Second to receiving or giving performance feedback, negotiating salary is the most uncomfortable thing to do in the world of work.
But not for everyone. There are those of you who look your prospective or current employer right in the eye with steadfast confidence and say, “I want $X-K per year because of Y and Z, and not a penny less.”
And in response, there are those employers who say, “Well, the position wasn’t budgeted for $X-K per year, so I’ll throw in more days off, because of your excellent Y and Z, but not a penny more.”
Then there are the rest of us who shoot way too high or aim way too low. Been there done that many times myself. And today’s economy makes it even more difficult with companies increasing base salaries modestly at best. Plus the variances of your experience – starting a job for the first time versus negotiating an executive position – make a difference as well.
My advice is very simple: try to think and react proactively like a seasoned marketing and sales professional. Marketing and sales pros understand how to:
1.Research, research, research.
Sure, life moves pretty fast and you usually don’t have the luxury to fully understand the business you’re interested in working for, but whether you’re looking at a new job prepping for your final interviews or preparing for an internal move with a company you already work for, you should take the time to understand the scope and potential salary of your target “market” – which, in this case, is the ‘landing the job.’
There are many sites today that show you salary ranges by industry, position and geography, including Glassdoor.com. Don’t go into your negotiation blind. Even a little knowledge can be a powerful tool when attempting to ensure you’re getting paid at fair market value. You may be going in and playing chicken – who will spill the salary numbers first.
2. Generate awareness to make the business case.
It may be easier to stay visible in a smaller company, but regardless of size and performance management processes, if you’re already working for the company, you should definitely document your own professional accomplishments. And not just a random list; make sure to map as best you can your accomplishments to helping the business grow.
Same goes for generating awareness for your new job, although you’ve already done most of the heavy lifting since you got the job offer in the first place. But you must still use your previous experience as well as projected accomplishments to convince your potential employer you’re worth more than they offer.
You must make the business case as to how your past experience and/or current productivity “investments” have impacted the business or will impact it and why the company should invest in you further.
3. Build in wiggle room to close the deal.
If you’ve ever had the opportunity to witness and/or read about sales pros closing consultative sales – ones that involves doing the homework, building the relationship, generating awareness and interest, making the business case, and then closing the deal – you’ve got a pretty good idea that it’s not something you just wing.
But one thing you do need to do is to build in wiggle room with your salary counter offer, or initial offer if a prospective employer and/or internal move asks you to name it. This is an art more than a science, because like in sales, you’re always trying to pad the margin as much as you can in order to make a profit if and when the deal closes. If you shoot too high, you’ll insult and amuse them and the negotiation may be short-lived. But if you aim too low, then you’ve wiped out your margin and any chance at going back up.
Think about it – it’s much more difficult to negotiate up than it is to negotiate down. If you ask for $X-K per year salary and your employer says okay, and you go home and think about and realize I should’ve asked for more, and then you come back and ask for more, odds are the offer won’t change.
These tips may not always work in every salary negotiation scenario. Just remember that the difference between your optimal salary and what your employer wants to pay you can sometimes be bigger than you think. Make the business case and good luck in sealing the best-paying deal.