By Johanne Bouchard EBS Business Columnist

For many people, asking for a pay raise isn’t easy. I’ve coached many clients in negotiation, encouraging them to do their homework, rehearse with me, and develop the trust in their skills to go for it. People who don’t negotiate are usually inhibited by fear or a lack of negotiating skills. Here are some basics you can apply to salary discussions:

Know what you’re worth. Learn the current pay rate for your role in the industry and in your location. Speak to recruiters who know what people with your skillset should be paid, talk to vendors and companies who recruit people in your capacity, and do online research. Be aware of how you compare to others. Be clear about the value and contribution you bring to your employer.

Put it in writing. Knowledge is one thing but documentation is another. Make a list of your accomplishments: quotas met and exceeded; testimonials and awards you’ve received; as well as endorsements from colleagues, customers and management. If someone compliments you verbally, kindly ask him or her to put it in writing and email it to you.

Timing is everything. Before entering a negotiation, organize your thoughts and have your facts ready. Don’t plan to talk money when you aren’t composed and prepared, or if the other party is in a hurry.

Face-to-face is best. In-person negotiations are ideal. If that’s not an option, video-conferencing is the next best option, then phone, and lastly email.

Have a firm number in mind. The first number you mention is the most important in the negotiation. Know what the compensation ranges are for your position, and ask for the top pay to end up with a salary that is satisfactory to you. Ask for more than you want to get and have a bottom line number you’re willing to accept.

Listen. Although you should be clear and firm, you should also enter negotiations with an open mind and a desire to understand the priorities of your counterpart. Be aware of the economic climate and be reasonable about what you’re asking. This approach shouldn’t deter you from asking for what you’re worth, but it should influence how you ask.

Prioritize your requests. Come to the table with your priorities in order, including salary, healthcare benefits, vacation time, performance, and signing bonuses. This will set the stage for creating mutually beneficial trade-offs. Be prepared to counter, and don’t fear the word “no” – it’s part of the process.

Assess your value regularly. Scrutinizing your worth to the company often means you’re prepared to negotiate if you get a job offer, and you’re prepared to ask for a raise any time. Don’t wait until your performance review to ask for a salary increase, because it’s likely been decided before then. Set your employer’s expectations early so you’re included in the budget decisions.

Keep it professional. Stay away from mentioning personal needs, such as rent or childcare. You’re worth more when you focus on your performance.

Be willing to walk away. If you’re as good as you claim to be – and your requests are appropriate and presented reasonably – it’s OK to walk away from an unsatisfactory offer. This, of course, is easiest to do when you come to the negotiation with viable alternatives lined up.

Don’t let inhibitions deter you from mastering the art of negotiation. Knowing your worth and asking to see it reflected in your wages is not greedy, it’s a sign of self-respect. Prepare, rehearse and be courageous. Then ask!

Johanne Bouchard, a former high-tech marketing executive, is a leadership advisor to CEOs, executives and entrepreneurs, as well as an expert in corporate board composition and dynamics. Visit to learn more or download her recently published eBooks “Board Composition” and “Board Basics.”