Everything, in the right time, place and with the right people, is negotiable. This includes your salary, your benefits, your time off, your working arrangments and just about anything else you can think of.

If you want to negotiate or ask for a raise for yourself, it’s all about putting yourself in that right place and time. It’s also about understanding who are the right people. If you are unwilling to put in the work to do that, it wont be possible for you. If you do, the possibilities for what you can negotiate are only as creative as you can get with your imagination.

In this article, I want to help you prepare a solid case for negotiating yourself an increase in compensation and income.

We will assume that you are already adding major value to your role, your boss, and your company (which helps create the right time) for more on how to do that visit  “Earn $100K More Just by Thinking Differently”

Instead we will focus on how to understand what you are worth, internal company dynamics and prepping for the conversation itself.

Understanding your true value

When you understand what you are truly worth in the marketplace, you start to look at the opportunity cost of spending your time at one employer vs. another differently.

There are a few things you need to know about compensation so that when you have a conversation with your boss about your research you don’t get laughed at. Not only would that be awkward and embarrassing but conversations that start with your boss rolling on the floor in tears of laughter don’t usually end with him getting up wiping his eyes, chuckling a little more and then saying “sure we will give you the $19,000 you are talking about”

Instead the reaction you will want to achieve is the serious consideration of your reasonable request.

To get this serious consideration you must contemplate the following

What is the labor market?

First of all the labor market is the places where your employer can buy labor from. This may mean locally or have quite a range. if you are researching compensation for labor markets that contain data from a broader area than what your employer recruits from, that might not give you useful information and your employer is not going to be interested. This could be local, regional, national, global or very local (like only from a close by area in a certain part of the city)

Do you have multiple validation points?

To get credibility with your request for a raise you should use multiple sources to gather your information. There are both free and paid resources. Salary.comIndeed.com and your state’s economic and labor website are two great free sites to get data from. www.careeronestop.org is a great site to help you locate the information for your states individual resources (shown in video below)

Here are two videos that will help you use these sites for the purposes of research to prepare your case to get a raise.

Ok, Ok your company is different…

…but not in the way that you think it might be. Within every company you have to understand what dynamics are in play that will help you get a raise. This includes how compensation is structured and who will be involved in saying “Yes” to your request for more money.

HR may be holding on tight to the compensation ranges but you can often find out if you sweet talk them (I have worked in HR leadership for 10 years so I sort of feel like I can say this!)

If sweet talking doesn’t work try this approach: Help them to understand that you don’t want to share the information but instead want to understand what the ranges are associated with your current role so you can work with your boss to figure out what you need to do to get yourself higher in the range (weird how honesty is the best policy here).

You may find that it opens up all kinds of conversation and you find out plenty of what you need to know about your company’s pay policies. If not I would ask them the question, “If you wanted to provide more for the company and earn more at the same time, how would you go about it and who makes those decisions.”

If they look at you and say “that’s not possible” don’t get discouraged, it just means you haven’t gone high enough in the ranks. Remember the “right people” is part of the negotiation trifecta.

If your company is small enough where you don’t have an HR person, it’s pretty likely that the owner (or at least the highest up management) will be involved in saying “yes” or “no” to your request for more pay. This may also mean that there may not be hard bound compensation ranges.

Either way it’s really important that you understand what and who you are working with.

Also in the “Who” category may be other people besides your Boss or HR. Depending on the size and structure of your company this may include your boss’s boss, finance partners, other people up the ranks, a company owner, a board of directors, etc. Really your goal is to find out who would be involved before you ask to get a raise. This is best done by asking other people in the know “who is involved in making compensation decisions?”

Even though it’s better to have this information up front, that way you can be sure you are having conversations about your salary increase with all the right decision makers, it will still be ok if you don’t. You will certainly get an opportunity to have this conversation when you go to ask for a raise.

Prepping to “Pop the Question”

Now you know who should be involved and what you are worth so you can begin planning for that conversation (or conversations if you have a lot of parties that impact the decision)

So… what should you bring? How should you ask? Where should you do it? Hold on… hold on, not so many questions! Let’s take them one at a time.

What should you bring?

Not knowing the preferred cognitive and communication styles for your boss and other people who may have a vested interest, I usually advise you to prepare for all of them.

Here are a couple ways that you can do exactly that:

Prepare a 1 page summary that discusses what results you have obtained already (above and beyond expectations), what you are asking for, why it’s important and what the return on investment (ROI) is for your employer (meaning if they choose to pay you more what will they get in return for their investment) Basically it’s a summary that explains “what’s in it for your boss and your company”

Put your job description on in a word document and underneath it draw a line and put what responsibilities you are performing beyond that job description. (For bonus points list what results you are getting from those responsibilities, projects and duties)

Break down as much as you can into bottom line dollars or productivity. Meaning if you are taking on an extra project how does that actually translate into revenue, savings, or increased productivity.

Show visually through charts, tables, or graphs what your salary is currently vs what that job is being paid elsewhere (as long as you are showing relevant labor markets)

Build a portfolio of your work (if appropriate)

Here is a video that discusses some of these options

Where should you do it?

This is simple. You need to do it in a place (and at a time) where you will not be interrupted. The last time I had this conversation for myself I had the discussion with my boss in his office behind closed doors during a time where I knew we wouldn’t have other people barging in. I then took my boss’s boss out to lunch to get him away from all the normal interruptions.

You have to figure out what will be appropriate for you and your work environment and the people that are involved but you need to make sure that you can have at least a solid uninterrupted hour otherwise your request may not get the attention that it deserves.

How should you ask?

Let them know up front, “I would love to talk about my compensation, what I am doing right now and how I can add even more value to the company.” Give each person you are asking a copy of your prepped documents with the 1 page summary on the top.

Guide them through those documents while answering questions along the way.

Make sure they understand what you are looking for. Example: I am currently making $72,000 but I want to be making $85,000. You’ve seen what I have already done and what you get when you invest in me, what do we need to do to get me there?

Ok! So What if They Say “NO” or Worse: Make Excuses

If you get to this point this is when you genuinely express that you want to have them as a partner to get there. Then you ask “what do I need to get there and who else needs to be involved in making that decision?”

It’s possible that your boss may not have the authority to get you a raise. (hopefully you already know this up front if you have done your homework correctly as discussed earlier in the post) it’s also possible that your boss may be hesitant to want to rock the boat or may not believe that it’s possible to get a raise. That’s where you need to try and get from them both the information about who they believe makes those decisions and get their permission (and hopefully support) to go and have a discussion with those people. Sometimes you may need to repeat this process a couple times until you get to the right person or set of people.

Remember, there is always somebody who has the authority to make or influence these decisions in your organization. If you get to road blocks, always ask the questions, “what will it take to get me there?” or “what do I need to do to get me there” or “who needs to be involved to make that decision?”

Most people will never ask these types of questions and out of the ones that do, many of them will stop at the first roadblock or never take the time to consider prepping in the way discussed above, so if you do these simple things and are willing to have a few conversations that most people perceive as really uncomfortable, your chances to increase your income go up dramatically!

If you want more information, Resources and detail around how to negotiate a raise at your present job (or even a new job) then visit getaraiseguide.com and check out the resources and products that can offer step by step support there. http://getaraiseguide.com/ask-for-a-raise

Also please share your stories, challenges, and successes in getting a raise with me at scott@happentoyourcareer.com, I would love to hear about them or offer some help along the way!

Scott Anthony Barlow is the founder of Happen to Your Career LLC Scott is the host of the HTYC podcast which helps provide inspiration, tools and roadmaps to move you from where you are to work that you love. Scott lives in Washington State (but not Seattle) with his wife Alyssa and 3 kids, he has spent over 10 years in HR, owned a couple successful business and oddly enough participated in over 2000 job interviews (whew! that’s a lot)