Direct Marketing Article
Negotiate Like You Mean It: Nine Tips to Help
Women In Business Ask For The Money (Even in a Tough Economy)
By Vickie Milazzo
Many women aren't comfortable dealing with negotiations, even when something
they really want (and deserve!) is on the line. Following are nine tips to
help you stop underpricing yourself and start getting paid what you're
Let's say you're on the short list for a promotion with your company. A big
promotion. If you get it you'll take on far more responsibility and you
definitely feel up to the challenge. But the salary attached to the job is a
little well, lackluster-especially in light of your experience. You'd love
to ask for more money but frankly, you're afraid to. The economy still isn't
great so I'd better lie low, you reason. No, it's not what I was hoping for,
but if I get too pushy I'm sure they'll pass me over for one of the other
candidates. I should just be grateful to have made the cut.
If you're like many women, this just seems like common sense. But according
to Vickie Milazzo, settling for less than you're worth is a big mistake-even
in the wake of the Great Recession. In fact, it might even cost you the job.
"When I'm hiring, I actually weed out candidates who underprice themselves
because I assume they won't perform at the level I expect," shares Milazzo,
author of Wicked Success Is Inside Every Woman. "In my eyes and in the
eyes of many other CEOs, job candidates actually lose credibility when they underprice themselves.
"Many women mistakenly think they're doing their employers a favor by not
pushing for more or that they'll be more appealing if they don't ask for
what they're worth," she adds. "The bad economy might be the current excuse,
but I believe most underpricing occurs because many women just aren't
comfortable with negotiating."
In fact, a recent article in The New Yorker, might prove Milazzo's theory
right. It found that only 7 percent of women negotiate their salaries
up-front when entering a new position…compared to 57 percent of men.
"Those statistics are pretty telling," Milazzo comments. "And I want them to
change. Women can and do negotiate all the time outside the workplace-with
spouses, with kids, with teachers, with friends-and we can do it in a
professional setting, too. It's just a matter of changing the way you think
about asking for money."
If you're ready to stop sitting back and start negotiating like you mean
it, read on for nine of Milazzo's tried-and-true tips.
Never let them see you as a commodity. After all, commodities are
easy to obtain and easy to replace. And that's certainly not how you want to
be perceived at your job-whether you're an employee, a leader, or an
entrepreneur. After all, if the people you're working with know that others
share your skill set, they won't have any reason to pay the price you're
asking for. They'll be in control, not you. From Day One, do everything you
can to ensure that you aren't seen as interchangeable or dispensable.
"Don't shrink into your chair and become the invisible employee," Milazzo
urges. "Do what you need to do to stand out. Get in the middle of everything
and bring new ideas to the table. Build relationships throughout the
company. If you're able to make yourself invaluable and leverage the things
that make you unique, you'll also make yourself impossible to replace. And
when that happens, you'll be in control of your own price."
Distinguish ambition from greed. Prior to launching yourself into a
negotiation, it's a good idea to take a step back and ask yourself why
you're working toward this particular goal. For example, say you've been in
your current position for two and a half years without a significant raise,
and you think your skills are worth much more. Before you march into your
boss's office, ask yourself: Why do I want a raise? Do I just want more
money, or am I honestly interested in advancing in this company?
"It's very important to distinguish ambition from greed," Milazzo insists.
"Wanting more money isn't a bad thing in and of itself, but it can get you
into trouble if your quest for cash mires you deeper in a commitment you're
not passionate about or causes you to ignore opportunities that might be
ideally suited to your strengths and interests. Always make sure you're
negotiating for the right reasons. I'm ambitious and competitive, but I've
left very large sums on the table because the opportunity wasn't something I
was passionate about. And I haven't regretted those decisions once."
Be your own number one fan. It can be hard for women to toot their
own horns. To a certain extent, we're actually wired to nurture and care for
others and to put the good of the whole over our own personal interests.
While these impulses aren't inherently bad, it's time for a newsflash: if
you don't announce your own achievements, you can bet that no one else is
going to do it for you. With humility, make sure that you're keeping your
name, your accomplishments, and your skill set in front of everyone.
"Have you ever noticed that women tend to downplay their accomplishments,
while men routinely highlight their achievements and use them to advance?"
Milazzo asks. "Recall the stat on men and women making salary negotiations
when they're hired. Clearly, we females need to take a page from the male
playbook and make sure that we're getting the recognition and credit we've
earned. If you still have doubts, consider that announcing your
accomplishments validates the investments others have made in you. Your
boss, for example, wants to know that she bet on a winner when she hired
Ask for everything at the beginning of the negotiation. This can also
be a difficult strategy for women to adopt. We don't want to come on too
strong or appear to be overly aggressive, so we don't put all of our cards
on the table at the beginning of negotiations. We tell ourselves that we'll
get the other person used to the idea gradually. But especially in business,
adding on as you go along generally isn't a good idea because it makes you
"Consider this situation," Milazzo asks. "If, for example, you tell a
prospect your consulting fee is $150 per hour and his reply is, 'That's very
reasonable,' you can't jump in and say, 'Well, but what I really want is
$175 per hour.' Think through what you want before you sit down to
negotiate. Prepare the list of points you must have and the points you're
willing to give up. Remember that some people do keep score, so being able
to track what you really need helps you let the other party win points as
you score big."
Ask for more than you think you can get. Remember the old adage:
nothing risked, nothing gained. Don't jump too fast to say yes to the first
offer, even if you think it's fair. It's always smart to assess the
situation, the person making the offer, and how far you might be able to go
before signing your name on the dotted line. Chances are, if your request
for more is denied, you'll still be left with the initial offer.
"If this sounds like greed, it's not," Milazzo clarifies. "Asking for more
than you think you can get is part of being a strong negotiator. You have to
be your own advocate! I remember mentoring an entrepreneur whose client
wanted to pay her a flat rate for a project. However, the project involved a
lot of moving parts, and a flat fee could end up costing her instead of
making her a profit. Despite this woman's fears that she'd lose the project
altogether unless she agreed to her client's unfavorable terms, I encouraged
her to stand firm and insist on an hourly fee. She did-and got what she
Appear detached (even when you're not). Unfortunately, many people
won't hesitate to exploit a weakness if you let them see it. When you
negotiate from a place of fear or desperation, your ability to be rational
will be impaired…and you'll also be susceptible to agreeing to unfavorable
terms; in other words, anything to save the deal! If, despite your best
efforts, you're unable to banish your emotions, make an effort to appear
"I remember an especially pivotal day for my own business," Milazzo recalls.
"I was sitting with an attorney-prospect, and I was scared that he wouldn't
hire me. Then I realized that if this man said no, there were a million more
potential clients out there. This insight gave me the ability to detach when
negotiating. One attorney wouldn't make or break my business, but entering
into bad deals because I was too caught up in making a deal certainly
Negotiate with the person, not the power. Unless your name happens to
be listed on a FORTUNE list entitled "50 Most Powerful Women," at some point
or another you'll probably find yourself negotiating with a more powerful
party-whether it's your boss, your boss's boss, or another organization.
When that happens, don't make the mistake of assuming that your bargaining
power is weak just because you're at a lower level in the company hierarchy
or because your business is smaller than theirs. Yes, this power imbalance
might make negotiating more challenging, but you have a lot to offer, too.
"Remember that ultimately, you're talking to another human being," Milazzo
reminds. "Try not to become so overawed by rank or position that you forget
that! I have rewritten entire contracts with companies much bigger than
mine-companies who claimed I had to sign their offer 'as is'-by remembering
that I was ultimately dealing with other people, not with a faceless
corporation. I have learned that everything is negotiable, so if you have
something to offer, go ahead and negotiate!"
Never talk off the record. When you're negotiating for something you
want, make sure you only go public with information you're comfortable with
the other party knowing.
"Never tip your hand," Milazzo insists. "You may think that saying to a
colleague, 'Just between you and me, I'm asking to spearhead the new
project, but I'd settle for just being on the team,' will stay between the
two of you. Maybe it will-but maybe it won't. If you let others know that
you'll settle for something, you risk ending up with that instead of with
what you really want-or worse, even less."
Never let yourself be bullied. Women who aren't used to negotiating
are especially susceptible to being intimidated by a show of force-but even
veteran businesswomen can be taken aback by unexpected aggression or
resistance! If you find yourself in this situation, remind yourself (once
again) that you are dealing with another human being and that you have
something valuable to offer. Don't be afraid to demand respect. And if you
consistently don't get it, well, it might be time to rethink whether you
want to work with the other party in the first place.
"I've worked with plenty of attorneys, met some tough negotiators, and seen
many different negotiation styles," Milazzo says. "When I'm up against a pit
bull, I'll take a walk and role-play with my husband Tom, who can be a
pit-bull himself. I anticipate every possible objection and get myself into
a Zen-like state. When it comes time to negotiate for real, I am centered
and ready. I know that if I allow myself to be intimidated or provoked
instead of remaining calm and professional, the negotiations are destined to
Now you might be thinking, That's all well and good…but times really are
tough and money really is in short supply. So no matter how great a
negotiator I might be, does it really matter if the money just isn't there?
"Yes, times are difficult for many right now and your odds of getting what
you want at work might not be as high as they were five years ago," Milazzo
concedes. "But why give up before you even start? What's to be gained from
that? I believe it's better to ask and not receive than to not ask and to
meekly settle for less than you deserve."
"Besides, it's when times are hard that raw talent and know-how really
count," she adds. "Right now, more than ever, you deserve to get paid what
you're worth. Don't let anyone-including yourself-forget just how much
you're bringing to the table."
About the Author:
Vickie Milazzo, RN, MSN, JD, is author of the New York Times bestseller
Wicked Success Is Inside Every Woman,
From a shotgun house in New Orleans to owner of a $16-million business, Wall
Street Journal best-selling author Milazzo shares the innovative success
strategies that earned her a place on the Inc. list of Top 10 Entrepreneurs
and Inc. Top 5000 Fastest-Growing Companies in America.