Negotiations are tricky, and often intimidating.
“People worry about coming off as pushy, greedy, manipulative, or entitled,” says Mark Goulston, a psychiatrist, author, and former FBI hostage-negotiation trainer.
“At a deeper subconscious level is your fear not just of being told ‘no,’ but of your reaction to being told ‘no,'” he says.
Goulston now works as a business advisor and consultant using the skills he honed in his negotiation-training job. He coaches executives and employees at big corporations, including GE, IBM, and Goldman Sachs. One of his specialties: salary negotiations.
His advice for anyone about to enter a salary negotiation: “Put aside any fear of being seen as any of the negative ways above, or a fear of being told no, and focus on why you believe you deserve a greater salary, how much you feel you deserve, and why you feel you deserve it,” he explains. “And be able to back up your claim. The more facts and numbers you have to support it, the better.”
We recently asked Goulston for tips on how to win a salary negotiation. Here’s what he shared:
1. Always have a ‘BATNA.’
You always want to have a BATNA, he says. This is a Best Alternative To a Negotiation Agreement, which is essentially just a back-up request. If you ask for a $US10,000 raise and your boss says no — propose a different package you’d be just as happy with, such as a $US6,000 raise, plus an extra week of vacation.
2. Hope for the best, plan for the worst.
“Think in advance of all the responses your boss might give to your request, and plan out how you’ll respond to each,” Goulston says. This will require you to do some homework.
3. Consider the timing.
Think of several examples of when your boss has said yes to something and when they have said no, and figure out what factors drove them to their decision.
Was it the way you asked? Was it the time of day? Was it after you closed a big deal?
Consider these things and use that information to determine the best place and time to have the salary conversation.
4. Assume you’re dealing with a ‘receiver,’ not a ‘giver.’
Most people are “receivers” who are not willing to give — unless you ask, he says.
“But too many people have trouble asking for what they deserve and are entitled to,” Goulston explains. “Most just wish for it to be spontaneously given to them without having to ask. As a result, many of these people feel hurt when they are not offered the money they deserve.”
Never assume you’re dealing with a generous person — a “giver” — and always speak up about what you want.
5. Be direct.
When they tell you whatever their answer is, remain calm, look them in the eye, and say: “You know as well as I do that these conversations are usually a negotiation. So, I’d like to tell and show you why you should give me more.”
6. Ask, ‘Why?’
If your boss throws out a number first, politely ask them how and why they decided on that particular amount. Try to do this without offending them or putting them on the defensive.
Asking for an explanation will force them to really think about whether their offer is fair — and it can help initiate the negotiation conversation.
7. Take it all the way to ‘no.’
You may not feel comfortable with this, but until or unless you receive a “no” response from your boss, you’re probably asking for too little, Goulston says. “So push the case until they say no and then pause, be very calm and poised and say, ‘What didn’t I achieve or accomplish, which if I had would have caused you to give me another answer?'”
It might be that the company has policy where they cap raises at a certain percentage, and therefore there’s really nothing you or anyone else can do about it — but it’s worth asking, anyway.
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