Posts tagged How to Negotiate
Want to learn to negotiate? Start with your Morning coffee.
Never Settle Coffee.jpg

When I took my first job, it never crossed my mind to negotiate my salary — or any other component of my offer for that matter. I was so grateful that I had an offer that I just took it. 

Later, I asked a colleague if he negotiated his offer , even though the salary was fixed. “I tried,” he said. “I try to negotiate everything.”

This conversation was illuminating. Unlike my colleague, I didn’t try to negotiate anything — ever. The idea of negotiating felt at best, awkward, and at worst, scary.

Over the next year, I came across some information that made me realize that by failing to negotiate, I was missing out on two major things:

  1. Income (about $500k over my lifetime) and
  2. Equality.

After all, women still only make 80% of what men do. This data inspired me to overcome my fear of negotiation and develop this critical skill — for the next time I had the opportunity to negotiate my salary or a job offer.

To build my comfort negotiating, I intentionally started small. And I made my first attempt in a low-pressure situation, where I had little to lose, for example when I would never see the person again.

My first negotiation occurred about ten years ago — in a mall. I found a sweater I liked at J. Crew with a broken button. So, when I was checking out, I simply said: “This button is broken. Is there anything you can do?”

Without blinking, the cashier said “Sure. 30% off.”

That was my first success. It was so easy — and inspired me to keep negotiating in low-pressure situations, like at stores, at the coffee shop, or on my cable bill, so that I could build the skill for when I really needed it.

I later used the negotiation skills I built in my career — most notably to negotiate job offers. In my last job search, I successfully got seven companies to raise their salary offers by up to 20%.

Why you should negotiate in your career

A fear of negotiation is so common that almost half of all job candidates never try to negotiate their initial offer.

But here’s the thing: most companies expect you to negotiate. In a recent study, half of all companies say that they would be willing to negotiate a job offer.

People who don’t negotiate their salary miss out on $500k — or more — over a lifetime. Negotiating your salary from $50k to $55k — merely an extra $5k — can lead to half a million dollars of additional earnings over fifty years. You can also use this calculator to see how much your negotiations could generate over the course of your life.

On average, women miss out even more. According to Women Don’t Ask, we are four times less likely to negotiate than men — and when we do negotiate, we ask for less and receive 30% less than men. This is likely a contributing factor to the pay gap — currently, on average women make only 80% of what men do.

So, how do you learn to negotiate — especially if you’ve spent a lifetime avoiding it?

1. Start by negotiating the small things

To get comfortable negotiating, start small. Ask for a discount on a product. Or, ask for two stamps on your coffee loyalty card. Or, negotiate a discount on your monthly cable bill. For other ideas on things you can negotiate, check out this list.

You will probably end up being shocked at how often you’re successful negotiating, not to mention that it always feels good to get a deal.

By negotiating small things frequently in your personal life, you will gain the comfort and skill necessary to negotiate larger things in the future — like a job offer or a raise.

2. Use friendly language — and questions

A common misperception is that negotiations must involve language a la Wolf of Wall Street — words like: “I’m worth this, or “if you don’t pay me X, I’ll take my talents elsewhere,” or “this is my final offer.”

But this perception of negotiation couldn’t be further from the truth.


Negotiation does not need to be Wolf of Wall Street style. (Source: GIPHY)

Negotiation language does not need to be hostile — in fact, using amicable language gives you a better chance of succeeding in a negotiation. According to Harvard Business School professor Deepak Malhotra, being likable in a negotiation leads to a higher success rate.

I definitely have felt more comfortable — and authentic — using a friendly approach to negotiation.

Recently, I was purchasing a couple new couches for our living room and had sticker shock when I received the quote. So, I called the salesperson and said: “I saw that you had a 20% off Summer clearance promotion that ended last week. Any chance you can still honor this?” Without hesitation, the salesman said: “Sure.” Success!

What I’ve found is this: Negotiation is often as simple as

  1. Providing convincing data and
  2. Asking a question.

Next time you are buying something — anything — try to negotiate. Here are some ways to practice negotiating with data and/or a question and get great discounts along the way:

  • Is there a promotion going on right now? If they say no, try: “This is a large order — any chance you can offer XX% off?”
  • I found the same product listed on Amazon (or another retailer) — can you offer it to me at the same price?
  • I noticed this small defect — can you offer a discount?
  • I saw that you were offering X% off last week — any chance that can still be applied here?
  • Would you be willing to provide this service for less? Ideally suggest a number.

3. Always try to negotiate

Getting comfortable negotiating in your personal life is good practice for negotiating larger things in your life — like a job offer or a raise. So, start looking for opportunities to negotiate on a daily basis — then, try.

I almost always ask for deals and discounts, and I’m shocked at how often people unblinkingly just say: “Yes.” I would estimate that I’m successful about 80% of the time.

And when they say no, the relationship always stays cordial. If you approach the negotiation in an friendly way, how can they be upset with you?

So, why does negotiation work so often?

Think about it: negotiation is mutually beneficial for both parties.

In the couch example above, they wanted me to purchase this large order. And, I wanted the product — and to feel like I got a good deal.

We both won.

In a job offer negotiation, the company wants you to work there. And you want to be paid fairly. If you negotiate, you both win.

As a result, you may make an extra half a million dollars — or more — over your lifetime.

How to negotiate and make $1 million in your lifetime
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People who don’t negotiate miss out on $500k or more over their lifetime.

I initially doubted this, so I ran the numbers. And — it really is true. If you were offered $50k and negotiated to $55k, you would make $504,607 more over 50 years, with a 2.5% annual salary increase. If you negotiated from $50k to $60k, that increases to over one million dollars.

One million dollars!

When I initially heard that figure, I thought: That’s enough to pay for college – for five kids. Or to buy a very nice house. Or to provide two million meals to people who are hungry in the Bay Area.

When I got my first job out of college, I was so grateful that someone hired me that I couldn’t imagine negotiating. So, I didn’t even try. I was afraid what the company might think if I tried to negotiate. Would I come across as ungrateful, confrontational or entitled? What if they rescinded my job offer?

According to research, I’m not alone. These fears are so common that only 37% of people say that they consistently negotiate salary. Women are four times less likely to negotiate than men — and when we do negotiate, we ask for less and receive 30% less than men.

Yet, employers expect candidates to negotiate. By not negotiating, you leave money on the table that employer expected to pay you. After all, the company made you an offer because they really want you! If the company is afraid they might lose you, you’ll often be amazed what they will offer.

I recently interviewed hiring managers, and many said that they viewed negotiating candidates even more favorably. Think about it: negotiation will likely be a skill you will use in your job — to influence others and to get work done. So, by negotiating your job offer, you are showing them your ability to succeed at the company, too.

Negotiation is misunderstood. When people view negotiation as scary, it’s often because they perceive it to be done in conflict. But, there are ways to negotiate that are objective, fact-based and collaborative.

Below are the three best ways to negotiate — in an agreeable way.

1) Use other offers

Regardless of whether or not you are going to take a job, negotiate your offer. Why? Because you can use this offer to negotiate other offers.

I used this approach in a prior job search. I negotiated each offer that I received, even when I knew I would not take the job. When I finally got my dream job, the company played hardball. I was told “The max we can pay is X. Final offer.” Because I had data, I was able to confidently say, “I really want to work with you, but I received two other offers at a 20% higher salary.” Two days later, they came back and matched my other offers — with a salary they originally said was impossible.

2) Use data from other companies

If you don’t have other offers, or if you are employed already and trying to negotiate during a promotion or a year-end review, use data! Try to find salaries for comparable positions to yours — and use this data. A great source for salary data is, which includes thousands of companies and salaries for specific roles.

Another good way is to get salary information is through recruiters and headhunters trying to fill open jobs. Take their calls, and ask for the role’s compensation package, including salary, bonus and stock options.

(I always recommend taking recruiter calls for open jobs, even if you are happily employed. Use these calls to get salary information 1) to see if you are being paid fairly and 2) to use when you try to negotiate internally, during a promotion period or annual review.)

3) Use personal reasons

I was chatting with someone the other day who received an offer and wasn’t sure if he could make ends meet financially if he took the job. His wife was currently unemployed, and they were expecting a baby. “But, I can’t tell them these things,” he said.

Why not? Of course you can — and should.

Recruiters are human — they understand if you need more money to support your family. So, if there are personal reasons you seek a higher salary, tell the recruiter.

What to do when companies won’t negotiate salary

While it’s ideal to always negotiate your base salary (since annual salary increases are based on this), sometimes companies are legitimately unable to increase it. But, this doesn’t mean that all negotiation is off the table.

Get creative! Other things you can negotiate include: job title, bonus, stock options, vacation days, or working from home. Of course, don’t try to negotiate all of these things. Instead, think about what is most important to you, and focus your negotiation efforts accordingly.

Don’t stop negotiating

A common perspective is that once you’ve negotiated your job offer and taken the job, you’re done negotiating. But, by stopping here, you are leaving more on the table.

While it is easiest to negotiate before you take a job, look for opportunities to continue to negotiate in your job — like during promotions, annual reviews or role changes. And use the tactics discussed above to continue to ensure that you are paid well.

Have you ever negotiated successfully? How did you do it? Please share in the comments.