Insider Secrets of Pay Negotiation

Ever wonder what’s going on inside an organization when you’re in the process of pay negotiation? Here’s my insider’s perspective, based on my many (many!) years of helping companies figure out how to pay people.

Get better at pay negotiations by understanding things from an insider point of view. #paynegotiation Click To Tweet

It’s not personal

It absolutely feels personal, because your pay impacts so many facets of your life, but it’s not. How much an organization is willing to pay says a whole lot more about the value of the job to the organization than about what you’re worth, personally.

I was talking with a woman the other day who was telling me that she had multiple job offers (yay!), but with wildly different starting salaries. She wondered why some places valued her more than others.

After getting more details, it sounded like the different companies wanted to hire her for different levels of jobs. They all valued her and her experience (enough to offer her a job!), but each organization valued the job they wanted her to do very differently. That’s an important distinction.

Companies are kinda mercenary (and you should be, too). Bottom line, the company’s job is to get the best talent (that’s you!) in exchange for a competitive pay package. Your job is to get the most from the company that they’re willing to give in exchange for what you’ll contribute to them. Business. Not personal.

So yeah, a bit mercenary-ish. But that said, recruiters and headhunters advocate better for people they have a connection with, and nobody likes to deal with jerks. If you can get into the mindset of negotiating on behalf of someone you like, and of curiosity, it can be easier to take the emotion out of the negotiation.

Some stuff just can’t be negotiated

(and that’s also not personal)

Especially in larger companies, salary & benefits elements can be policy-driven. This can include who’s covered with benefits, bonus percentages, 401K contribution, stock treatment, and stuff like that. Making exceptions to some policies can put the benefit plan itself at risk with government regulators, so that may be a reason you’re not able to negotiate on specific things.

Some companies are simply more flexible than others when it comes to pay, too. Smaller organizations can often have flexibility with the mix of elements in the pay package, trading more of one thing for less of another. But larger organizations often have more & different pay & benefits and less flexibility about mixing.

There will also be things at play internally that you don’t/can’t/won’t have visibility. Internal equity (how people are paid relatively to each other inside the organization) can often be a factor. If your salary requirements are higher than others doing the same job, that can be tough for the company to accommodate. If they’re higher than your new boss’ pay, it can be a dealbreaker. And that’s not saying you’re wrong about what you’re asking for, but it can make things a mismatch between you and the company.

Know, too, that with equal pay coming to the forefront, there may not be much wiggle room with starting rates, either. But that shouldn’t stand in the way of asking for what you want, because . . .

Lots of stuff can be negotiated

The most common things for folks to negotiate include:

  • Start date
  • What’s included in a relocation package
  • Base pay
  • Sign-on bonus or stock
  • Paid time off (especially in the first year)

When negotiating, start with the big/ongoing stuff first (base pay, bonus, annual paid time off) and move to the less important/one-time things afterward (sign-on bonus, relocation costs, vacation in the first few months). And when I say “important,” I mean “important to you” and what you stand for. It’s cool if you care more about vacation time than base pay, or vice versa, or something else. You do you.

And just because you could negotiate something, it doesn’t mean you should. Pay particular attention to how the negotiations are progressing, and remember that negotiation fatigue is a thing.

For more tips on how to negotiate pay and why your negotiations might not be working well, check out my blog posts.

What’s your big “aha” about an insider’s view of pay? Tell us in the comments below!

“Never Eat Alone,” by Keith Ferrazzi: Book Review

Want the ultimate guide to connecting with people at work? Read Never Eat Alone, by Keith Ferrazzi. There’s about 3 books’ worth of great advice here, but my biggest takeaways are:

  • Service first
  • Be authentic
  • Persist
  • Get creative
  • Follow up like a boss
Ever wonder how some people seem to be connected with EVERYBODY? Check my book review of 'Never Eat Alone,' by Keith Ferrazzi, and find out how they do it! #networking #communications #peoplegenius Click To Tweet

Service first.

Ferrazzi’s networking & communications foundation is built on service to others: we should seek to serve others before serving ourselves. If you’re just in a conversation for what you can get out of it, you’re missing the point.

By helping others, they’re more likely to reciprocate when you need it. Not to mention the fact that you’re generating a bit of positive cosmic energy. Woo, but true.

Be authentic.

Make sure any networking or other communications you do are rooted in what you stand for. People can tell when you’re being fake, and you can’t build trust with them from that space.

If you’re not a naturally exuberant glad-hander, don’t try to fake being one. You can still connect with people, no matter your personality dynamic.


When people don’t respond to an email or call, it’s not because they hate you (!). Folks are incredibly busy, and with our 24/7 inflow of information, emails, social media, calls, meetings…well, you get the picture.

That said, Ferrazzi advises against being a pest, and the line between persistent and pest-y can get pretty fine there. Persist, and be self-aware.

Get creative.

With connecting, sometimes the easiest way in isn’t the front door, so to speak. Getting to know gatekeepers (like executive admins), connecting via a mutual friend’s introduction, or building a bridge through your kids’ Brownie troop can all be great ways to meet and serve.

And if there’s someone you’d like to get to know, make a plan on how to get to know them, don’t just leave it to chance. It won’t always work, but what if it does?

Follow up like a boss.

Since connecting is faster/easier/better when there’s trust between people, follow up is a crucial part of the equation. And in this crazy world, it’s a great way to differentiate yourself. Most people don’t because they’re super-busy & don’t prioritize it.

For those of us in consulting roles, being known as a “do-what-you-say-you-will” person is a critical piece of our personal brands. So follow up, say thank you, send a note when you think of someone, and for heaven’s sake, when you tell someone you’re going to do something, do that thing.

What’s your best networking/communications/connection tip? Tell us in the comments below!

p.s. Want even more tips on networking? Check out my blog post.

Network Like the Pro You Are

Networking – ugh! It can feel so fake and weird.  What to do? Network like a pro with these tips for:

  • Before the event
  • During the even
  • After you network
Up your networking game with a plan for before, during, and after the event. #networking #trueyou Click To Tweet


Have a plan.

Know what you want to get out of the networking event. Is it a recommendation for a vendor (general contractor, anyone?), or a lead for a job, or an idea for a blog topic?

Know your elevator speech.

It doesn’t have to be long & involved (in fact, it shouldn’t be). Write it down, and practice saying it a zillion times until you get the words just the way you want them. Include what you do, who you serve, and the results your clients/customers get. This is a great approach, whether you work for a large firm, small organization, or you’re an entrepreneur.

Know what you’ll wear.

I know, I know, but it’s important. You want to wear something that’s comfortable and also is consistent with the personal brand you want to portray. Make sure it doesn’t require any major adjusting when you sit down or stand up or write on a business card (because you will be doing all of those things while networking).


Look at the person you’re talking to.

Nobody wants to see your eyes darting around the room, looking for someone More Important and/or Cooler Than You. Seriously. The person in front of you is the most important one at that moment, so treat them like it.

Be curious.

Ask interesting questions that will help you get to know your network-ee better. “What do you do?”: not interesting. “What’s the toughest problem your industry is facing right now?” or “What’s the best thing about working where you do?”: more interesting. And more likely to get authentic answers.

Carry a pen.

This will come in handy – you can write a little note on any business cards you collect with any follow-up action the moment you’re done networking with your person (who you’ve looked at, not annoyingly, the entire time you’ve talked with them). A side note, if you’re getting new business cards made, make sure they’re easy to write on.


Know how you’ll capture your information.

I have an app on my phone that lets me scan a business card, and it’ll automatically load it to my business software. That’s a huge time-saver for me! But you can also keep the paper cards in a file or hand-enter information into your address book. Whatever works for you!

Have a follow-up plan.

You won’t need to take action with every single business connection you make, but you’ll definitely have some. It might be sharing a link to a lecture you spoke about or an article you discussed, or it could be adding someone to your newsletter list (note: that’s only cool if you have their express permission). Maybe it’s setting up a phone call.

Whatever your little scribblings on people’s cards say, make sure you have time the day after the event – or the day of, if you can – to do your follow up. Being meticulous about your follow up will put you well ahead of most people, and will help you add “a person of their word” to your personal brand.

What’s your favorite networking tip? Tell us in the comments below!

Use the Power of a Mastermind to Supercharge Your Success

I’m in Asheville, NC this week for a mastermind group, and it’s SO awesome!

What is a mastermind, you ask?

Simply put, it’s a group of sort-of like-minded people who gather together with a shared purpose and help each other solve problems. My mastermind is a group of (mostly) women entrepreneurs who run their businesses with a focus on connecting with our clients on a deeper level.

Want to supercharge your performance? Join a mastermind, and expand your success through the power of your network. #mastermind Click To Tweet

I love coming to Asheville once a quarter to work on my business and myself! Here are the top 3 reasons:

  • Community
  • Development
  • Collaboration


Since many entrepreneurs are solo practitioners, having a sense of community and belonging can be a rare thing. Masterminds, like the one I participate in, are a great place to meet up with folks who are in similar situations, and who face similar challenges and triumphs.

We share best practices, our favorite apps and systems solutions, as well as stories of our successes (and things that haven’t worked the way we’ve planned).

I mean, who, besides another entrepreneur, can appreciate the delight of putting an automated invoicing system in place? Or landing a first client? Our shared experiences help us build a strong community.


Another common practice in masterminds is to provide development opportunities so members can learn new things.

Mine focuses on both the tactics and emotional perspective of running successful businesses, and while I have an MBA, there’s a “been there; done that” practical side of the things I’m learning in my mastermind that I haven’t found anywhere else.

Setting aside 3 days every quarter to learn, reflect, and reset my mindset has been invaluable as I’ve built my business.


Another feature of masterminds is the opportunity to use the power of the collective to solve individual problems.

In my mastermind, we take a half day of every retreat to gather in small groups, present our challenges, and get tips on how to tackle them from our peers. Getting diverse perspectives from entrepreneurs who run businesses that range from corporate innovation consulting, to yoga studios, to musicians, to tour guides can be highly productive.

And knowing there’s a group of people who really want you (and your business) to flourish…that’s priceless.

Have you participated in a mastermind? Or would you like to? Let us know in the comments below.

The Work-Life Audit: Start Living Your Best Life

It’s time for an audit. Not from the IRS (OMG, no!), but an audit of your work and your life. My  leadership coaching clients hire me to help them solve problems or make big changes in their lives, but they’re often at a loss as to where to start. I designed a Work-Life Audit practice to help.

Want to get started living your best life? Take a Work-Life Audit! #worklifeaudit #personaldevelopment #bestlife Click To Tweet

Why should you even do this?

Taking stock of your life gives you clarity about what is important to you, and how fulfilled you are. Once you have that clarity, it’s easier to focus on the things that will make a meaningful difference in your life.

What do you need to keep in mind?

This isn’t like those 3-minute online quizzes where you discover whether you’re a bear or a butterfly, and post your results for your friends to see. It takes time to really reflect and assess, and you’ve got to dig deep to understand what you really want.

If you want results that make an impact, you’ve got to put in the effort.

What’s the process?

Think about the areas of your work and life that impact your happiness and general satisfaction. Then, rate them on 2 scales: first, how important are each of them to you, and second, how satisfied are you with them.

Or, click here to get the exact Work-Life Audit I use with my coaching clients (for free).

What does it mean?

When you see areas where you “match” (for instance, when something is very important to you and you’re really fulfilled with it), you’re aligned with how you want to be, which is great!

On the other hand, “mismatches” (when something is really important to you, but you’re extremely dissatisfied with it) point to areas where you might want to take action or make changes.

Of course, if there’s a result that surprises you or freaks you out, you should pay attention to that one, too — it’s important to follow your energy.

What’s next?

It’s time to do something! Pick an area you want to work on, and figure out what you want to do about it. It can be anything from creating new habits to managing your work-life transitions to better time management to whatever you’d like.

The key is to start. And see what’s possible for you!

Want your FREE Work-Life Audit? Click here to get it!