Career Q+A: Salary negotiation

Q: I read you on Cynopsis and find your comments very insightful. I have a quick question that hopefully you can answer. I have a final interview in a few days. The HR Director has asked me what my salary history and requirements are prior to the interview. It is a director level sales management position. The company states on their web site they offer very competitive salaries.I do not know their salary range. Do I ask for a higher amount and then negotiate or do I risk alienating them and prior to the final interview?

A:  Tough question.  One of the toughest.   If you have a sense of what the job should pay – what others make at similar level – then this is the place to be.  Perhaps inflate it by 5-10% to give some wiggle room.  Put yourself in the mindset that you are worth that.  Be able to tell them what you will be doing to make it worth their while.  Remind them of the good reasons they have for asking you back.   If you are talking sales and can justify your compensation with sales projections then so much the better.

Don’t just think of it as an arbitrary number to be negotiated – try and internalize it as a number that you think is reasonable and fair (even if it’s a little higher so you can give them some back).  Then practice saying it so that it feels comfortable and right in your mouth as well as on paper.  Be able to justify it from their point of view as well as your own.

Try not to make it look like a take-it-or-leave-it number.  You should expect to be negotiated down – leave some room for them to play with fringes and commissions.  Be open to shifting the balance between base and commissions  – say something like – if we both really want this to happen then I am sure we can find a package that works for both of us.

Don’t undersell yourself – be confident that you are worth it – you will not be happy in the long run.

Questioner’s response: Great feedback. Thank you. I’m taking an analytical approach to this. I have a pretty good sense of what others make at a similar level so I can justify my value. I received some data on the company’s current sales and projections. I’m taking your suggestion of balancing salary versus commission and basing this on a spreadsheet of scenarios that include revenue assumptions and commissions based on my direct sales and commission on what my team generates.

Since I will be hiring and developing comp plans this will demonstrate that I was thoughtful about the salary requirements and how I would think about this for new hires.