As the title of this article says, effective negotiation is an art–meaning a skill or craft. Therefore, successful negotiations should be a planned and strategic exchange rather than a spontaneous eruption of demands or threats. The word negotiation is defined as a discussion with another party for the purpose of reaching an agreement. Anger or self-righteous indignation, no matter how justified, should be left outside of the negotiating room. A respectful, conciliatory, and very focused exchange is key to obtaining the salary or raise that you are seeking.
To maximize your chances of getting your desired salary or raise not to mention establishing and/or preserving a strong and positive working relationship with a new supervisor or existing employer, consider the following effective strategies:
  • 1. Know up front what you hope to achieve. You cannot effectively negotiate if you are not clear about your desired outcome. If you have received a job offer and you want a higher salary, know the exact amount you want, the rock bottom figure you would be willing to accept, and have your objective labor market ready to support your negotiation efforts. When seeking a raise, you should know the amount of increase you are seeking and why you deserve that amount. You should also be prepared with objective research that demonstrates your earnings are below fair market wages in your geographic area or if your job performance exceeds the parameters that fair market wages are based upon.
  • 2. He or she who states an exact figure first loses the strategic advantage. If you are asked early during the interview process about your salary requirement, stating a low figure can cost you hundreds to thousands of dollars. Stating a figure that is too high before you have adequately wowed the interviewer with your outstanding skills, can cost you the job. Likewise, when requesting a raise, you may make such a wonderful case for why you deserve a substantial increase and then ruin the outcome by quoting a figure lower than the dollar amount your employer had been formulating in his or her mind. If your raise amount is too high, it can undermine your creditability and result in your getting no raise at all. The best negotiation practice is to allow the employer to throw out the first figure. This lets you know how far apart you and the employer are from attaining a middle ground.If you are asked first about the amount of the raise or salary that you want, deflect the question by quoting a range based on your preliminary “fair market value” research and/or by asking the employer what the salary range for the position is, noting that you are still learning about the job and are therefore not yet able to pinpoint a precise figure. When negotiating a raise, you might begin by asking or stating the company’s cost of living percentage range for that year. Then you can make the case for why you deserve a raise at the top or above that range, based on your stellar job performance and the valuable contributions without ever providing a specific dollar amount.
  • 3. Position your desired outcome as a benefit to your employer in negotiating a starting salary, your best justification for getting the money that you want is by articulating the returned value it will have to your employer. Most employees pay for themselves in productivity—why else do companies hire people? Begin by reminding the employer why he or she wants to hire you. Because all effective negotiations are win-win business discussions, take the opportunity to remind the employer of your primary new role in delivering outstanding work with measurably strong results. Cite the specific accomplishments you achieved in your most recent job. By remunerating you at the level that enables you to feel supported and valued you can feel great “hitting the ground running” for your new employer. Likewise, with raise negotiations, you can specifically remind your employer about your most recent valuable contributions whether it was saving the company dollars, generating new business growth, or stepping in at the last minute to cover a colleague’s unexpected absence. State your accomplishments matter-of-factly and then remind your employer that rewarding you for past valuable work is a cost-effective investment in the company’s future. Never make threats or demands but smile freely and maintain solid eye contact.
  • 4. Support Your Case: Be prepared to share the results of your objective labor market research. These steps require that you do your homework in advance so that you can recount your organizational value as well as quote the fair market salary range for people with your background, experience, your organization’s size within your specific geographic location. Several websites provide geographic labor market ranges and you can also survey competitive employers and headhunters to obtain this valuable information. If your current salary is not commensurate with the posted range, express to your employer how important it is for you to do a thorough job and your returned expectation is to receive a fair compensation, commensurate with your contributions.
  • 5. Never argue or disagree: Of course the other party may not agree with your assessment or he/she might have other factors to consider that you may be unaware of. As your negotiation partner presents mitigating information—and he or she usually does, listen attentively. You may be told, for example, that this year’s operational budget is already over-extended or the Pandora’s Box would open if other staff got wind that your starting salary was higher or that you received a mid-year raise. The employer may disagree or discount your labor market research or the actual merits of your presented accomplishments. Whatever the negating responses are, it is important to allow the other party the opportunity to express his or her thoughts just as that person took the time to attentively listen to you.
  • 6. Always express empathy: Remember the fastest way to disarm someone is to agree or at least empathize with his or her situation. Acknowledge how difficult times are financially, how budget constraints are getting tighter, or how challenging it must be to manage diverse staff. You may even concede that your contribution may not have been as large as you recall or affirm that labor market data may not be completely reliable.
  • 7. Remain politely focused and persistent: If your opponent is a skillful negotiator he or she will often try shifting the discussion to budgetary constraints, other staff concerns, or the details of who actually contributed more value to the company. Do not take the bait. Gently return your negotiating partner to the matter hand. “While I can appreciate how over-extended the budget currently is, I am looking forward to coming on board without limitations. I would not be a very impressive candidate if I told you that times were rough so I could only deliver 80% of my potential. A true win-win shows that I am willing to invest in your company and that, in return, your company is willing to invest in me.” Then smile and ask your disarmed negotiation partner “how might we best resolve this for a mutually satisfying outcome.” You can remind the employer “I am, after all, being hired to make the company money, not to spend it.” In adaption to that approach for someone seeking a raise might go something like this: “It must be difficult having to manage so many different employee personalities. However, other workers are not really relevant to this discussion since I am addressing you specifically about my contributions. And while we can debate the merits of labor market research endlessly, I would have never sought objective data if I felt my present salary was commensurate with my contributions. I am wondering how we might solve this discrepancy.” Another polite focused and persistent response might be “I am not exactly sure who contributed what on the blah blah campaign. My concern is…” and politely return to your original point.
  • 8. If the conversation gets heated back down but do not back off: Although in theory business discussions are not supposed to be personal—let’s face it, negotiating your future salary or raise IS personal and you WANT TO WIN! If you find the tone escalating, back down by reminding the employer that your goal is to obtain a mutually satisfying resolution. Remember that you are negotiating with someone that you will continue to see daily and who may decide future key issues about your employment and career. Simply restate your request, why you are requesting it, and your willingness to work collaboratively in hopes of reaching a mutually satisfying solution.
  • 9. Remember the ¾ Rule: Most often negotiations are about compromise. Once you do specify a figure, more than likely, when successful, the employer will counteroffer ¾ of that amount. That is why it is essential, as a new employee, to know your “rock bottom” amount so you are clear about when it may become necessary to stop negotiating and decline or accept the job.
  • 10. Even when you concede conditions you will always win in the long–run. There are times when an employer is unable to grant some or all of your request. The decision may be out of his/her hands or circumstances might not be conducive to immediate change. Even if your request is denied, if you are clear, articulate, able to express the advantage of your proposal to your employer, and uncompromisingly focused, you will win your employer’s respect and leave the negotiating room with your creditability intact. Also, there are times initially when an employer says“no” and then spends additional time thinking about what was discussed, returning later with an earnest if not delayed “yes.” Even when “no” means “no,” you and your employer will both understand exactly how you feel and what will motivate you going forward. If you are truly a valuable employee who can professionally state what you want, you are light years ahead in ultimately attaining what you are seeking. Remember, prepare well and remain professional. Good luck!
  • Payscale compensation information to help determine skills and experience vale on the open job market.
  • Salary Expert U.S. career, U.S. executive, U.S. Nonprofit, and International salaries.
  • profiles for a variety of occupations; customized profiles available for a fee.
  • Relocation Salary Locator - – An automatic calculator to figure out salary requirements throughout the United States
By Serena Santillanes,
Serena Santillanes, President