Make More Money to Save More Money: 8 Ways to Negotiate Like a Pro (and Save for Your Dream Home)
By Despina Zanganas
Everything I know about the art of negotiation I learned from someone whose nickname is, aptly, “The Negotiator”.
Her actual name is Fotini Iconomopoulos, and she’s a Negotiation, Communication & Leadership Expert. I’ve known Fotini for years, and I’ve successfully used the skills I picked up in her presence in both my personal and professional life.
And I continue to negotiate, Fotini style, every single day as a real estate agent.
But as a future homebuyer, you need to hone those negotiation skills too. Because if you’re looking to save more money — by making more money — to put towards the purchase of a new home, you’ll need to learn how to negotiate like a pro. (Just as important is that you’re working with a real estate agent who’s a skilled negotiator. So you can be sure they close the deal, and get you the home of your dreams.)
8 Things I Learned From “The Negotiator”
1. Make sure you’re being paid what you’re worth. Thanks to sites like PayScale and Glassdoor, it’s pretty easy to get an idea of the typical salary for your role. Factor in how many years you’ve been doing what you’re doing and whether you’re considered a newbie or an expert in your field. Then based on what the average earner is making, decide what you’re worth. Another way to find out is to ask around. (Yes, I’m serious.) If more of us follow in the footsteps of CNN’s Brooke Baldwin and share what we are making with a friend in the same field, perhaps it won’t be so taboo to talk amongst our peers about our salaries anymore. If you’re nervous about breaking the rules at work, you can go the indirect route, and ask “What do you think someone with my experience should be making?” instead.
2. Consider your objectives. Whether you’re ready to negotiate a higher salary at your current place of work, or actively looking for a new job, it’s really important to think about your own needs and objectives. That’s right, it’s time to do a bit of soul-searching. Are you hoping for a promotion? Does your current salary make you feel undervalued? Where do you see yourself in the next year or so? Get all your thoughts down on paper. If asking for a raise with the goal of saving towards a down payment is one of your objectives, write this down too. Then figure out what sort of bacon you’d need to be bringing home each month in order to do so.
3. “Fake it ‘til you become it.” One of the biggest things holding women back from negotiating what they’re worth? Confidence. So, as women, we’ve got to do everything in our power to build ourselves up, even if it means striking a (Wonder Woman) pose. During Amy Cuddy’s popular Ted Talk, “Your body language may shape who you are“, Amy (who happens to be a social psychologist) advises us to trick our brains into thinking we are confident by “power posing” or assuming a position that represents confidence. So before you head to the negotiating table, make a detour to the washroom and embody Wonder Woman’s stance (stand with your legs apart and your hands on your hips) for 2 minutes in front of a mirror. It might work … wonders? Try it out!
4. You go first. State your salary expectation first, making sure it’s on the higher end. I know, I know. Easier said than done. The problem is that 68% of women accept their initial salary offer — versus 42% of men. (Heck, even the former First Lady — yes, Michelle Obama — didn’t negotiate a higher salary at her first job offer!) Considering most prospective employers anticipate a little back and forth when it comes to this sort of thing, it’s time we go first. Here’s why; by throwing out the first number, you are planting a number in their head, which can have a real impact on the final figure. And, if you start by throwing out a relatively high number, you’ll finish on a relatively high note. If you don’t think you can do it, there is a less frightening alternative. Start with a range, but make sure your anticipated salary is at the lowest end. That way, even if you end up somewhere in the middle, you’ll still be ahead of the game.
5. Ask questions. Did you know that expert negotiators ask a lot of questions? (See what I did there?) Sure, the CEO or HR team may be the ones with the inside scoop, but by asking questions, they are making sure that they are: (1) leading the conversation, (2) not giving away too much information, (3) better understanding your position, and (4) allowing themselves time to pause. So what can you do shift the power dynamics in your favour? Ask questions. Then PAUSE.
6. Pause. I can’t stress how important it is to give yourself time to think before you speak and, more importantly, before you make any big decisions (like, accepting the first offer). If you aren’t happy with the salary being discussed, don’t feel like you have to make a decision on the spot. (Rookie mistake!) Let the employer know that you’ll get back to them with an answer by the end of the week, for example.
7. Don’t let likeability cloud your judgment. If your judgment is clouded, you might close a deal way too soon. (Remember that 68% of women accept their initial salary offer.) But here’s the thing: As a woman, odds are that you are already more likeable than your male peers. Why? Well, as Fotini once told me, women tend to be better at building and maintaining relationships, we’re good listeners, and we know “when to shut up”. So if we’re already ahead of the game, why do negotiations make us want to run screaming in the other direction? I’m no psychologist, but maybe it’s a fear of losing our high ranking on the likeability scale.
8. Have a Plan B, C and D ready. You’ll be better prepared for a “no” if you come armed with alternatives. Whether that be other job interviews lined up, suggested tweaks to the benefits package, or more vacation time, you’ll still feel like you’re winning if your backup plans are of value to you. Just be prepared to pull one out of your back pocket (or pull out entirely) if the negotiations are not going in your favour.
A final thought! No matter how much you dislike the thought of negotiating, remember this: As women, we are actively negotiating with the people in our lives every single day. And if you have a small child in your life, you may just have some of the best negotiation skills out there. (Have you ever negotiated broccoli eating or toy sharing with a small child?)
The truth is, we don’t really need to practice. We are already master negotiators.
Is your real estate agent a master negotiator?
When it comes to buying a home, you want to be sure your realtor is a master negotiator too. Plus, they’ll also need some industry-specific tricks up their sleeve. One biggie is their willingness to show up in person to present an offer. Unless the seller has made it clear that they’d rather communicate via email, meeting face to face is the best way for your realtor to sell the idea of you to them (which in and of itself is a bit of an art). You can find 5 other winning qualities to look for in a real estate agent right here.
Looking to buy a home? Want to see a ‘master negotiator’ in action? Reach out anytime.
Despina Zanganas is a long-time homeowner, Toronto-based realtor, and master negotiator on a mission to educate and empower female buyers while they seek out the home of their dreams.
The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect those of Equitable Bank. Any information provided is for information purposes only and Equitable Bank makes no representations as to the validity, accuracy, completeness or suitability of any content. You should seek the advice of a qualified professional or undertake your own research before making financial decisions.