There’s an old adage in salary negotiation that goes like this:

He who speaks first, loses.

I don’t subscribe to the philosophy of winners and losers in negotiation – unless you are talking about used-car negotiation – but there’s no doubt that responding too quickly limits your ability to fully appreciate the manager’s or company’s limitations with regard to meeting your request for an increase.

That’s why I recommend in Part 2 of this series that after you state your salary request and your manager responds – no matter what your manager responds with, you simply quote back (verbatim) what she said and then say nothing. Simply shut up.

The power of that silence is immense. It will be filled by your manager, and she will reply with either a counter proposal or a justification for why they can’t meet your request.

If it’s a justification, then you now have additional information to help you understand the situation.

Following that, here are some questions you can ask that can help move the collaborative negotiation discussion forward:

  • What is your salary range for someone in this position?
  • Is that range fixed, or is there flexibility?
  • Have much do you have budgeted for the roles you’re hiring?
  • What’s the process you use to determine where to start someone within a particular range?
  • Have exceptions been made, and if so, what characteristics did the candidates possess?
  • What’s really important to the company within the first three months of me joining?
  • What skills and level of responsibility / impact are required for the next pay grade?

These are all questions that will promote back-and-forth discussion between you and your manager. This will help you not only better understand what’s going on within the company, but also help develop the rapport and relationship between you and your manager.

And here’s another question – perhaps the most powerful one – that can truly help create a collaborative environment for moving the discussion forward:

How can we close the gap?

Notice the focus on “we” not “you”! This is the core of collaborative negotiation.

Within this framework, there aren’t winners and losers – just you and your manager figuring out ways to create a true win-win.

Remember, the company wants and needs you.

They wouldn’t have made you an offer – or kept you employed – if that weren’t case. So, collaborative negotiation is simply a way to find a solution that keeps you motivated and enthusiastic while at the same time meets the cash needs of the company.

And remember, salary is just one element of negotiation. You can also consider other items such as benefits, extra time-off, flex hours, sign-on bonus (if you’re a new hire), or incentive pay (for achieving certain milestones within a given timeframe).

But if the company can’t budge on any of your requests – and you still want to work there – then ask for a review in six-months time to assess your contribution. Be sure to ask what would need to be accomplished in that time frame to warrant an increase.

In Part 4 of this series, I’ll detail what you should never, ever, ever say before you have a written offer and some unorthodox techniques to substantially increase your chances of success.