The Best Negotiation Advice for Fashion Designers

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of employed Fashion Designers in the United States is reaching a staggering 20,000. The sector is no walk in the park. It is highly competitive, and budding designers have a long road of learning new skills ahead of them.

For one, fashion designers need more than creative skills to find success in their industry. Business skills like sales negotiation can also be of significant benefit. For example, when you’re trying to sell your finished pieces to stores and boutiques or wrangle a deal on supplies. Here’s advice from that you can use to help you handle the negotiation process like a pro and .

Take time to prepare

Preparation allows you to gather any relevant information that could help boost your leverage. Leverage has powerful persuasive properties that are key when it comes to asking for what you want.

To help you prepare effectively for a negotiation, here are some factors to consider:

  • What are your most-desired and least-desired possible outcomes?
  • What are the other people’s needs, or motivations? Are there any similar areas of interest?
  • Are there any barriers or restrictions that could keep you from reaching a deal?
  • What trade-offs may you need to offer?
  • What negotiating strategy would be most effective for the type of deal you’re trying to close?

Polish your communication skills

At its core, sales deals are about giving and receiving information. The way you say it i.e. your word choice, tone, tempo, and body language, such as eye contact or jerky movements, can impact how people interpret what you’re saying. So, razor-sharp communication skills are vital for a smooth process.

To improve how you communicate, sales training experts offer the following tips:

  • be clear and concise when you speak, especially online
  • make sure your body language and words are in sync
  • choose your words with care
  • hit pause before you speak to give yourself the chance to collect your thoughts

Ask open-ended questions

Even if your preparation is thorough, you’re unlikely to uncover all the information you need. One of the best ways to fill in any gaps is to ask open-ended questions. There are questions that prompt for longer answers rather than just a “yes” or “no.”

Open-ended questions usually begin with the wh-question words, who, what, why, where, when, or how.

Using this approach is effective when you’re trying to close a deal as it encourages people to speak freely. Some example questions that you can incorporate into your conversations include:

  • What do you think of this option as a solution?
  • How can we improve this deal?
  • Who can authorize this deal today?

Practice active listening

Active listening is an invaluable skill when you’re negotiating. For one, when people feel heard, they are more likely to want to work on a deal that satisfies all sides involved. Listening attentively can also stamp out any tensions before they take root.

To sharpen your listening skills, work on the following:

  • try to avoid interrupting whoever is speaking
  • ask follow-up questions
  • maintain steady eye contact
  • repeat what someone says back to them to confirm your understanding
  • avoid multitasking when someone is speaking

Manage your emotions

Negotiations can be tense, and it’s easy for emotions to bubble over. However, it pays to  when you’re trying to close a deal. Losing control of your feelings can cloud your thinking, which can steer you away from your main objective.

Sales training experts recommend using the following strategies to maintain calm during both in-person and online negotiations:

  • maintain a positive attitude throughout the process
  • encourage a calm and constructive environment
  • take a break and regroup if temperatures start to rise
  • convey a relaxed image if you sense the other person is getting stressed (for example, lower the tone of your voice or slow down the rate of your speech)

Build rapport

Rapport encourages collaborative behavior in sales negotiations. For example, people are far less likely to “play hardball” if they view each other as trusted partners. Also, if things go off the rails, everyone involved is personally invested in bringing things back on track.

Here are a few ways to build rapport before and during your meetings.

  • Make a good first impression. Your appearance can help you connect with others in the meeting by dressing appropriately for the occasion.
  • Engage in small talk by finding common ground.
  • Mirror the other person’s gestures including facial expressions and tone of voice.

Be empathetic. Empathy involves understanding other people by placing yourself in their shoes. You can then recognize their emotions.

Be patient

Some negotiations can take a while to close. You may even need to meet multiple times, which can be exhausting. Although it’s tempting to rush, haste could cause you to overlook a key clause in the contract. Or say something that offends and ruins a good business relationship.

Some tips to achieve patience include:

  • Remind yourself that things take time. The city of Rome wasn’t built in a day, as the saying goes.
  • Don’t lose sight of the bigger picture.
  • If the deal is complex, break it up into smaller chunks and tackle one at a time. Create a timeline for completing each chunk and make sure you stick to your plan.
  • Hold short, quick meetings online throughout the process to ensure both sides are kept in the loop.

Practice often

Sales negotiation training classes are a great way to learn key concepts. Accessing these classes can be easy and convenient if taken online. However, to truly become a confident and effective deal maker and also keep your skills sharp, you need frequent practice.

So, take some time to practice regularly. You can test different negotiating strategies on friends or coworkers to ensure you’ve mastered the skills. You can even record yourself or practice in front of a mirror to analyze your body language and adapt accordingly. As a run-up to the meeting, rehearse your talking points to make sure you can communicate effectively.