Let me repeat that: If you do not negotiate—if you do not ask for what you want—then the answer will always be no. So whether your aim is a raise or a better price on your next new car or house, here are the rules you need to follow to get the very best deal.
Gather All the Information
When you are negotiating for anything, you have to think of yourself as a lawyer. You're Angie Harmon from Law & Order. You're Kinsey Millhone from Sue Grafton's novels. And that means before you say word one, before you form your hypothesis or make your case, you get the goods. If it's a salary you're negotiating for, then you've been online to see what similar jobs are offering, you're talking to headhunters to see what sort of offer you might expect, and you know how that compensation is structured in terms of wages, commissions, and bonuses if it isn't paid as straight salary.
Sometimes the best nuggets of information come from people who hold similar jobs. I recommend posing the question like this: "I'm thinking of getting a job doing x, y, or z. How much do people with experience like mine typically get paid?" That gives those on the receiving end of the question the liberty to reveal all the information without saying that they're revealing their own salaries (which, generally, they will be). That's very helpful. In the same vein, if it's a car you're buying, you know how much the dealer paid for it and how much of a markup it's typically fetching. You know what the best financing rates are today, and you've secured financing before you even walk into the dealership. You need to be prepared; otherwise you won't have answers to the questions you're inevitably going to face.
Visualize the Result
Wanting a raise or a new car isn't specific enough. You need to know how much of a raise (in actual dollars) you want to get out of this conversation. When your boss asks what your number is, suggest one that is 10 percent higher than your actual number. That gives your employer room to negotiate. (Neither side wants to seem to give in too easily.) Also, enter this negotiation with a list of things you might be willing to accept other than money—more vacation time, a title bump, the flexibility to spend part of your time working from home. Even if a particular employer does not have enough wiggle room to give you a bump in salary, having a list of backup options means you don't have to walk away empty-handed.
Be Prepared to Walk
I once had an employer suggest to me that I get another offer before I ask for a raise. That way, as he put it, he'd have ammunition to take to his boss that could be used to get me more money. It worked. But it could have backfired. If you go to your employer with another offer in your back pocket (or, for that matter, to a car dealer, or to anyone else you're negotiating with), you have to be willing to walk if you don't get what you're asking for. If you're not willing to walk, don't play that card. You might find yourself headed out the door before you're fully ready to leave.
How to Negotiate for More Money continues...