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Negotiate Your Way to a Better-Paying Sales Job

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Desirable sales jobs call for excellent negotiating skills. Beginning with the first call from your prospective employer — the one where he or she offers you a sales job — negotiation plays a vital role in your success on the job.

Any discussion of a job offer will provide the sales job hiring manager with an opportunity to view your communicative ability and deal-making prowess. Before you meet with the company to go over pay, research salaries typically offered for the title and, if possible, research whether the offering company usually lands low or high on the pay scale. It’s important to keep track of news related to your field. Know whether the market is thriving or in a rut so that in your meeting you’ll know when it is appropriate to hold ’em and when it’s appropriate to fold ’em, so to speak.

Have a number in mind when you enter the sales job salary discussion and be prepared for a little back-and-forth between the hiring manager and yourself. Should the interviewing company offer you a dream job at pay much lower than you anticipated, consider asking for a signing bonus or an early performance review that will provide a chance to reenter the salary talk. These options may help make up for the initial pay cut, should you accept the offer.

Important general negotiation skills include rapport building, active listening, critical thinking, decision making, fluid communicative ability, awareness of nonverbal cues, and knowledge of cultural issues. Negotiation is often stereotyped as an opportunity to ''go for it all.'' However, when entering a negotiation, it’s usually best to go for a ''win-win'' scenario, essentially viewing your meeting as a collaborative process that aims to leave both parties feeling satisfied with their agreements.

This approach is especially necessary if your relationship with the client is important. If you see a client frequently, it isn’t wise to use hard-sell tactics for fear of alienating him or her. On the other hand, if you are not concerned about your relationship with your client, some experts advise that you go ahead and use any strategy at your disposal.

Think twice about being shy. Linda Babcock, a prominent economics professor at Carnegie Mellon University, interviewed a population of MBA students for research purposes and found that those who negotiated job offers received salaries 7% to 8% higher than their initial offers. Babcock also noted that only 12% of women negotiated, compared to 52% of men. Women especially need to heed negotiating advice, and it may even be wise for them to invest in negotiation coursework if it wasn’t provided in their educational curriculum.

The bottom line for sales job seekers is that negotiation is a huge part of the work. Building relationships with clients and selling your product is one thing, but it’s important to remember that successful sellers excel at knowing their market, asserting their needs, knowing when to say no, and asking for more, if need be. To put it another way, they excel at negotiating.
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