Negotiating with Sophie Hayek - CEO Australia at PropHero
What’s your career story so far?
I’m currently the CEO Australia at PropHero, one of the fastest growing PropTech in the country, with offices in Australia, Spain and Indonesia. Our purpose is to harness the power of property to secure financial wellbeing, with the vision to be the digital destination for global property investment.
Before taking on this role, I held a leadership role at an international scale-up, launching their operations in Sydney and across NSW. Prior to that, I held various strategy roles in large Australian companies in the retail and Tech sectors, drawing on the skills I acquired early in my career in strategy consulting.
What types of negotiations have you tackled in your career?
I’ve engaged in a variety of negotiations throughout my career, both on a personal level and on behalf of the companies I worked for. These negotiations have encompassed salary negotiations (for myself or as a manager with my team members), negotiations related to redundancies, client negotiations (such as addressing unsatisfactory customer experience), and more recently negotiations with real estate agents to secure the best possible deal for our clients.
What do you think defines a great negotiator? How might it differ from the stereotypes?
A great negotiator is someone who leaves you feeling like you haven’t lost out and can generate options for mutual gain, even when faced with challenging individuals or situations.
Negotiations, by their nature, involve difficult conversations that are not easy to navigate. In my view, the best negotiators are those who do not antagonize, but rather make you feel heard and respected.
While the stereotype of a great negotiator may involve being tough and winning at all cost, this approach is often transactional and short-sighted, and doesn’t yield the best outcome.
What’s your style when you negotiate, and how has it evolved?
I would describe my negotiation style as collaborative, and it aligns with my management style, often referred to as an “iron fist in a velvet glove”. I believe in being assertive and confident whilst remaining warm and empathetic. Empathy allows negotiators to understand the emotions and perspectives of the other side, fostering trust and rapport, which can lead to more mutually beneficial agreements. But it’s crucial to be clear and firm on the things you won’t compromise on and to know when to walk away.
My negotiation style has definitely evolved over time:
in the early stages of my career, I lacked the confidence to negotiate, so I didn’t ask for what I wanted.
It was only when I started thinking about what I would do if I wasn’t afraid, that I started to proactively negotiate. Now, I place a greater emphasis on understanding the underlying motivations and needs of the other party, rather than solely focusing on my own to create win-win solutions as much as possible - knowing that this is not always the case.
How do you prepare for a negotiation?
Before entering a negotiation, I first try to put myself in the shoes of the other party and understand their needs, considering not only their objectives but also their emotions and values. I then do my research or analysis, whether it involves gathering the right data or benchmarks to support my position. I also prepare for various potential reactions, because people react differently in negotiations. Most importantly, I prepare my alternatives and BATNA (Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement), which is crucial if the current negotiation reaches an impasse.
What are some common negotiation mistakes you see in action?
I’ve made a few negotiation mistakes myself.
The first one is being too emotional.
It’s essential to manage your emotions, remain calm and avoid reacting impulsively, even in the face of provocations or bad faith
- easier said than done I know!
The second common mistake is not listening enough. Actively listening, paraphrasing or asking open ended questions are important to clarify and avoid misunderstanding the motives of the other party
Lastly, another mistake is focusing on your own interests and maintaining a rigid position. Being open to brainstorm multiple solutions that can address both parties' interests is a more effective approach. Look for instance for elements in the other party’s proposal that align with your interests.
What other advice would you give to people learning to negotiate for themselves?
Prepare A LOT, but also be aware that things may not unfold as expected, despite thorough preparation.
Also, practice negotiation skills in lower-stake situations, essentially using role-play in your daily life.
get familiar with well-known negotiation tactics, such as “anchoring”, “low-ball” or “hard-ball”,
to not only to know when to use them, but also to recognize when they are being used against you, and how to respond.
Are there any resources you’d like to recommend?
I highly recommend reading “Getting to Yes” by Roger Fisher and William Ury & “Getting Past No” by William Ury. These are absolute must-reads for anyone looking to enhance their negotiation skills.
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