I want the job but it's not enough money, my new client was saying to me.
It's exactly what I want to do and the President says it's a golden opportunity to get in on the ground floor of an exciting new venture.
But I've worked for start-ups before and sometimes the ground floor stays on the ground.
Then she told me what she was really worried about.
I'm afraid they'll withdraw the job offer if I give them my real number.
Twenty-four hours later, this young woman would have an offer twenty-percent greater than her prospective employer's opening — and supposedly non-negotiable - job offer. [More from Forbes: How to negotiate your salary]
She'd also have a better job title with more authority to accomplish the goals she was being asked to accomplish. They offered additional benefits and a promised six-month merit-bonus review with clear metrics for earning it.
I'd peg the increased offer in her total compensation package at a minimum of 25%, but I'm being conservative by saying twenty.
How did she do it?
Research that Pegs Value and Builds Confidence
She quickly gathered "comps" from glassdoor.com.
She didn't necessarily have to use these comps in her next face-to-face meeting, but she did need to know what her value was if only to increase her own confidence.
Her negotiation partner was asking her to make a concession up front. She needed to know how large that concession was so she could ask for reciprocity. [More from Forbes: How to now what the job pays]
People feel obliged to make a concession that's equal to the one they've just asked their bargaining partner to make.
My client could only seek the full benefit of that principle by understanding the size of the concession from her bargaining partner's point of view.
Asking Diagnostic Questions
I covered this principle — what my business partner Lisa Gates calls the "crown jewel of interest-based negotiation" — yesterday.
They're asking you to accept their future value as part of your compensation, I said, referring to their promises of future riches resulting from being on the "ground floor."
Be open about your need to know why you should be leaving a secure job to place a bet on their future. Ask them about their capitalization, market research, and budget line items that your success will depend upon. [More from Forbes: How to get a job if you're overqualified]
They've said $100,000 is all they've budgeted your salary at. How did they land on that figure. Moses didn't bring the budget down from Mt. Sinai on stone tablets. They made the budget. They can change the budget to ensure your success as well as their own.
Your sophistication in these matters will impress them. You'll be proving your value at the same time that you're doing your own due diligence. Are there are line items they could take additional money from to pay you something close to what you're worth? Exhaust these lines of inquiry and act like the business partner they're implying you'll someday be.
Act Like You're Already Working for Them
People not only appreciate go-getters who have their interests already in mind, they are far less willing to part with something they already have than they are to forego something they haven't yet acquired.
This is called loss-aversion.
People will always ask for more money to give up something they already possess than they would be willing to pay to acquire it in the first instance. [More from Forbes: Turn a rejection into a job offer]
So act like you already have the job. Tell them what you'd like to accomplish in the next thirty days. Learn what their greatest challenges are and offer suggestions about ways of resolving them.
Act as if they already own you.
Tell them you want more than you're willing to accept. You're a woman, so asking for yourself can create gender blow back — punishment for stepping outside your gender boundaries. Marry your request for increased compensation to their business plan. Explain why paying you your true market value is one of the best ways for them to accomplish their goals.
Refer to the needs of your family. That takes your request out of a self-seeking frame and puts it squarely within your gender role as a mother.
The Pay Off
Twenty-four hours later, I had a deliriously happy client on the other end of the telephone line.
Not only did she achieve her goal, but it wasn't, she said, "sleazy," like she thought it would be. She did act like a business partner and they responded in kind. [More from Forbes: Hoe to ace your job interview]
It didn't feel inauthentic to be asking for more than she was willing to accept. It felt more authentic. She was passionate about their business and everyone got caught up in the adventure of planning for success rather than for a pinched economic beginning with a potentially resentful new employee.
It was just like you said it would be — a conversation leading to agreement.
And that made me a very, very happy woman.