More on Negotiating a Salary

Following my previous post on  ”Negotiating Salary” (see below), I received the following email from a reader.

I have a salary negotiation coming up in a few weeks and could use your advice. Two months ago I was hired on a temporary contract to develop an international marketing plan for a new logistical service being offered by a local company.  They are now interested in hiring me permanently to sell the service.  I have been told the starting salary will be around $XX with sales incentives and benefits.  I would love to increase that number by 15%, but am not sure how to do it—especially in this economy. Getting a job now tough, so I have to be careful not to ask too much or be too stern about my needs.  How do you think I should approach the negotiation?

I’m sharing my reply here, in the hope that it will be useful for other readers.

Start by thinking about the employer’s goals. We often assume that the chief concern of an employer is to pay as little as possible. That’s rarely true. Hiring is not a zero-sum game: a good employee brings in far more that he or she costs. Therefore, an employer’s primary goal is to not to keep salaries at rock bottom, but to realize a sufficient return on the cost of hiring you.

This plays well for you in this case, as the company making the offer has already invested both time and money into having you create the marketing plan, so that you bring in far more knowledge of and passion for the product than an external salesperson would. You should emphasize this in your salary talks. The employer also knows you and knows that you work well within the company culture, so the performance risk is also eliminated. (Every new hire is a risk in terms of cultural fit.)

Since the job is for international sales, another concern the company will have is whether you have the ability to perform in the global arena. Just because you can sell a product in Dubuque doesn’t mean you’ll succeed in Dubai. You will decrease the employer’s anxiety and increase your value in his or her eyes by emphasizing your international  experience, knowledge and connections. If the choice is between hiring a salesperson who’s never been outside of the US or spending a bit more to attract someone with a proven international track record, who would you choose? To bring this point home, you might gather statistics (readily available) on the difficulties most Americans have doing business overseas if they aren’t experienced in cultural difference.

To make your case even stronger, use the next couple of weeks before the negotiation to ask around the company to find out what qualities are really paramount for them. You are in the enviable position of being able to uncover a lot of their goals in advance. It’s not sneaky. The more you demonstrate a keen desire to deliver what your employer  wants, the more he or she will feel comfortable with offering you the salary you want.

Finally, don’t worry about alienating your employer by negotiating your salary. A justified request won’t imperil your job prospects as long as you have valid arguments to support it, come across as pleasant and flexible in seeking to work things out, and show a desire to fulfill their goals. People only get mad when they feel you’re being unreasonable.

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