By Jason Lowenthal November 20, 2015

Altering the Deal

For those of us who don’t have the luxury of The Force for mental persuasion, negotiation tactics are a vital tool we need to have in our tool belts in order to make the most out of our professional careers.  Luckily, most of us don't have this guy as our boss or our client.

For those of you who do have to deal with this boss/client – may the force be with you!

There are strategies that can dramatically improve your odds of coming out advantageously during a negotiation, and one of the most common ones we’ll experience in our lifetimes is getting hired. Expanding the Pie, Thinking Win Win, Patience, and knowing your BATNA (Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement) can all dramatically improve your odds of coming out with the best possible outcome once you’ve finished the negotiations step.

Don’t Get Pie In Your Face – Expand It

angry woman pulling cake in face to boyfriend cheatingIf you think of “best possible outcome” as a pie (or a pizza), your objective is to take as much of that pie as you can for yourself. You want to take home the whole thing because that means you’ve got what’s best for you. The problem is, the person you’re negotiating with really likes pepperoni too.

If you’re both making an argument for why the whole pizza needs to come with you, getting either of you to agree to give up even one slice can become very problematic. Imagine if it’s a personal pan pizza you’re negotiating over. No doubt you’ll want the whole thing to yourself! It might even still leave you hungry.

Now, imagine if instead of a personal pan pizza, you’re both talking about a super-mega-ultra world breaking pizza. In that case, you can both eat your fill of pizza and still have plenty left over to share with someone else.

That’s what expanding the pie really means. Maybe you can’t improve your percentage, but 25% of 100 isn’t nearly as fun as 25% of 100 thousand. I doubt anyone can make their negotiation base 1000 times bigger, but any increase can help. Usually, this is a tactic to seek when you’ve heard (more than once) that the salary offer cannot possibly go any higher. Here are some ways that you can expand the pie

  • Ask for more time off.  Most companies award extra vacation or PTO to more senior team members, so you might be able to use this as a way to get more value out of your position.
  • Take advantage of continuing education benefits. Maybe the new employer has an untapped continuing education budget that you can take advantage of, while agreeing to stipulations about how long you have to stay for the employer to pay for your learning.
  • Become a part-time or full-time telecommuter. We’re technology professionals, and TONS of places are starting to move towards flexible schedules and part or full-time telecommuting. You could figure out a way to work this into the negotiations, too. Just keep in mind, you have to be willing to agree to stipulations about tracking your work if you’re going to suggest this.

These strategies, as well as countless others, can work to make a new gig more appealing without raising the actual dollar value. Who knows, maybe you could even negotiate to get a ping-pong table bought for your office for team building. Yeah, that’s it. Team building.

If the potential employer really wants to keep courting you, they’ll find ways to work with you to expand the pie. Also, when you start trying to expand the pie, and get met with dead ends along the way, that’s a good reason to pause and decide if you really want to go someplace that’s not willing to compromise for a value-added solution where both parties can benefit.

Tiger Blood and Adonis DNA

No matter how good of a catch you really are, you have to present yourself in such a way that shows you bring more to the table than you take away from it. You have to prove to the person hiring you that you’re a better investment than the stock market!

While Charlie Sheen definitely has his quirks, and plenty of them to go around, one thing everyone knows him for is his attitude about winning. For him, it’s all about winning. In order for you to win, and for your negotiation adversary to want you to, you have to embrace a win/win attitude.

If you go into negotiations expecting zero sum, that’s exactly what you’re going to get. What I mean by this is, if you go in expecting for you to get something, the other guy has to lose something, or for him to get something, you’re going to lose something – that’s zero sum.

The best way for a negotiation to go well for you is if it also goes well for the other person. Think about it for a minute from their perspective and put yourself in their shoes. When the hiring manager goes to bat for the person they’re planning on hiring, they have to have a darned good argument as to why.

If you can give that hiring manager insight into the biggest pain you can eliminate, then you can practically write your own paycheck. It’s a big part of marketing and selling yourself. People will pay to make pain go away. Lots and lots of money.

That’s why hospitals can charge $25 for a single aspirin. Because when you’re in a hospital, the only thing you care about is making the pain go away. Not how much it will cost to do it.

So, figure out how to capitalize on this idea of pain elimination. If you can find a pain that the manager feels costs his company $500 thousand a year, and you have the right skills to eliminate it, then there’s no reason why you couldn’t ask for a strong salary compared to that $500 thousand problem that you made go away.

But, you have to be able to prove that you can make that problem go away. I can’t tell you the specific ways that you can prove this, but you have to be able to provide a given track record of value added – that’s what a great resume is for.

On this page, there’s some great ideas for making your resume sing. Make sure to highlight all of your accomplishments as you negotiate your rate. The more valuable you can prove you are, the easier it will be to get a better salary or hourly rate.

You cannot possibly expect to have a $100 hourly rate (~200 thousand a year) if you can’t prove that by spending that money, the company will see $250 thousand as a return on investment from your work. In order for you to win, they have to win too.

Fools Rush In

So, don’t be a fool. Wait for it. It’s super critical during any negotiations. If your opponent is pressuring you to make your decision “now now NOW”, have the guts to walk away. That’s infamously high pressure tactics, and usually those take place because somebody is trying to hide something.

If you’re negotiating a job offer, almost any professional organization worth its salt will give you a 2-3 day grace period to consider the offer made and the ramifications of what it means. Even better if you get the offer on Thursday, because then you can request to “have the weekend to think it over” – I’ve yet to be told no to that request.

By taking a weekend to think it over, a couple of things happen. First of all, you’ll probably figure out at least one more question that you want answered before accepting. And you might also think of another mechanism for expanding the pie before you say yes.

Another thing that happens subconsciously is that the hiring manager will assume you’re having second thoughts or fielding other potential offers. Again, this is good for you! They’re also going to think of other ways to make the offer more attractive for you. If you come back after the grace period and say “I’m really just not comfortable enough yet to move forward,” they might strike back with “Well, I figured out how to get you a $5000 sign on bonus” (That happened to me once).

Don’t rush into closing the deal. Good things are worth waiting for.

Na-na na-na na-na na-na BATNA!

Depositphotos_39084967_m-2015For those of you willing to bear with me past that horrible pun above, don’t worry – I’ve got one more coming!

If you really want to be sure that you can close your deal with some Adam West style POW (that was the last one, I promise), you have to know your Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement (BATNA). Originally coined in Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In, the general concept is that you have to know when you’re ready to just stand up and walk away.

The other party may actually be closer to Darth Vader than you’d like, and no matter how much you try to incorporate expanding the pie or win-win thinking, your negotiational adversary may just not have any plan for giving in. If that’s the case, BATNA represents what’s waiting for you if you decide to walk away. Walking away and leaving with nothing can be a better alternative, or the best alternative, in some cases.

Another related concept to BATNA is reservation price. It’s important to know how low is too low. And you have to be willing to walk away if your potential employer or client sits below that mark.

How to make this work for you

young man thinkingEven if you never once bring it up to your negotiational opponent, having a BATNA gives you an unspoken authority during a negotiation session.

Getting a Raise

If you’re seeking a substantial raise, you’re going to get way more traction if you can legitimately say “I have another offer waiting in the wings. They’re offering me 25% more than my current salary.”

Trust me, it works. Be ready, though. Sometimes what you’ll hear is “Good luck on your new adventure.” So, be really sure you’re actually ready to walk away for the other offer, because that may become your new normal.

Getting your First Job (or a new Contract Rate)

Don’t ever take the very first offer a potential employer/client sends in your direction. No matter how honest and decent of a company, I promise you they will absolutely low-ball their offer because they expect to not pay you that amount. You have to know your value, and know that you can get a better offer elsewhere – even if you don’t have one lined up just yet.

The best way to get a great starting salary/rate is to have two companies competing for you as their employee, especially if you’re okay when either one wins.  Eventually, one of the two companies will concede, but not before your standing new job offer is paying a much higher salary/rate than the one you started with. A buddy of mine ended up with a salary at his first job 15% higher than his original starting offer, just because he had another offer waiting for him and the first company didn’t want to lose him.

Negotiations Can be Fun – Really!

Man and little boy shake hands isolated on the whiteAs long as you take a basic understanding of negotiation strategy into the conversation, I promise you’ll get some basic level enjoyment out of the conversation. Instead of dreading the “how much are you expecting to make here” conversation, you can come well prepared with “I’m currently fielding 2 offers ranging from $77-80 thousand a year” (Your BATNA).

As you’ve heard many times, for many reasons, do your research.

You can get a halfway decent idea of what your reserve price should be by checking out Glassdoor.

If you can figure out ways to expand the pie ahead of time, then you can come into the conversation well prepared to talk about all of the factors that make the job great, not just the money.

If you know the company well enough to know where some of their most specific pain points are, you can show the team how they can win by hiring you, thus putting yourself in a winning position when the bottom line comes around.

And you can come prepared to watch your potential employer look at some of these same tactics and appreciate them as part of the great game that is the world of business.

I’d love to hear you sound off in the comments about some creative tactics you’ve used when engaging with a new client or new employer – because all of us could potentially benefit from them the next time we have a negotiation to work on.

About the author

Jason Lowenthal

Jason Lowenthal is an Architectural Software Engineer based in Springfield, MO. A graduate from Drury University, his past work includes stints with Bass Pro Shops, O’Reilly Automotive Inc. and Paperwise. When not contributing his time and talents to his employer, Asynchrony, Jason spends his free time raising his 3 girls, and learning about new technology. You can link up with him on Twitter, too: @lowenthal_jason