t.

Finally, in the "fake it till you make it" vein, make sure that you look, sound, and act, confident. You’ll eventually get good at it, but you always need to exude confidence to the project client. That will help get a "yes" and keep them happy at the same time.

Summary / Call for Input

Let’s face it, as PMs we have to be good negotiators. There are going to be those times when we need to get things done, get the right resource, or move some dates around with the customer. We can’t always just ask. We must justify, give something in return for what we want, and prove that it won’t hurt the project in the end.

How about our readers:
When have you found yourself in the negotiator role?
What tactics did you employ to get what you needed done for your project?
What tips do you have for others reading this article?

Editor’s Note: You can email your answers to: Karen Adolphson, ISE Managing Editor, [email protected]. ISE may publish your responses in an upcoming issue’s Human Network  section.

About the Author

Michelle LaBrosse

Michelle LaBrosse, CCPM, PMP, PMI-ACP, RYT, is an entrepreneurial powerhouse with a penchant for making success easy, fun, and fast She is the founder of Cheetah Learning, the author of the Cheetah Success Series, and a prolific blogger whose mission is to bring Project Management (PM) to the masses. Cheetah Learning is a virtual company with 100 employees, contractors, and licensees worldwide. To date, more than 50,000 people have become "Cheetahs" using Cheetah Learning’s innovative PM and accelerated learning techniques. Michelle also developed the Cheetah Certified Project Manager (CCPM) program based on Myers-Briggs Type Indicator personality profiling to help students master how to use their unique strengths for learning, doing projects, and negotiating. Michelle is recognized by the Project Management Institute as one of the 25 Most Influential Women in Project Management in the world. For more information, visit To read my business-oriented blogs, please visit Cheetah Learning Blog at,, and read my columns here in ISE magazine at