By Mary Jo King, NCRW, NCOPE

I hate to leave money on the table. My consultative communication style usually makes negotiations a breeze, but I have, on occasion, settled for less than what I wanted. Sometimes I settled because I wanted the deal more than the money. In other situations, it happened because I could have been more assertive. Diligent preparation ensures that, if you do decide to sacrifice a criteria or rate, you do it on your own terms. 

Do your research. The Internet makes it easy to gather information. In the case of salary packages, websites like,, and are goldmines of data about salary range for your market, specific company practices, and the industry or position in general. Information is power.

Know your priorities and your limits. Contracts and salary packages have many negotiable points. Perhaps you can live with less vacation time if you have a flexible work schedule. Maybe you can accept a lower product or service price if you have more time to deliver.

Be willing to walk away. Your resolve will often motivate the other party to rethink their offer.

Remember that both parties have an interest in closing the deal. Be assertive about asking for what you want, and be prepared to reinforce your unique selling proposition (USP). Establish your value by solving their problem.

Don’t accept statements at face value. Question everything, and then listen–really listen–to the answers. Listening is an under-practiced skill, but it is key to understanding the other party’s position. You can’t solve a problem until you understand it.

When you make a sacrifice, get something in return. “I can do this if you can do that.” Failure to get quid pro quo invites a request for more concessions.

Expect to succeed. Sellers should ask for more than they expect to receive, and buyers should offer less than they are prepared to pay. Those who aim higher do better.

Get the results of your negotiation in writing. It prevents misunderstanding and protects your position in the event of a shift.

I am often reminded of a quote from renowned orator and debater, Samuel Clemens. When asked why he did so well in debates, he replied, “I spend ten percent of my time thinking about what I’m going to say, and ninety percent of my time thinking about they’re going to say.”


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