Multiple studies that show most people don’t like to negotiate.
This seems especially true for Americans in general, but there has also been research that shows women really don’t like negotiating… and unfortunately, their wages suffer for it (listen up ladies!).
This is bad news all-around, because if YOU aren’t going to negotiate for your rates, who is?
The unsurprising answer: No one. Nobody is going to have your back to get you paid what you’re worth, so if you aren’t willing to negotiate your rates, nothing will change.
Instead of heading in to your next client/salary negation without a plan, read the following 10 negotiation techniques that will help you approach the situation in a calm, cool, and collected manner (and with an actual game-plan!).
Let’s delay no longer: time to jump in!
1.) First Determine Why
This is the most important part of a negotiation, and one that many people seem to skip.
If you’re looking to raise your rates, you first need to establish why — everybody wants to make more money, but what (exactly) is wrong with your rate now?
Why this is important: When you’ve identified a concrete reason why your rates should be higher than they currently are, you can begin to frame your case for why they should actually go up.
You can’t be persuasive without first convincing yourself, and just saying “Cash Rules Everything Around Me” isn’t going to affirm your own beliefs and definitely won’t convince your client.
2.) Get Specific
It’s hard to talk about how great you are when you don’t have a few key examples nailed down.
Instead of just making the case that you’ve done “a good job” for your client, get detailed about a few times you really came through. This is especially important if you’ve been working together for some time.
For a content strategist like myself, I would highlight articles that performed really well or that ranked highly in search engines. I’d emphasize big traffic days or how many people I was able to add to their newsletter.
For your pitch, try to find some big wins that you can elaborate on, instead of pitching a generic success story.
For an example of what I mean, check out this PPC proposal template. It outlines examples of how you can position yourself using examples to get the most out of limited space.
3.) Be Wary of Setting a Ceiling
By offering a rock-solid price first, you may be undercutting yourself without even knowing it.
I know it’s tempting to just come in with a flat price, it takes the “negotiation” out of negotiating, but have you ever considered that without a cap that your client might be willing to pay more than you offered?
Here’s an example: Perhaps you believe you deserve a 20% raise in rates with a client of yours… you’ve been doing good work, results have been better than expected and you’re always dependable.
Unbeknownst to you, your client feels the same way and was actually prepared to offer a 30% increase… but since you threw out the lower number first, you won’t be seeing that extra 10%.
4.) Remind Them of Your Value
They hired you for a reason, and if you are considering asking for better rates, you know you’re doing a great job… but when is the last time either of you have mentioned that?
Asking for better rates in the context of, “I need more money” is just about the worse thing you can do — your client cares about their business in the same way you care about yours!
Make it all about them: Sure, your prices are going up, but look at what they’ve gained by working with you, and better yet, look what they stand to LOSE should you have to move on to greener pastures.
5.) Talk to the Boss
In some instances, this is quite easy — for instance, I only ever talk with the bossman Ruben around here when I need to discuss something.
For certain clients though, there may be a hierarchy or a chain of command of some sort, depending on how big the business is.
You need to talk to the person who actually writes the checks!
This may seem obvious, but many times you’ll be assigned to a project leader or someone similar. They should be in on the loop too (notify them that you’ll be asking for a raise, and if you can get a recommendation, that’s even better) but take your case to the person with whom the buck stops.
6.) Make it “Win-Win”
At first glance this seems like fluffy advice, but that’s only because of the phrasing (you’ll find “win-win” in every single corny executive training manual out there).
You really do want to craft this sort of scenario though — when a situation feels like a winner all-around, most people are more inclined to make the deal.
Although there are some bad clients out there, most DO want you to be paid fairly, but only after they know they are getting a deal too.
Explain to them why your increased rate is simply the cost of keeping someone of your skill level around, someone who is totally dedicated to making things happen for their business.
7.) Prepare for Their Counters
Not to make this sound like a fight, but you need to be ready to block & counter-attack their likely objections.
Maybe they’ll strut out a competitor’s offer… no worries, here’s why you are so much better than him/her.
Maybe they’ll talk about their ideal budget… not a concern, because the returns your work brings in is worth so much more, and here’s how.
This is all about doing your homework and coming prepared when you are ready to ask for higher rates. Without these common objections already rehearsed in your head, you might get tripped up on what should have been an easy response.
8.) When You Do Pitch, Go High
There’s an old sales tactics called the “door in the face” technique, which operates as follows:
The persuader attempts to convince the respondent to comply by making a large request that the respondent will most likely turn down; much like a metaphorical slamming of a door in the persuader’s face.
It sounds goofy, but the research has shown that it actually works! People tend to view a second offer as more reasonable when it’s preceded by an offer that is quite high (note that this technique doesn’t work when you go extremely high, as in “No-way-would-somebody-ever-pay-that-much” high).
So, stick to this sound psychological principle: aim high with your first offer. If it’s reasonable enough and you do get it, that’s a win, if you have to negotiate down slightly to your second offer, you’re still good to go.
9.) State Your Claim With Confidence
We don’t need to get all “Tony Robbins” up in here, but confidence is a big part of negotiations and you’re going to get walked on if you don’t act confident.
Trust me on this one — study after study has shown that confidence is actually a bigger factor in many persuasive arguments than even the facts (watch a political debate and try to argue that one ;)).
If that’s not enough to convince you, additional research has found that “nice guys” finish poorest, and one of the reasons this seems to be the case is that they aren’t as decisive in their arguments and tend not to have enough conviction in their plans for the future.
You can keep arrogance at the door, but make sure your persuasive case doesn’t get ruined by being too timid.
10.) Shut Up
This is life advice in general — constant chatter to fill the silence is a huge authority killer. It makes you look nervous, like you don’t know what to do next.
Silence will eat most people up.
Stick to your guns, at this stage you’ve already done what you can to make your rates seem like a deal. Talking too much will just interrupt their thoughts or make you look weak.
Now it’s time to shut your mouth and put the ball in their court!
Lastly: Don’t Take it Personal
This goes either way: if things go well, don’t drop your prices because you like your client. It’s okay to treat good clients well, but when you need to raise your prices (as you should have figured out in step #1) you have to keep your cool, it’s a business after all.
Conversely, if you have presented your argument and there isn’t any sign of you getting want you want, don’t get hurt feelings — pack up shop and move on (and don’t burn any bridges!).
What do you think of these negotiation techniques when discussing rates with your clients?
Do you have any other advice that you would add?
Let us know by leaving a comment!