The 2 Questions To Ask In Every Salary Negotiation

1 – “How can I be guaranteed to be involved in projects critical to the company’s future?”

2 – “What does it take to be successful here?”

Here’s why:

“What does it take to be successful here?”

And then actually listen to the answer. Paraphrase it back to whoever answers it to show them you got it right. Summarize it so effectively that they say, “That’s right.” (And it’s critical they say “thats right” and notyoure right”.)

They will be impressed with your ability to listen. And if it’s one thing they want to know, it’s whether or not you can listen to the more seasoned hands in the company. After all, the people they selected to interview you are esteemed enough to be given the responsibility of bringing in new talent; or keeping those who don’t fit out.

Please understand, this is not “What are you looking for in a candidate?” That question is given to every graduate by every college and university on the planet. Asking that question makes you sound like just another face in the crowd.

One of my M.B.A. students from the negotiation class I teach at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business asked, “What does it take to be successful here?” in an interview.   One of the panel members leaned forward and said, “No one ever asked us that before”. He then proceeded to give her a detailed answer. The other members of the panel were shocked because this guy generally never spoke in the interviews. My student had just recruited her first unofficial mentor.

“How can I be guaranteed to be involved in projects critical to the company’s future?”

Ask this as the first verbal response to the dreaded “How much did you make at your last position?” and “What are your salary requirements?”

You: “I’ll be happy to answer that, but first…how can I be guaranteed to be involved in projects critical to the company’s future?”

Tom McCabe, a longtime friend from my hometown of Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, makes this issue a critical part of every job negotiation he has. He is one of the most successful people I know, and certainly in the class of the most successful people I have ever heard of. Tom has been managing billion dollar global businesses for nearly 20 years. He’s achieved incredible career success with no M.B.A., no degree from a prestigious university (he graduated from a small university in Missouri), no extensive alumni network to rely on and no wealthy family connections. (He does come from a great family.)

How did he do it? Hard work. Integrity. Tremendous people skills (high emotional intelligence). Good-humored. And always committed to working for the future success of every employer he’s ever had. Additionally, he successfully attracts tremendously talented people to come work for him because he commits to their future as well. The opportunity to be involved in strategic projects is a tremendous recruiting tool.

Here’s why this works. Before you begin putting a price tag on yourself (or anything) you have to begin establishing value. It’s not necessarily “He/she who names price first loses” it’s really anyone who quotes a price without having any idea of value involved is flying blind.

This is also directly in line with The Black Swan Group rules that price is only one term and that a good price doesn’t make a good deal. Salary only pays your bills; it doesn’t guarantee your future.

One of the greatest things you can do to establish value with your counterparts is to genuinely position yourself as being committed to their future prosperity. In every negotiation your counterpart, on some level, is asking himself or herself “What’s in this for me?”

How about a bright future? This approach also immediately removes you from the category of just another employee who is only concerned about themselves. You have a greater concern for the entire team. Many people would be surprised to learn the perception of many supervisors is that their subordinates are completely self-centered. After all, the only time anyone walks into the bosses office is when they want something for themselves or want to complain.

Hostage negotiators know that the most critical element to talking a hostage taker into coming out it is to tie into whatever vision of the future the hostage taker has. That’s why every hostage negotiator says as early as they can “I’m here to make sure everyone stays safe.” If they can get that link established between themselves and any vision of the future that includes the hostage taker living, even if only for a few more hours, then they have a chance at victory.

Establishing your value to your current or prospective employer in this manner makes you much more valuable and makes it easier for them to pay you well. You’ll be worth it. Negotiating it up front raises your opportunity for success even sooner.

Good luck!


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