Step Two: Negotiation Skills for Women
Updated: Feb 11
This article is the third in a multi-part series that focuses on the skills women need to successfully negotiate almost anything. You can read the first article in the series here.
Before reading this article, be sure you have completed the work for Step One: Get Clear on What you Want (Really Clear).
In our modern capitalistic workplace, it is the role of the company to use the tools at its disposal to motive, engage and retain great workers so that the company can drive value for its stakeholders (and employees should be a stakeholder). That said, it is also the role of a company to get the most out of you, while also growing the bottom line. This often sets up a dynamic of employee vs employer regarding the allocation of finite resources. In this world, those who ask - and ask in a way that works - get more than those who do not.
In our last article, we learned that getting clear about what you want is the first step toward getting more if what you want. Once you are clear, you are ready to move to forward to Step Two: Know Your Worth.
To be able to tell a compelling story, one that increases your odds of actually getting what you want, you need to be able to clearly outline all the reasons for why you are deserving. Sure, your boss should know that you are worthy of a raise, promotion, robust bonus plan and three extra weeks of vacation, but experience tells us that most bosses respond to a well outlined case and do not respond as well to someone silently hoping the boss will notice.
The goal of step two is to be able to outline the value you bring to your role, your team, your boss and your company in your current role. And if you are asking for a new role, you need to be able to talk about the value YOU would bring to the new role.
Start by thinking about what would happen if you simply stopped showing up for work with no transition plan in place. Sit with that question for a while and list all that comes to mind: invoices are not processed, client calls and emails are unanswered, reports are not generated, sales leads pass you by, HR issues are not addressed, high-need projects pause until you respond, etc.
Think beyond your "official role." Are you the social glue that keeps your team together? Do you have some informal roles that enhance your team or department's performance?
This should be a powerful initial list. This list represents the value you bring to those around you and the company as a whole. This list will help you better articulate the formal and informal value of your team.
Further refine your list by asking:
What makes you unique? What skills, abilities, talents, connections, experiences or education do you have that make you unique and valuable?
What do you do best or better than others - and how can you prove it? (For example: Are you more efficient, more precise, or more accurate than others? Do you motivate team members more effectively or communicate better than your peers?)
What skills would be the hardest to replace if you left?
For each of these question, dig deep and think about anything you can quantity.
For some people, this may be easier. A salesperson can show their total sales or success rates and compare their days spent in each phase of a sales cycle with lower performers.
For other roles, you may have to get creative. Can you quantify the future value of a new client you helped secure or saved from leaving? Did you participate or lead a new initiative or program that will save money or increase revenues? Really consider what you can quantify - numbers help.
Add these answers (and any numbers) to your list. These answers will help you further form a story around the unique value you bring to your team, department and organization.
Next, it is important to name any self-development you have completed that may make you more valuable to the company. Start by reflecting over the last six months. Are there any leadership experiences you have initiated or completed? Did you compete any additional training or specialized education? Did you attend a conference or webinar that was relevant to your role? If so, note the fact that you are investing in your ability to better serve your team and the company.
Lastly, if you are asking to move into a NEW ROLE, you need to be able to clearly answer "Why You?" Why are you the best person for this role? What do you bring that is unique and special? Try and hone in on what makes you different from the pack. Spend some signifiant time on this piece if you are trying to be selected for a new or existing role.
Sidebar: If you are not investing in yourself on an ongoing basis, ask yourself why? The competitive pace of the modern workplace requires leaders to keep on top of trends, new skills and better approaches. Many women can fall into the habit of letting the day-to-day task of their job get in the way of keeping their skills sharp. Don't fall into that trap.
At the end of this activity, you should have a fairly long list that outlines all the reasons why you are valuable to your team, department and company. Your next step is to cull down the list into the most compelling messages.
Review your list and ask yourself:
What items on this list are the most valuable to my boss?
What items on this list would be the hardest for my boss to replace?
And, if you are seeking a new role as part of your ask, then what is your compelling answer to: "Why You?"
The answers to these last few filtering questions are where you will root your narrative around why you are deserving of your ask (drafting your specific message comes in step five in the process).
SPECIAL INFORMATION FOR THOSE SEEKING A RAISE
If you are interesting is asking for a raise, you need to do a bit of additional work to help build your case. Having information about average salaries in your specific role in your specific market is critical when entering into a salary negotiation.
If the data shows that you are underpaid, you can leverage the information you find to advocate for a higher-salary. In a larger company and you see that you are underpaid, you may be able to request a market review and adjustment.
If the data shows that you are on par or underpaid, do not fret. It does not mean that you cannot ask for a raise, it just means that the case you build will need to be very solid because HR or your boss may feel you are paid adequately or paid well for your role.
There are several ways to find salary data. Here are several options:
Check Association Websites: Professional associations sometimes perform salary reviews of their specific fields and generally offer the results on their association website.
Ask Friends at Peer Companies: While rumors exist that Millenials and Generation Z are comfortable opening discussion their salaries, many people remain guarded about what they make. That said, if you have a friend at a peer company, you might ask them "What do you think is the average salary range for a [insert job here] at your company." You might get lucky and they tell you what you need to know!
Search the Web: It is best to use a web-based tool that lets you search for salaries based on job descriptions and geographies. Read each job description closely. Your company may call someone a Vice President but the job description on Salary.com is more similar to a Director. PayScale.com is a site I often recommend, especially for women. The site breaks down your salary, what you can expect to make if you have specialized skills and any existing salary gender gap. For women with a more complex role or compensation package, one of my favorite new sites is 81cents.com. They will do custom research for you and send you a comprehensive report that you can use in your negotiations.
When you think you have a good grasp of the items above, you are ready for Step 3: Consider the Impact!
Nicole Provonchee is an executive coach and strategist that works with women leaders and teams across the nation. After 20 years climbing the corporate ladder, she started Bright Blue Consulting, where she can combine her skills as a coach with her practical experiences as a leader and executive.