Recently, I got a call from a lawyer who’d just informed a client she was raising her fees. He was not happy, but grudgingly agreed to the increase. She went into a tailspin of self-doubt. “I feel terrible,” she moaned. “My fees are fair. I’d been undercharging him. But he’s upset. Now I don’t feel right.”
My response: “It’s ok to feel bad. It’s ok to feel guilty. It’s ok to have second thoughts. Just don’t let those feelings stop you.” It may seem obvious, but to overcome underearning, you must take a stand, ask for what you want, negotiate until you reach a mutually satisfactory agreement or walk away where appropriate, no matter how uncomfortable you feel.
This comes as a revelation to some and a source of terror to most. Entrepreneurs are terrified they’ll lose clients. Employees are afraid they’ll be fired. Everyone’s scared of rejection. But this is not just about money. It’s about valuing yourself. In my experience, when you value yourself, people automatically put a higher value on you too.
Besides, your financial future depends upon it. Think about this. Linda Babcock, in “Women Don’t Ask: Negotiation and Gender Divide” writes, “A woman who routinely negotiates her salary increases will earn over $1 million dollars more by the time she retires than a woman who accepts what she’s offered every time without asking for more.”
A salary offer is not a foregone conclusion. Most human resource professionals expect you to negotiate. Here’s how you can stack the odds in your favor.
Here are 12 surefire tips for a successful negotiation:
- Know what you want. Research the going rates in your field. Ask for the high end of the spectrum. You can always negotiate down, but never up.
- Have points prepared. Build a case around your value and what you bring to the company.
- Negotiate salary only after a job offer. Don’t be the first to bring it up. I once heard an expert put it like this: “Make them fall in love with you before talking money.”
- Above all, focus on relationship building. When someone likes you, it’s tougher for them to say ‘no.’
- Always start negotiations on a positive note. For example, thank the employer for the opportunity and make a counteroffer.
- Negotiate more than money: early salary review, signing bonus, relocation costs, profit sharing, flexible schedule, paid time off, benefits, perks, educational programs, expense account, club memberships, bigger office, laptop, cell phone, job title.
- Act confident (even if you don’t feel it). Communicate with authority. Practice beforehand. Perceived confidence has a big impact.
- If someone acts put off by a reasonable counter offer, consider it a red flag or negotiating ploy. Perhaps the employer or client doesn’t value what you bring to the table. Or it’s an attempt to intimidate you into agreement.
- “No” simply means “not now.” Ask what you can to do to negotiate a raise in the future, say in six months.
- An effective strategy to overcome objections is to have a job offer from another company.
- Always request 24 to 72 hours to think over the offer.
- Always get the offer in writing.
Barbara Stanny is a member of the DailyWorth Connect program. Read more about the program here.