"You should never be so sure of your worth that you wouldn't accept more."
Read that two more times.
Let it sit. Write the quote on a sticky.
If you recognize the quote, that's because it's from best-selling author Chris Voss. His guide to negotiation has been on the top 20 Amazon most-sold list for over two years.
I'm not a regurgitating fanboy or ass-kissing disciple of Chris Voss. (Believe me, they exist).
I doubt I'll find myself in a kidnapping hostage negotiation, and the shock value of life-or-death negotiation scenarios doesn't resonate pragmatically.
FBI negotiation likely doesn't align with your executive work, either.
However, the impact of "You should never be so sure of your worth that you wouldn't accept more" must be addressed.
And credit should be given when credit is due. Voss is brilliant in behavioral psychology and making it tactical.
If you live by that one quote for the rest of your career (and you know your shit), you'll easily make another milly, if not more.
If you sprinkle on a dash of influential charisma and a heap of persuasive rhetoric—you can lead a nation! (Plus, be born into it, be about 80 years old, be in shady monopolistic cahoots with every industry baron and corrupt media tycoon, and you have a chance!)
God bless the American dream.
There is extraordinary power in keeping your mouth shut. After all, fools speak, and the wise listen.
Even if you think you know your number. Shut up.
You need to practice mastery over yourself and stick to your guns. Discipline equals freedom. If you're driven by impulse, you'll go nowhere, like a drifter.
I suspect that's why I petulantly have an aneurysm every time I read some dingleberry "coach" amassing a following and assuaging their audience by saying it's best practice to provide a salary range when faced with, "How much money do you want to make?"
I get it. Money is provocative. It's a faux pas. You'll get the clicks even if you're wrong.
Vehement no. Bunco advice.
Amateur hour on LinkedIn once again. At least they make it easy to spot who to never spend money on.
Being the fool I am, I keep running my mouth in defiance of these clowns. I get viscerally irked when fly-by-night coaches scam good people. (It's not your resume, it's your mindset).
Beyond screwing the pooch by talking about money prematurely, today's discussion is about how opening your mouth about money can lead to more than missing dollars—it can lead to a more demanding job.
But, But The Range Game Works
Sometimes you share your salary needs and win the deal anyway—and at the exact rate you wanted! Sometimes you even get a $20k bump from the range you requested initially!
Who needs your smug ass anyway, Jacob? So what say you now, JACOB? Huh huh?! I shared a range and won! So those dingleberry coaches are right!
Calm down, turbo. Even a broken clock is right twice a day.
I may ask any of the following:
- "If they simply gave you what you asked for, what did you leave on the table?"
- "Are you 100% satisfied with every aspect of your role?"
- "What did you miss out on?"
- "What sacrifices did you make?"
- "Did you consider all your asks?"
- "What will you learn later that you wish you knew now?"
- "Did you move too fast?"
- "Did you overshare?"
Winning without friction is hardly winning.
It's accepting mediocrity and complacency. It's avoiding the challenging conversations to get through it.
Haste equals risk.
It's hardly an admirable leadership trait. Also, yawnfest.
You know your worth so well that you lived up to the box you made for yourself. *Chef's kiss*
You damn well know you could have done better, but you didn't. So instead, you surrendered and complied, as any useful executive leader should.
How long will you keep that up and also expect a better life?
The blinders you (and I) wear may be so effective that we may never fully realize our negotiation shortcomings.
What could have been?
My definition of hell is knowing I have the capacity for greatness and not doing anything about it. And in some way or another, we all throttle ourselves back out of fear and conformity.
Maybe that sounds like shit to you too.
Enough morose real talk - let's get practical again.
A common, cascading pitfall can happen when you fail to shut your mouth about compensation. (Or fail to redirect the conversation to a more productive area to collect more information).
Sometimes in your race to secure meaningful employment (combined with your excitement about doing something new), your enthusiasm blinds you from a role creep scenario.
I define role creep as an executive (or hiring manager) eagerly adding more responsibilities to the job description without a concession in return.
Role creep is commonplace because most executives fail to understand when the negotiation starts.
You are so sure (pretentious naivety) of your worth that you share your expectations based on your ASSUMPTIONS of the role as you know it—before understanding the ACTUAL role and ask of the employer.
I'll overly simplify to drive the point home.
"We're hiring a VP of Sales to lead a team of 4 and double our revenue in the next 6 quarters. So tell me, what are your salary expectations?"
"Sounds like a reasonable request. I'm looking for a 60/40 split with a base salary range of $250,000-$300,000."
You saw those numbers in a benchmark report, so that must be the market. Your finger in the air and gut intuition is obviously the most scientific way to know you're not getting dicked in the negotiation.
Fast forward 5 weeks.
You've met with a half-dozen stakeholders. You've pleaded your case. You've presented your strategy. As a result, you've outlasted the competition.
You're committed! Your sunk cost will not be a waste.
You also learn that the CEO is not too keen on the executive in charge of marketing, and the customer success department is on thin ice. Hmm.
"We're excited to offer you the job of VP of Sales for $275,000 + 40%. We will also empower your team by asking the marketing and customer team to report to you. You have our full support and dedication—and we're excited to have you!"
OPT A, no risk: Take the job, you're lucky to get an offer in this economy / or you really need it.
OPT B, low-risk: Ask to get to the top of your range, $300k or bust.
OPT C mid-risk: Ask to break the range and change the title.
OPT D high-risk: Tear up the offer and rescope.
No matter what option you choose above, and even if you create new possibilities, you're beholden to that time you told them, I need $250,000 - $300,000.
Knowing your worth is a mistake that can create notable disadvantages for you later. You can see how this can spiral out of control quickly.
If you don't know what to do, do nothing and buy more time to consider. (Or call me)
It's better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt. 10x the impact of these plays when high-stakes negotiations get serious.
These scenarios also apply at the highest rungs of the Fortune 500 hierarchy, albeit the politics are significantly more challenging to articulate in a weekly blog post.
As a rule of thumb, the bigger the organization and the more money on the line:
- The longer the negotiation takes.
- The more executive egos need to be considered.
- The more people will need to save face.
- The more negotiations will be for show—when decisions have already been made.
- The more complex the angles of attack.
- The more you need to call someone like me, take a class, or read a few books.
For example, I've negotiated an 18-month CEO succession to help a client get promoted into the role and triple compensation.
Two boards of directors were involved. In addition, investors, executives, and three politically disparate stakeholder positions with complex legal needs—pensions, retention agreements, and tricky stay bonuses all needed to be met.
If you'd like to learn more about those nuances, message me something that will make me laugh via email, text, or LinkedIn.
In the meantime...
Be a deep well of information, not a fountain.
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