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4 tips to succeed in your next salary negotiation

4 steps to succeed in your next salary negotiation

How often do you enter a salary negotiation feeling empowered? 

Negotiating can be daunting. There’s so much uncertainty about what to say and how to say it. There’s also the fear of, “What will they think of me if I ask for a number outside of their budget?” These fears can lead us to undervalue ourselves and to fumble through the negotiation process. 

I understand the stress that comes with these negotiations.  I spent 10+ years working in media where my job required me to negotiate rates for clients and to close multi-million dollar contracts. I’ve also been through several salary negotiations – some that went well and others that didn’t. Now as a business owner, I negotiate deals for my business weekly. Whatever your experience level, it can feel edgy to ask for what you want!

Nevertheless, going through this process with preparation will serve you well. 

Here are 4 tips to help you prepare for your next negotiation. If you anticipate a salary negotiation and you value fostering enduring relationships, read on.

Acknowledge your fears

Before we dive into the numbers, take a pause and check in with how you’re feeling. Imagine getting on the phone to make your salary request.

Are your hands shaking and is your chest pounding? Do you feel discomfort in your belly? 

I see many of my clients wanting to rush past this part to talk about the numbers, but your emotional state is a big part of this process. Connecting with how you’re feeling can give you insight into your level of confidence to ask for what you actually want.

So before you do anything else, start with this:

  • Do a brain dump of your worries. What are all the thoughts going through your mind? 
  • Label the feeling(s) that comes up. Is it anxiety? Fear? Concern? 
  • Review your notes. What would support you with feeling more confident? Is it talking through this with a friend or doing more market research? See if you can identify what you need to feel a bit more relaxed. 

Hone in on your value 

Getting clear on how you’ll add value in the role will definitely help you with your nerves. 

First, I often hear: “I’m unsure what salary to request,” or “I’d like to request a $135K salary but they likely can’t do that.”

Notice that these thoughts are anchored in what’s possible for them. 

I want you to focus on what’s possible for you. Put these thoughts to the side and think about, regardless of what they can do, what’s the value that you add? 

Spend some time brainstorming:

  • How will your skills impact the organization?
  • How many people are out there with your skill set? 
  • How will you add value in the long term and future? 
  • What makes your skill set unique? 
  • What’s possible for the organization if they hire you? 

Some ways in which you add value can be quantifiable but other ways may be more difficult to measure. For example, if you excel in people skills, that may be difficult to quantify but you can speak about the impact that can have on the company culture and team morale. These are significant. 

In addition to breaking down your value, do some research on the market. With all this information, you can now come up with a number that’s rooted in what you want as well as the market. 

Get Creative

Having options in your back pocket keeps the conversation open and increases the opportunity for a deal that’s mutually beneficial. The goal in my opinion (especially when you care about the relationship) is to create something that’s a win for you and a win for them. 

If they push back on your number, what can you concede on? Having this prepared is really helpful. 

Maybe you’re willing to concede on vacation days or something in your benefits package. Or, perhaps you can ask for more work-from-home time or a performance-based bonus. 

Having alternatives is really powerful, and it also shows the employer you’re flexible and have a desire to make this work. 

Plan for your conversation

“How do I initiate the conversation?” is a question clients often ask me. 

Even armed with these strategies, initiating the negotiation can still be daunting.

Here’s a simple formula to start the conversation and to keep it going:

  1. Start the convo with gratitude. Let them know you’re grateful for the opportunity. 
  2. Clearly state your request. Be specific about the number. Many recruiters and other career coaches recommend giving a range, but I like to go in with just one number. (If you go in with a range, you’ll always be offered the lower end of the range.)
  3. Justify your ask, focusing on the most pertinent reasons initially. Speak to your rationale and value here. 
  4. Allow the silence. Let the request land. You might feel uncomfortable but don’t keep rambling.  
  5. Let them come back to you with feedback, and have other options prepared for your discussion. 

Now, over to you. What aspects of negotiation stress you out? When do you feel most confident or apprehensive? Share your thoughts below.

Belma McCaffrey

Author Belma McCaffrey

More posts by Belma McCaffrey

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