Teresa Carlson has closed negotiations around the world. As the head of the worldwide public sector for Amazon Web Services, she convinces government and nonprofit clients to commit to a major technology upgrade. This week, she told us how every no can be turned into a yes. And her surprising pro tip for negotiating at work? Write your own job description. We’ll explain.
Carly: The nature of your job is that you have to be a good negotiator. You are negotiating big contracts, you're dealing with a lot of bureaucracy, and I imagine that can be very frustrating at times…for all of us who might not have the same kind of exact work obstacles daily, walk us through how you approach negotiating.
Teresa: I actually believe customer obsession is one of your top negotiating strategies. Because if you put yourself in a customer's position, and you work backwards from there on negotiation, then you begin to determine and understand what are the most valuable things for them in that negotiation. So what are the gives and gets?
...For me, every no is an opportunity to get to a yes. So you have to understand why they're saying no. Really be reflective of that, and then go back to the drawing board and come back...Negotiation is one of the things I love the most. I love a big, big hard deal to go get.
Teresa: I look at every challenge as an opportunity. And throughout my career, one of the things I like to tell women is write your own job description. Don't let other people write your job description.
Carly: What does that actually mean very tactically?
Teresa: ...One of my biggest learnings at Microsoft, and I think I'd done it in the past, is I literally wrote the job I wanted...I built it because I was watching to see what wasn't working. And I like to call that 'find a hole and fill it.' What I mean is, you find a problem, and you sit there and say, "There's a hole and nobody's filling that hole." So I like to say, "Here’s how I'm going to do that. I'm going to solve it." So you write a job description, or you take a job description that's there, and you rewrite it, and you say, "I can do all these things, but I can also do these things."
So you begin to show and demonstrate to your leadership that you have capabilities that no one really thought about. And some of that is demonstrated because you take initiative.
"Preparation builds confidence and confidence builds success."
"People say, 'Oh, this door closed. This door closed.' And I'd be like, 'Well, I'll take a chainsaw and make a door.'”
"Being a microphone for people who can't be in the room is an honor and a power that I take extremely seriously."