Regardless of whether you’re trying to negotiate through a contract, a fee with a client, or a rate increase, the premise behind my tips are guaranteed to help navigate these sometimes treacherous waters. Since my friends, family and consultants are continuously asking me questions like, “How can I make more money?” or “How do I know I can’t be making more?” in this scenario, I’ll use the example of negotiating a base salary or increase. If you’re already in a job or interviewing for a new one, the following tips should help make your next review or interview an enjoyable and rewarding one!
1) Timing is key. If you’re in an interview, don’t blurt out your salary requirements, wait until you’re asked. Remember, you need to approach this topic cautiously and where possible, practice patience. If you’re goal is an increase, don’t wait until you’ve had “enough” before you barge into your managers office demanding a raise. That will never work!
2) Be prepared. The more prepared you are to have this conversation, the less money you’ll end up leaving on the table, period. Make sure you take the time to do your homework and come up with a fair benchmark in your mind that you’d be content with. Then think about one that is slightly higher(+/-10k) and be prepared to discuss this figure and keep the lower one as you absolute minimum. Understanding the average salary for your particular job type is crucial in determining your approach. Here are some popular places online to check your worth. I suggest using these sites as a simple check, not as your main determining factor of whether you deserve a raise or not. Everyone’s case will be different.
3) Get to know your manager. Understanding where your manager’s stress points lie is pivotal in positioning yourself for a higher base salary. Even if your boss or potential boss seems cool as a cucumber, they’re inevitably going to have areas of stress, trouble spots or concerns(hopefully they don’t involve you). If you can identify those key areas, then voila, you’ve just identified your new goals for the next quarter! If for whatever reason you’re not positioned to achieve those goals, then figure out other indirect ways in order to achieve a similar result. The idea is to show that you’ve proactively identified some key areas for improvement and are thinking of ways you can help make an immediate impact. And here’s the beauty, coincidentally, they’ll just so happen to be aligned with your boss’ goals as well!
4) Put your game face on. Okay, so you’ve completed your research and identified some key areas, so now it’s go time. Take the initiative and set up a time to meet with your manager. A good way to go about this is to mention that you’d like to sit down and discuss your personal and professional goals together. In your meeting, you may want to start off with expressing your passion regarding your position and role within your organization. Feel free to get creative here. For example, expressing your dedication to the team, overall company or product or service that you offer. The reason I suggest beginning with this type of approach is, you don’t want this negotiation to backfire and to somehow be misconstrued as your way of expressing that you’re unhappy. Always keep it positive.
5) Keep your cool. If you’re anything like me, you tend to start speaking very quickly when things begin to heat up. You need to remember that this is your chance to prove yourself, to assure your boss you’re ready to step up, so it’s imperative that you act like it. Don’t rush through it, because acting nervous or unsure of yourself doesn’t exude a sense of confidence! And believe me, if you’re giving the impression that you’re unsure that you deserve a higher salary, why for one second would you think you’d get it? So take your time and get through all of your points while speaking slowly and clearly. At the same time remember to stay on track and keep your points and responses concise. And at all costs[very important], don’t get confrontational, defensive or argumentative. Keep your emotions in check and stay in control at all times. ALWAYS remain professional and positive.
6) Okay, you’ve got ‘em in your sights. Hopefully at this point things are progressing nicely and you’ve been able to express the desire for an increase. Chances are, one of the following three scenarios will happen, 1) The most likely case is that you’ve caught your boss off guard and they’ll ask what type of money you’re looking for, or 2) They’re bright and picked up on your hint on why you wanted to meet in the first place and are prepared to offer you something, or 3) for many number of reasons, the door is shut on any possible increases. If #1 occurs, never and I mean NEVER, be the first to throw out a figure. It immediately gives away any and all leverage you may have had. If #2 occurs, never commit or agree right away, even if it meets your goals. Remember that everything is negotiable. However if #3 occurs, don’t freak out(see Tip 5). Especially in these difficult economic times, increases are difficult to come by. So if there’s no budget for a base increase, use it as leverage to get other perks. Additional vacation, stock options, signing bonuses, expense accounts, profit sharing, and performance raises are only some of the perks that can make up for actual cash compensation.
7) Now we’re in business. We’re going to go ahead and assume that our fabulous tips have uncovered some extra cash or perks for you. Congratulations! However in some cases, this is where things may start to get a little confusing. Don’t feel like you need to sign or commit on the spot because it’s perfectly acceptable to redline any employment contracts. Simply ask for time to review it closer and when you get home, feel free to mark that bad boy up to your liking. This is especially the case if your salary goal has not been fully satisfied. Keep in mind that there’s always some give and take with any contract. Don’t feel like you’re ever locked in, just about everything in a contract is negotiable and don’t let anyone tell you different.
8) Not seeing eye to eye? If you’re following these tips to the tee, you’ve already mentally set a fair salary goal in mind. However, if things are way off base with your employer’s expectations, you have to be prepared to walk away. So make certain you have a backup plan for this scenario. Although this is not ideal, this method can sometimes be rewarding if the employer caves and reconsiders. Regardless of what happens, end things professionally and on a good note. It’s a small world and word that you lost your cool can and will travel fast!
Good Luck and feel free to post your own ideas, tips and results from your own experiences!