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Salary Negotiation – How to Do It!

Here's a simple introduction to the basics of negotiating your compensation package.In Monday’s post I listed 7 Reasons to Negotiate a Job Offer. That was the “why,” for those of us who are tempted to shy away from questioning the initial salary, benefits and other details of a compensation package.

Now let’s talk about how to do it.

Send the right messages.

Your demeanor and attitude in negotiation will be taken as an indication of how you’ll be as an employee. So approach the negotiation from a positive, collaborative, win-win perspective.

Keep expressing appreciation for the offer, for the employer’s willingness to discuss the terms, and for any concession made, even if it’s just that they will “look into it and get back to you.”

This way you can be assertive without damaging the relationship, and while protecting the mutual feeling of excitement about working together.

Nail the basics.

Never negotiate before you have a definite offer, preferably in writing. Too many job seekers unwittingly begin salary negotiation in the first interview when asked “What are your salary expectations?” If you answer with a specific figure, or even by committing to a range, you’re already negotiating, even before the employer has decided they want to hire you.

Do some research to determine the going rate for your skills and experience. Some good resources for salary research include Salary.com, Payscale.com, Indeed.com, GlassDoor.com and word of mouth). Be clear in your mind what your ideal offer looks like, and what’s the least you would accept.

Being the first to name a figure can be risky. It’s often safer to ask what their range is.

And of course, as in any sales conversation, it’s important to emphasize the benefits you’re offering to the “buyer.” How will you help them make money, save money, save time? Have examples ready.

A helpful formula for discussions:

Here’s a simple step-by-step process or framework to follow once you have an offer.

At the moment they make the offer:

  1. Express appreciation and enthusiasm.
  2. Ask for a little time to think it over if you don’t feel ready to negotiate on the spot. Set a meeting to discuss the offer. (Avoid negotiating via email. You need to hear their tone of voice and their pauses, and it’s also helpful to see their face.)
  3. Determine at least three aspects of the compensation package that you’d like to discuss.

Potentially negotiable items may include salary, start date, salary review date (one year? six months? three?), bonuses, stock options, vacation and other benefits, flexible scheduling, training, professional association membership, remote work and equipment you need for it, and more. Even the job title and responsibilities may be negotiable in some cases.

At the negotiation meeting:

  1. Express appreciation again!
  2. Name the items you’d like to discuss, then suggest what you’d like to start with. (Usually, salary is the best place to start.)
  3. For each item, say something like this:
    • What you’ve offered is…
    • What I have in mind is… (or “is more like…”)
      • because… (provide reasons based on the value you bring, objective facts about local compensation, and/or how your request is a win-win).
    • “Can you help me with that?” or “What might be possible around this?” or “What can we work out here?”
  4. Express appreciation for any consideration made. Then move on to the next item.
  5. At the end of the discussion, agree on the next step and when it will take place.

There may be further counter-offers and discussions. There’s no hard-and-fast rule about how long this process can continue. Listen carefully – listen between the lines – and use common sense.

SPECIAL OFFER: Want help planning your salary negotiation? Click the Subscribe button on this page and you can download my free Negotiation Template, among other gifts!

Stay calm, listen carefully and see it through.

If you feel pressure to decide immediately, ask yourself where that’s coming from. Does the employer really need a quick decision? (What have they said about their timeframe?) Or are you experiencing a false sense of urgency because you’re anxious? Stay calm and move forward with deliberation.

When an agreement is finally reached – and it will probably be better than the initial offer – get it in writing. Express appreciation yet again, with enthusiasm. And get ready for a flawless transition from your current situation into the new role.

Then congratulate yourself and celebrate, not only for obtaining an excellent package, but also for building vital salary negotiation skills that will serve you for the rest of your life.

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