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Salary Negotiations: Tactics to use during the meeting

If your negotiations seem more like standoffs than conversations, here are some hints for more effective tactics.

If your negotiations seem more like standoffs than conversations, here are some hints for more effective tactics.

You’ve made your preparations, and you’re on your way to your salary negotiations meeting. Don’t let fear, bad experience,s or preconceived notions about negotiations get in your way.

(Learn how to prepare for negotiations in the previous four blog posts: You don’t have to be an executive, How much do I ask for?, Preparing to negotiate benefits, and What employers want.)

You don’t have to be an expert negotiator when you have prepared well. Knowing what you want and what you have to offer go a lot further. However, as a final step in your preparation, it helps to know a bit about what you might encounter in your negotiation meeting, so here are a few hints about negotiation tactics some employers use and some you can use, too. 

  •  Sympathy: “I’d love to hire you, but I just can’t afford you at this time.” 
  •  Disappointment and Guilt: “Boy, I was hoping we’d be closer together on this.”
  •  Arm Twisting: “This is a take-it-or-leave-it proposition. If this isn’t acceptable, we have nothing more to talk about.”

Your best answer to any of these tactics is often some form of “What would it take?” In other words, your power lies in asking rather than answering. Even if your prospective employer appears to be pressuring you for an answer, you don’t have to give them one. Instead, you can ask another question, such as, ” What do you have in mind?” “Are you considering a range?” or “Is there room for negotiation?”

  • Trade-off: “If you can compromise your base salary, we can throw in a company car.”

This tactic can be an opportunity to negotiate for something you want, even if it isn’t what they offer at first. If a car isn’t it, there may be something else you want more. Ask for it. Often, the result is a win-win negotiation.

Anytime you are asked to make a concession in a negotiation, automatically ask for something in return. You can ask for the next item on your priority list or just let them know that you are willing to concede if they replace that item with something else.

Notice the style

This is also a great time to notice the negotiating style of your employer. Unless they have a huge amount of training, people’s negotiating style can tell a great deal about them. For example, if they’re a take-n0-prisoners, my-way-or-the-highway sort during the negotiations, don’t think they’ll be any different next year when you ask for a raise.

Tactics  you can use

Roger Dawson offers some basic negotiation advice in The Secrets of Power Negotiations:

  •  Never Take the First Offer: Always go through the negotiating process and help the other side feel they’ve won something; you won’t feel satisfied if you don’t try for a better deal. (And you don’t want to beat up your new boss.)
  • Empathy: Arguing creates confrontational negotiation, and you don’t want to be that guy. To keep the tone from going there, agree up front by using phrases such as “I understand the position you are in”; “many others have been in similar situations,” and “I have found that a good way to resolve that is …”
  • Sampling: Offer the product (your work) free for “test use,” getting the employer emotionally involved with it and making it difficult for them NOT to buy. In other words, sampling works. 
  • Walk Away: If all else fails, communicate to the other side your willingness to walk away. Just remember, when you pass the point of walking away, you have lost the negotiation.

In all of your negotiations, focus first on your priorities (what you want) and what you have to offer (what they want). Remember to treat the process as a collaboration rather than a competition, and you will win more.

Practice your negotiating tactics with your career coach, trusted friend, or family member before your actual interview. You will find that the better you get at negotiation, the more places you discover to use it in and out of the office.

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