Making Counter Offers and Concessions in Salary Negotiations

Let's just start with this...if you want to negotiate a salary offer for a new job, and you start by asking "is it negotiable?" you've just opened a bit anemically. Here's why:

It telegraphs to your conversation partner that you'd accept even if it'snot negotiable. You're better off assuming that everything is negotiable.

Negotiation conversations are made up of offers, counteroffers and concessions. Simplifying wildly, you need to know two things--your target (what you really want) and your reservation point (your walkaway or resentment number). 

If your conversation partner offers $75K for your dream job, and your research and preparation sets you up with a target of $90K and a reservation point of $80K, here are two possible scenarios for how the process might go:

counter with your target

You counter offer with $90K, and your partner counters with $82K, basically splitting the difference. You then concede $4K and counter with $86, and your partner agrees to split the difference again by offering you $84, to which you agree.

You're below your target, but $4K better than your walk away number.

counter above your target

You counter offer for $95K, and your partner counters with $80K--a bump up of $5K. You match that by conceding $5K and counter with $90K. Your partner splits the difference and offers you $85K. You split that difference again and offer $88K, to which your partner responds with an offer of $86K. You say yes.

You're $6K above your reservation point, and only $4K from your target.

If all that makes your head swim, consider that research shows the more concessions you make, the more give and take that happens in a negotiation, the happier the parties are with the outcome.