I’m a firm believer that every person should be able to negotiate. It can be intimidating, but it comes in handy – in purchasing big ticket items, in working with people, and most importantly, in business. I’ve been an excellent negotiator since I was young (I learned from the best – my aunt is so good, she confuses car salesmen thoroughly, and once convinced them that her 3 year old broken car was worth more than a brand-new special edition of the same model), and I love helping people learn my negotiation strategy to advance in their own careers. Here’s how to get exactly what you want while making everyone involved feel like a winner.
Decide what you want.
I’m going to use an example of wanting a raise, but these steps can help you negotiate anything – a job offer, a new car, buying a house. The first step to getting what you want is knowing exactly what it is you want. You can’t just want a raise – you have to decide you want a raise of 4 dollars per hour and a promotion. Then you have to decide what is the minimum you will accept. A raise of 2 dollars an hour and a path to a promotion? The raise without the promotion? It’s up to you, but make sure it’s something you can happily settle for.
Prepare yourself for the worst case scenario.
I’ve never had to actually follow through, but I always have a plan for if I can’t even get my bare minimum. If your raise gets shot down, be prepared to look for a new job – once you lose a negotiation completely, you’ve lost all power in that circle. If you’re negotiating on a car, be prepared to leave the dealership. Another part of preparing for the worst is it keeps you from getting too cocky – confidence is good, but an overinflated ego is bad.
Prep your case.
You can’t just tell people they should give you more money and expect them to blindly agree. If you’re negotiating a raise, discuss areas you’ve excelled in your current role. If you want a promotion, talk about ways in which you’re prepared for the responsibility – or at least, how you will get there. Make a list of bullet points and memorize it, print off any proof of achievements you have.
Overinflate your request.
Whatever you want, add 20%. If you know you’re going up against a hard negotiator, add 40%. They are going to try to meet you in the middle, or even on the low side, and you want that buffer zone.
Set up a time and pick out a quiet space.
It’s worth it to arrange the meeting. I try not to give the other person too much lead time, but I do want them to block off the time. If you’re facing your boss, stop them the morning of, and ask them if you can steal a half-hour of their time when they’re free. That way, they won’t be distracted by phone calls and interruptions, or feel rushed (which will make them much more dismissive).
Enter Round 1.
Once you’ve entered the meeting, calmly and clearly state your inflated demand and lay out your case. You want to keep it short and brief. For example, in one raise negotiation, I said:
“I wanted to discuss getting a raise with you, and being placed on track for a promotion to X role. I’ve been here for a year, I’ve recaptured XX in lost revenue, and I’ve taken on these three additional responsibilities. I strongly feel that I’ve earned a raise to (30% of what I was making – I really only wanted 15% and was prepared to accept 10%) as well as the option to enter the training program for the promotion, with the goal of entering the position in the next 8 months.”
This is the hardest part, but also the most important technique for any negotiation strategy. Do not say a word. Don’t flinch, don’t babble, don’t look away. It’s a common technique for the other person to stay silent for a minute, which makes you nervous so you backtrack and chatter to fill the quiet. Don’t. Maintain steady eye contact, don’t fidget, and don’t speak. They need to be the next to speak. I strongly suspect finding a friend to practice this with in advance, because it is harder than you think it will be.
Enter Round 2 if needed.
When they finally speak, they will come back with a counter-offer. Oftentimes, this will be acceptable to you, if you’ve followed all the steps up till now. For instance, in my raise request, my boss, a known tough negotiator, came back with an offer of 20% and the opportunity to revisit my payrate in six months.
However, sometimes the counter-offer is unacceptable. In that case, reduce your inflated request slightly. Say “I deserve this raise, but I understand that you feel my proposed number is high, just like I feel your number undervalues my contributions to the company a bit. Do you think you could meet me in the middle with a raise of (your desired number, uninflated) and putting me on track for this promotion in 6 months if I hit these milestones?”
And what if their counter-offer is at or just above your minimum? Don’t just accept it. The last offer on the table should be yours. In my case, the counter-offer was higher than what I was even aiming for, but I lost the promotion track, so I mentioned it again.
“I can accept that payrate, but only if I know that I’ll be allowed to grow in the company. If you don’t feel X position is a good fit for me, I’d like the opportunity to take on an added responsibility doing Y to prove my abilities. If in three months, I hit Z milestones, I’d like for us to sit down again and discuss a potential promotion.”
Shut up again.
This time, shutting up will be even harder, because more is riding on them just accepting. It’s also all the more important. Show no fear, even if you have to bite your tongue till it bleeds.
If they accept your final offer, you’re good to go. Thank them and walk away.
If they don’t, give them your final offer – your bare minimum and a promise to revisit the issue in 6 months, and make it clear that this is important for you. If they can’t meet even that, thank them for their time and start looking for a new job. I’ve never actually had this happen, but it’s always a good idea to have a contingency plan in place.
Follow these tips and you can finagle what you want out of anyone. Just be sure to only use your newfound powers for good, not evil! And tell me your success stories using my negotiation strategy!