Most of us engage in dozens of negotiations each week. We negotiate with friends about where to eat dinner or what movie to see. We negotiate with our partners about social plans or whether to move. And, if we are parents, we negotiate with our children about their bedtime, or the appropriate amount of “screen time.” Despite the amount of experience that most people having in negotiating, when facing the prospect of negotiating compensation for a new job, many people feel unprepared for the task. However, a bit of advanced preparation, and the right attitude, will make workplace negotiations more successful, and less stressful.
Advance preparation is the key to success when you are negotiating a compensation package. The first step is to determine the points that will be negotiated. Typically, employees negotiate about job title, salary, commissions, stock options, vacation and other benefits. But you might also negotiate about job duties, reporting structure, milestones, and ownership of work product. Create a list of the negotiating points, which you can review and re-evaluate as you move forward.
Once you make a list of the matters about which you’ll be negotiating, do as much research as possible about the industry norms. Start with the internet; sites like Glassdoor and PayCheck are good places to gather information. You should also talk to colleagues, particularly those with experience in your industry. Do as much research as possible, as it will allow you to negotiate from a place of strength, and explain why your figures are reasonable, given the job to be done and your experience.
Next, figure out your BATNA — Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement. What will happen if you can’t reach an agreement on the terms of the compensation package? Do you have other job offers, or can you stay in your current job? Roger Fisher, the author of “Getting to Yes,” advices that you are “only as good as your other options.” Do everything you can to cultivate other options.
When you have completed the preparation, you can approach the negotiation itself with confidence. You will be armed with research and knowledge of the industry. By the time that you get to the negotiation, the potential employer has spent a lot of time and effort recruiting and considering candidates. They have decided that you are the best candidate for the position. Keep in mind that they want to close a deal as much as you do.
During the negotiation, ask for what you want . . . plus a little bit more. A typical negotiation involves give and take; if you put your final “number” on the table at the beginning of the negotiation, you’ll likely end up with less. Be willing to share your research about compensation in the industry. And don’t be shy about talking about your accomplishments and the reasons that the compensation that your requesting is reasonable. Make sure to listen to what the employer says about their limitations, and try to brainstorm the creative ways to reach a “win-win” solution. (For example, if you’re joining as a salesperson and the company’s sales are low, propose a sharp increase in your salary if you hit certain goals.)
Finally, if you reach an agreement, make sure that all of the details are memorialized in writing. As the saying goes, handshakes are for greetings, not deals.