September 20, 2019

Help For The Reluctant Negotiator


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If you’re like a lot of physicians, negotiating for yourself isn’t something that you like to do or feel very skillful at.

For better or worse, negotiations are an inescapable part of our life. Our reluctance to negotiate for ourselves can leave us with the short end of the stick, as in the words of Chester Karass, “You don’t get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate.”

Since many of my clients rank negotiating as something they actually dislike and don’t feel very competent at, I went in search of some good resources for improving this critical skill.

I attended the SEAK Negotiation Skills Workshop for Physicians on October 18, 2012.  This one-day seminar was lead by SEAK co- founder Steve Babitsky Esq., who is a former trial layer with over 35 years experience as a professional negotiator.

Babitsky began the conference having us figure out how much money we anticipate negotiating for over the next ten years.  The range was from 2 to 11 million. He then posed the question, “How much money could you save if you did 5% or 10% better in your negotiations?”

The answer was obvious.

His point – you can’t afford NOT to be a good negotiator.  You could be throwing away hundreds of thousands of dollars by not advocating for what you deserve.

The next key piece was to highlight the common reasons why physicians don’t negotiate:

“I don’t have enough time.”

“I am embarrassed to negotiate.”

“Negotiation makes me uncomfortable/stressed out.”

“I don’t like confrontation.”

“Negotiating will make me lose the respect of my peers.”

“I want to be a team player.”

“I don’t know have the skills to negotiate well.”

Babitsky offered advice for countering each of these perceptions that create roadblocks to negotiating.  He stressed the importance of realizing that you are not just negotiating a deal, you are valuing yourself, acting on behalf of your family, your children and your future.

We were able to try out our negotiating skills with two different case vignettes.  We were divided into pairs and had a limited time to negotiate a specific outcome for our side.  The results of each team were posted and everyone could see the incredible range of negotiated outcomes.  It was eye opening to see.  One of the pearls that came out the exercise was how important it is to get curious about your “opponent” and ask key questions to elicit what matters to them and what “makes them tick.”

Through the use of numerous real-life stories of his own high-stakes negotiations, Babitsky illustrated many of his teaching points and was highly entertaining.  An 85-page manual was provided which contained didactic information as well as a wide variety of case examples depicting specific negotiating scenarios.  We addressed a good number of these that were selected by the attendees.

After the seminar I spoke with a number of the participants to solicit their impressions.

Everyone I talked with felt that they learned a lot and Steve Babitsky had a wealth of knowledge and experience.  Some attendees said they would have liked to go through even more of the case examples.  Having answers to the exercises included in the manual was also desired for home study and reference.  Several mentioned that the opportunity to role-play negotiating an employment contract would be welcome and beneficial.

I agree with the feedback and believe that these changes would make a great seminar even better.  Since so many doctors go through the process of employment contract negotiations, extra time practicing this skill with Babitsky’s guidance would likely increase comfort level and successful outcomes.

In preparation for this seminar I read, The Physician’s Comprehensive Guide to Negotiation by Steve Babitsy, Esq. and Jame J. Mangravaiti Jr., Esq. This book is an excellent resource for physicians, covering the common areas of negotiations for doctors and even includes a chapter on how to negotiate fees and services with your lawyer!

I wish you all the best in negotiating for what you deserve.

Disclaimer:  I have no financial affiliations with Steve Babitsky and SEAK.


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