6 Steps to a Strong Negotiation Strategy

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Don’t wait until you get an offer to start thinking about salary negotiation. It’s never too early to plan for salary discussions, even if you aren’t going to leave your current job for at least a few more months.

If you’re strategic about it, negotiating a new compensation package doesn’t have to be scary. What should scare you, though, is only negotiating your paycheck while leaving the rest of your compensation package on the table! Many people settle for the first offer. Rethink your negotiation strategy, especially if you’re only focused on your annual income.

Negotiating compensation is stressful when you lack strategy. Anxiety appears when you’re unprepared, and it results in failure and disappointment. Employers are not interested in offering the best salary first. You must pursue it. If you’re unprepared to persuade employers to pay your worth, you’ll lose out.

Kwame Christian, a business attorney and founder of the American Negotiation Institute, says people need to “recognize the opportunity to negotiate.” Most people need practice in negotiating. Now is the time to prepare – even if you are not conducting a job search.

Here are several ways to ready yourself for a negotiation:

1. Recognize That ‘No’ Is Part of the Growth process

You never get used to hearing “no,” but enough “no” can help you adjust to negative outcomes. Christian suggests what he calls “No” Therapy: “Look for [negotiation] opportunities where the chances of success are minimal. Sometimes it works, and it’s a win-win when you don’t expect to succeed.”

This mindset is especially useful during particularly stressful negotiations. “It’s easier to accept rejection when the stakes are higher,” Christian says.

2. Know Where the Boundaries Are

Salary is important, but you need to consider the complete compensation package in order to determine the appropriate strategy. You can also get a head start on negotiating with a new employer by upping your salary now before you head onto the job market.

“While you’re working at your old job, ask for a raise, [which you can then] leverage when looking for a new [job],” Christian says. “The ceiling is the new floor.”

I used this strategy years ago while exiting a dissolving startup. Since others were exiting the company early, I had no pushback in getting a 15 percent raise.

3. Keep the Narrative Positive

Many job seekers focus too much on their opportunities for improvement and not enough on their strengths. It’s especially important to emphasize the positive when negotiating a salary.

“The impetus is on you to change the narrative,” Christian says.

4. Ask, But Also Show

Confidence comes from the application of your strengths. Strategize and execute a serious dialogue promoting your value. Proving your value will go a long way.

That being said, Christian also notes, “You don’t get what you deserve; you get what you ask for.” Proving your worth is only one part of the equation. You also have to set the terms of the negotiation.

5. ‘No’ Can Also Mean ‘Not Yet’

Christian says most people fail because they think of the negotiation as a single conversation. Instead, he suggests approaching negotiation as if it “has no beginning and no end.”

When you have delivered value, you position yourself favorably for follow-up discussions. Even if the first attempt at negotiation doesn’t go your way, you may be able to reignite the conversation when you’ve proven your worth.

6. Defuse the Threat

If you start a negotiation by saying you want more money rather than by trying to establish a mutual value exchange, you’ll be seen as a threat. Negotiations need to be amicable, but you also want to keep your accomplishments top of the manager’s mind.

To help you make negotiation a pleasant experience for all involved, Christian recommends creating a paper trail when good things happen. Send emails with specific details and file them away for when it’s time to negotiate.

Your job search could take months or longer, and seeing a bump in your compensation now could be leverage for your next job. Some people can get raises based on earned buy-in they’ve already built up with bosses. The rest of us can follow the above steps.

Mark Anthony Dyson is a career consultant, the host and producer of “The Voice of Job Seekers” podcast, and the founder of the blog by the same name.

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Mark Anthony Dyson is a career consultant, the host and producer of “The Voice of Job Seekers" podcast, and founder of the blog by the same name. Download the podcast on iTunes and many other podcatchers. We are helping the unemployed, underemployed, and underappreciated job seekers find and create a voice through this platform. Follow Mark on: @MarkADyson