Though in a perfect world, every professional would get their due without having to ask for it, being savvy in business means fighting for yourself, your career and your worth. That’s why one non-negotiable skill is negotiation — no pun intended. As career and interview coach Cheryl Lynch Simpson explains, this artistry is the single greatest opportunity to increase your salary or receive other benefits you deserve, want or have earned. After all, when it comes to what you do day-in and day-out for 30 or more years, it’s essential to build the lifestyle that works for you. “There are literally more than two dozen things you can negotiate beyond your salary, so failing to negotiate may cause you to lose out on many of them and force you to settle for less,” Simpson adds.
Here, the most common negotiation mistakes every professional makes — and more importantly, how to fix ‘em.
Putting your cards on the table too soon.
Sort of like playing poker, or in the initial stages of dating someone promising — you never want to put all of your cards on the table from the get-go. Simpson suggests following the old adage of ‘He or she who mentions money first loses.’ In other words: you want to get a feel of the other party’s budget and financial abilities before adding a specific figure into the conversation.
Whether you’re on a call for a potential new job or having a meeting with your current boss, Simpson recommends saying something along the lines of ‘I agree that’s an important issue and I certainly don’t want to waste your time. If you could tell me what the salary range is, I can confirm if that’s in my ballpark.” Then, stop talking. Many people will be tempted to ramble or justify, but it’s better to say less than more.
“If the interviewer gives you a range that’s fairly close to what you want, respond neutrally without agreeing,” she continues. “If their range is much too low, bow out gracefully. If they refuse to give you a range and insist you give them one, share a 10K to 20K range onto which you’ve added 10 to 30 percent negotiations elbow room.”
Not preparing enough.
Most of the time, professionals aren’t put on the spot to negotiate. After all, you can predict that salary discussions will happen during an interview or review process. Even so, chief brand officer for EHE Health Joy Altimare says very few take time to prepare themselves. Being on your A-game includes studying industry standards and rates, having a practice negotiation with a trusted friend or mentor, and arriving with slides or documents to prove your point. “It’s wise not just to understand your perspective, but to wisely think through the other sides and prepare arguments/rebuttals that would lead to the desired resolution,” she continues. “When you only have supporting arguments from you point-of-view, you have not completely analyzed the situation and enter the conversation at a disadvantage.”
Position your desired salary too low.
No matter how much experience you have or how qualified you are for an opportunity when you’re put on the spot about finances, many stumble. Considering money is anxiety that plenty of professionals share, Simpson says people tend to go much lower with their expectations, rather than asking for more. Before you have a discussion, an interview or even a quick brief, always know your number and be prepared to fight for it. As Simpson shared, a client once state his then-current rate of pay, and the employer offered him the job on the spot, but with no increase. “Later, when he told me about this, he paused and asked me what would have happened if he had said a higher number. I told him that he very probably would have received a higher offer,” she shared.
Making it all about you, rather than a relationship.
There’s a difference between having your dukes out — and approaching negotiations with a team-playing attitude. Though sure, you want to be compensated or awarded for what you’ve earned, if you are only coming across as self-centered or motivated, it’s easy for employers (whether current or prospective) to feel slighted. Altimare suggests focusing on collaboration, rather than competition. “Competitive energy can feel aggressive and limit the opportunity for harmonious resolution,” she shares. “Try to avoid unreasonable demands, threats or coercive tactics; rather try to build rapport and trust so that all parties feel comfortable with the process and will often, share more underlying interests.”
Forgetting it’s not only about money.
In 34 years in the career management industry, Simpson has never encountered anyone who regretted negotiating for a job. On the other than, she’s met 100s who have disappointed themselves by not asking for more. Even if it’s not money specifically, there is always space to see if a current or future employer will throw in another perk. Consider paid time off, the ability to work from home on certain days of the week, or other flexibility that is important to you. “It makes good sense to make a list ahead of receiving a possible job offer outlining the negotiable items that are most important to you so that you can increase the odds you get them,” she shares. “Negotiating a job offer will help you to feel more comfortable on the job. If you don’t ask for what you want, you’re guaranteed to not get it. If you do, you just might.”