How To Become A Master Negotiator Using Heidi Roizen’s Handbag Theory

May 16, 2013

How To Become A Master Negotiator Using Heidi Roizen’s Handbag Theory |

Did you know your savvy shopping skills can have a direct, positive impact on your salary and overall job satisfaction?

According to acclaimed Silicon Valley venture capitalist, Heidi Roizen, they can!

The trick is to harness your masterful shopping techniques and apply them to your business negotiation strategies relating to salary, promotion possibilities, special projects, teams that you want to be on, work hours, etcetera.

I was recently watching Heidi Roizen speak at the University of California, Berkeley Haas School of Business Women in Leadership Conference and my ears perked up when she shared a handbag analogy that I think you’ll appreciate too.

One of Heidi’s favorite business principals is, “negotiation is the process of finding the maximal intersection of mutual need”.

The idea is there is enough pie for everyone. Success is not finite. And that if you are clear at explaining what’s important to you during a negotiation and understanding what’s important to the other person, then you’ll have a better opportunity of finding not only a mutually beneficial solution, but surprisingly, an even better one than you expected.

“I might have ways of getting more of what you want than you even know to ask me for, but…if you don’t frame it in such a way that I can use my creativity to help you solve your problem then we’re not going to get a better solution out.”

Here’s Roizen’s clever handbag analogy to further explain this negotiation principal:

“If you go to the store and you think you need a tan handbag and there are no tan handbags, you won’t get a tan handbag. If you go to the store and you say, ‘Well, there are none being shown, but let me ask the sales clerk’ and she says, ‘Well, I don’t have any here at this store, but I can order it in from another store.’…that’s one more level of helping you in a way that you couldn’t have solved your problem on your own. But if you actually walk in with the dress you’re trying to match and you say, ‘This is the dress I want to wear…what handbag will go with this?’, the sales clerk, who’s in fashion and presumably knows this stuff certainly better than I do, might say, ‘Well, here’s a teal handbag and that would actually look killer with this dress!’ and you might hold it up and go, ‘Well, wow! I would never have thought of a teal handbag.’

The idea is if you can really do this, maximal intersection with mutual need, I think you end up with better solutions and that to me is an incredible skill and also incredible when you get stuck in a negotiation.”

Sounds like a win-win approach to me!

Heidi’s relatable handbag analogy makes me feel much more confident about my own ability to be a better business negotiator. Plus, it’s certainly easy to remember during an often anxiety-inducing negotiation process!

What are your thoughts on Heidi’s handbag analogy? Do you think it will be useful to you during your next business negotiation? Please share!

Image credit: Citrus Refreshing Fashion. Graphics by Kristina Moore for Corporate Fashionista.

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  • Wow, what an insightful idea, Kristina. Very cool. Rock on, lady!

  • joanheminway

    I like it. This kind of mind and possibility expansion can be useful in so many contexts. Think about identifying job prospects. There are so many jobs in the national and international economy that no one can know about all of them. By not seeking a specific kind of position (i.e., “Do you have a sales opening ?”) but, instead, asking about possible job or career prospects that meet your skill set (“How can I best use my talents [name them] in your industry?”), a person may have a whole new world of possibility opened up to him or her.

    Thanks for sharing.

  • Thanks, Britt!

  • You’re so right! Excellent idea, Joan!

  • Joy Fillman

    Joan, I love your idea of using your prospective employer as a consultant…and in the context of a job interview!

  • joanheminway

    I appreciate the positive responses. It’s hard for my students (law students)–even the talented ones–to find jobs in the current economy. So, I tend to think about that kind of stuff day and night. I thought this post was “right on” for this and so many other uses.

  • Fantastic analogy, I just love it when we get to “acknowledge” our femininity in business settings. Thanks for sharing!