There are many folks who are excellent negotiators in business. Yet, when it comes to their own compensation packages, they fall short. They come unprepared. They rush. They assume or second guess. They are far less successful in conversations about their own outcomes than they would be on behalf of someone else. There are six steps that can greatly impact your success with negotiating your employment package. My top two:
1. Don’t Bargain Before the Deal
While negotiating may be a cyclical “selling and buying” process in some respects, you can’t negotiate unless there’s a chance the employer will offer new terms. That won’t happen unless the employer is “sold” on you. Rushing in with your terms on the table will typically not serve you well. Focus early-stage discussions on what the company needs, your related successes in stories, with metrics as much as possible, and with a relating-back-to-that-employer gist.
When you are ready to negotiate, it’s important that you have a clear idea of what you want. You can absolutely mention possibilities that are appealing to you. Keep in mind that you probably won’t get everything you want. Focus on your main goal and don’t jeopardize the entire negotiation by coming on too strong about less important items.
In job search, pressure, bullying and confrontation strategies are not valuable. You’re setting the tone for a long-term relationship that you hope you will have. In fact, many folks I know don’t even like the term “negotiation” because it implies role playing and confrontation—something that doesn’t come easily for many. We’ll stick to the term, because that’s its most common association.
Point to Remember: The best negotiators are ready and don’t trigger annoyance. Be authentic and practical, never unsympathetic or manipulative. Likeable + Wanted = Better Terms
2. Delay Money Talk
My clients have told me about some tough lessons. One was Joe, an executive with American Express, earning a substantial six-figure salary, but on the hunt for a 25% increase with his next employer. Here’s how it went:
Widget Company CEO: “Joe, we’d love to have you join our company, and want to make you a compelling offer. What do you earn at American Express?”
Feeling optimistic, Joe shared information about his income, and accepted their offer. He later discovered that his predecessor in the role had been compensated 45% more; and that the company had been prepared to match it, had they not been given the green light to go much lower.
Point to Remember: Never negotiate based solely on where you’ve been. Think like a poker player; don’t lay all your cards on the table.
Premature discussions about money can be a very real deal-breaker. The more an employer wants you, the more likely he or she will be willing to pay more for having you.
Consider this cue from an employer: “Tina, before we begin, can you tell me how much money you’re looking for?” Here are three possible responses that Tina might use in responding with savvy:
1) “Paul, I would love to. If I could know a bit more about the job, it would help me answer your question. Could you tell me about the responsibilities with the board of directors?”
2) “Paul, I hope we will be able to agree that my experience fits your needs. I don’t anticipate any problem on compensation. Your time is valuable, and I wouldn’t take any of it if I weren’t confident that we’re in a negotiable ballpark. Frankly, right now I want to make sure that we’re on the same page with my background being just what you’re looking for.”
3) “Paul, I’m really most interested in the holistic picture: the company culture, the people I’ll work for and with, and my ability to contribute to the mission. Of course money is a factor, but not the most important one. I’m not hemmed into a specific number.”
In all three scenarios, you’ve graciously avoided a direct answer. If the employer persists, you could be direct:
“I’d rather avoid discussing compensation. Challenge is most important, and I would prefer to both agree I’m right for the job before we talk money.”
What do you think about this opportunity? Is it right for you? Are you right for it and them? If yes is your answer, then slowly wade into the money and compensation waters. Don’t rush; don’t assume. This is important. In my next post, I’ll share my Tips 3 and 4 for approaching your compensation package smartly!
Photo: Doug Caldwell