11 Habits of Expert Salary Negotiators

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Nervous about asking for a raise? Follow this advice from career experts, and you might just get what you want.

1. They negotiate from the start.

“How well you negotiate at the beginning sets you up for how well your salary flows in the future,” says HR consultant Laurie Ruettiman, author of I Am HR: 5 Strategic Ways to Break Stereotypes and Reclaim HR. When asked about your salary expectations, respond by asking what the new job will pay, instead of presenting your personal salary history. “If you follow prescriptive advice and you never take a risk, especially during salary negotiations, you don’t earn a reward,” says Ruettiman.

Another tactic she recommends is asking for the “best first offer” (the maximum that they’re able to give) when discussing compensation for a new job, because it presents the assumption that you won’t need to negotiate a higher salary.

2. They do their research.

“When women do not do their research, they typically undervalue themselves at 30 percent,” says Sarah Laschever co-author of Women Don’t Ask and Ask For It || Amazon.com}}, and the Academic Coordinator for the WIN Summit. Sites like Glass Door and Salary.com will help you get a sense of the market and how your current salary compares.

3. They activate their networks.

Your connections can offer even more valuable information than a website. Money can be difficult to talk about, but if you simply ask for salary ranges, you’ll have a better sense of what you should be asking for in your meeting, says Kathleen Harris, VP Content Development at Levo. Additionally, expand your network from just your coworkers (it might be less awkward, anyway). Ask old classmates or people in your alumni network for guidance and insight, says Laschever.

4. They understand that timing is everything.

“It’s very difficult to negotiate your salary off of the performance management cycle,” Ruettiman says. This means you should typically wait until review time to bring up the conversation, because that’s when employers and companies are most prepared to discuss compensation. However, it’s smart to preempt the conversation by checking in with your boss a month ahead of time for an “impromptu performance review,” says Harris, so that you can assess your strengths and weaknesses, and how you can improve and grow in your position.

5. They give their bosses time to prepare.

“The surprise factor is never good,” says Harris. Make sure you give your employer notice that you want to discuss compensation. You don’t need to explicitly call it a meeting about salary negotiation—just asking to discuss your role in the company will tip your boss off that you will likely talk money.

6. They practice their speech.

Whether you outline it beforehand, read it in a mirror, or practice with a friend, make sure you’re comfortable with your talking points. Laschever recommends asking a friend to role play the conversation, because he or she can offer feedback on your speech and body language—you might not realize that you tend to shake your leg, tap your fingers on the desk, or gaze off into the distance when you’re thinking about a question.

7. They walk into the room with a positive attitude.

“Cheerfulness is infectious, it’s catching,” says Laschever. Right before the discussion, do something that puts you in a good mood and calms your nerves. Here are six easy, soothing activities that will help you prep.

8. They emphasize gratefulness, enthusiasm, and value.

All of the experts agree that a negotiation is not an egocentric meeting—you should spend time emphasizing what you bring to the company. “There’s no ‘me, me, me,’” says Harris. Your manager would rather hear how you contribute to the company. “It’s so much more economical to retain great talent than to have to lose somebody and start recruiting from scratch,” says Harris.

9. They outline their accomplishments.

When you talk to anyone about numbers—be it your boss or human resources—you need to be prepared to answer the question, “Why now?” Outline accomplishments and projects that showcase your value. “They don’t really care that you can’t pay your cable bill,” says Ruettiman. “You need to be able to make a strong business case that retaining you is important to the business.”

10. They know their strengths and weaknesses.

The best negotiators are self-aware, and understand where they excel in the company, as well as areas they need to improve upon, says Ruettiman. Not only that, but they also have “a plan of action for addressing their deficiencies.” Everyone is flawed, but if you’re routinely checking in on your performance and improving upon those weaknesses, your manager will remember that during a compensation review.

11. They know when to be silent.

After you present the number or range, sit back and don’t say anything, says Harris. “Too many times, people start trying to fill that silence and end up double-talking or apologizing for asking, and that just weakens your message,” she says. Ask for what you want, and then wait for your answer. A clear and direct approach goes a long way.

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