The importance of negotiation

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Everyone has a piece of advice that has stuck with them throughout their careers and mine is to always negotiate. If you don’t ask you don’t get, as the saying goes. For me, this has been useful in situations as varied as signing up for a new gym membership to securing financial support for professional qualifications. 

The importance of negotiation is often overlooked, even though we see plenty of advice for interview tactics, discussion about the importance of networking, and how-to guides for improving our LinkedIn profiles

Assessing your goals

Instead of viewing negotiation as “asking for more” it helps to frame it as a process to assess if you’re really getting the best outcome for a situation: 

  • What are you trying to achieve? 
  • What are your priorities? 
  • Consider your alternatives.
  • Do the same for your counterpart. 

Deal breakers and distractions 

Take the example of weighing up two similar job descriptions that outline package, benefits and perks. You could take a black and white view that the one with the most salary, highest benefits and longest list of perks is therefore better than the other, but putting this through the steps bulleted above might draw you to a different conclusion. 

The advice I was given was to break down any offer into must-haves, nice-to-haves and not-relevant. Must haves should be non-negotiable deal breakers, the nice to haves should be where you have opportunity to discuss and trade off and the not relevant items should be considered distractions that won’t sway your evaluation of the offer. 

How much is a difference in salary worth after tax? Can you put an equivalent monetary value on a longer commute? Is the oft touted “well-stocked snack cupboard” a perk you’ll really use, or are you more likely to duck out for an afternoon run to Pret?

Taking the time to question the true value of each aspect individually will help you separate your priorities and get a clearer picture of what’s on the table. 

Negotiating starting salary

Negotiating your starting salary is important as there is a knock-on effect for pension contributions, bonus calculations, annual merit reviews and salary expectations for future roles. 

Before disclosing your salary expectations to a recruiter, consider your total package value including bonus, benefits, equity, upcoming pay rises and near-term promotion opportunities to get a ballpark figure. 

Do your research on websites such as Glassdoor and LinkedIn to figure out if the salary is low, medium or high for that level and title, and consider the percentage difference between the advertised salary and your expected package. 

Remember, the recruiter has a budget they can work with but there may be someone more senior who can sign off on a better package if you’ve secured a strong offer and know you’re the preferred candidate for a role. 

If you’ve made it as far as a job offer, you know the company is excited to have you on board – keep that in mind when you set your salary expectations. If you’re not comfortable with saying “I want” try positioning it as “I could accept your offer today if the package was X”. It shows your interest without giving away any bargaining power! 

Negotiating a pay rise

The first step to securing a pay increase is to do research to back up your ask. Check if your company has an internal pay grade scale so you are clear on whether there is room to earn more within your current position. 

Achieving a few percentage point’s increase may be possible in annual pay reviews, but a larger percentage increase may require justifying your readiness for promotion. Preparing comparable job descriptions and gathering examples of where your work is reflective of a higher pay grade will support your ask.

While negotiating a pay increase immediately might not always be possible, this opens the door for an open discussion about timelines, deliverables and routes to ensure you’re in the best possible position to secure a pay increase in the near term. 

Negotiating leaving your job

There’s more to leaving your current company than simply figuring out your notice period. The first step should be to checking contract and understanding your obligations and appropriate timelines. 

An additional point to consider is the number of  outstanding holiday days, and whether you can use these during your notice period to bring forward your last day of work at your employer’s discretion. 

For those exiting during a redundancy situation or settlement agreement, there is more to consider. As well as financial considerations, you may be able to secure paid external CV support, professional memberships or access to educational resources (perhaps a course on negotiation?!) to help you to find your next role. It may also be worth reviewing the terms of your contract to check if there are competitive clauses preventing you from seeking work with key customers or direct competitors which your employer might be willing to waive as part of the negotiation. 

No matter the terms of you leaving your current role, asking the question “is this negotiable?” will only give you more information. 

Want to learn more about the best ways to brush up your negotiation skills? Check out works by Linda Babcock, Sara Laschever and Deobrah M. Kolb for more. 

Louise is a London based Product Marketing Manager and Sales Enablement professional with experience in B2C SaaS in eCommerce and Social Media Management. While content development, collaboration with key stakeholders and creative problem solving keep her busy during her work day, in her free time she works on her kayaking technique, improving her conversational Spanish and blogs about London’s wine scene as Wine Tasting Louise

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