leadership incorporated blog

March 12, 2012

How Not to Negotiate: 7 Essential To-Don’ts and To-Dos

Meet Julie, the leading biz dev rep in a privately held med tech company.

Julie had been underpaid in a biz dev support role for 6 years and pressing for more opportunity. In late ‘09, a regional rep quit abruptly and the company offered her the position with a small increase and the promise of a more substantial raise at her review.

After 2 years, Julie had brought in new business that exceeded $1.8 million. In January 2012, the company expanded Julie’s territory. Their proposed new comp package increased her pay by 25%. They seemed to think she would be thrilled.

Julie knew she should be grateful, but she was disappointed and felt undervalued. Because her salary was low to begin with, a 25% increase just didn’t amount to that much. She knew the company had experienced some significant losses in the economic downturn. She didn’t expect to be paid as much as the other top biz dev people in the company, but she did feel she deserved more.

She scheduled a conversation with the CFO and head of HR. She took in a prepared presentation focused on her tenure, her recent success, and what was fair given the increase in responsibility with an additional region to support.

They listened sympathetically but stood their ground: the company had just given her the largest percentage increase they’d ever offered and the budget wouldn’t allow them to do more at this time. Further, they said, the president was concerned that her current region might be depleted and she should be grateful for the additional territory. They would review it again in 12 months.

Julie left the meeting deflated and overwhelmed by her new workload, even as she questioned her own right to feel badly.

Recently, I’ve heard from people, at all levels of other organizations, who are being asked to do more than ever for less than they know they deserve, but who, like Julie, find themselves unable to negotiate a better deal.

Most of them make the same critical mistakes and miss the same powerful opportunities as Julie

7 Essential To-Don’ts and To-Do’s:

  1. Don’t make it about you. Instead, make a business case. Your needs, wants and what’s fair are irrelevant. A business has a fiduciary obligation to make decisions based on what’s best for the business. Figure out how what’s best for you is also best for the business and you’ll be in much better shape.
  2. Don’t negotiate with the wrong people. Get in front of the right decision makers. When you negotiate with people who are responsible only for the budget the conversation can only go so far. You want to talk to people who are responsible for the future.
  3. Don’t let them keep the focus of the conversation on budget and tradition. Control the direction of the conversation. Do this by asking questions that focus on the future, the value of the services you provide and the cost of missed opportunities, i.e., losing you.
  4. Don’t buy into their story of comparison to others or current limits. Have your own story. And make sure it is all about what you can create, the value you plan to bring, and the potential that can be achieved.
  5. Don’t make a one-way presentation. Make it an interactive conversation. Get them talking about what they want, need, fear and hope for. Listen deeply and respond thoughtfully with ways you can create their wants and hopes and reduce their needs and fears.
  6. Don’t focus on the past. Focus on the future from the perspective of the higher level that you want to attain. The past is done and paid for. The way to get more (often unlimited) money is to demonstrate who you can be for them in the future.
  7. Don’t be ignorant about your own value. Do your homework and know and quantify the value you provide. Make sure that the value you provide significantly exceeds the package you want. Get your employer to quantify it for themselves. If you can get them to do the math and see they come out ahead, it’s usually a no-brainer.

The key to effective negotiation is co-creation. Be creative. And, remember, salary isn’t the only negotiable. By the way, all of this applies whether you are negotiating for your career with your employer, for your company with a client or for yourself with your spouse or kids.

Good luck. I’d love to hear about it when you score that big win.

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