MBS Professor Mark Shapiro Shares Strategies for Negotiating Salary

March 04, 2019

By Richard Westlund

In real estate, taking a hard-nosed approach to negotiating a deal can result in a successful financial outcome. But that aggressive style could backfire when seeking a salary increase, according to Mark S. Shapiro, associate professor of professional practice, business law, and academic director, Undergraduate Career Resources, Miami Business School.

“The dynamics of a salary negotiation are very different from an arms-length real estate transaction,” said Shapiro at a February 28 lunch and learn session organized by the Urban Land Institute Southeast Florida/Caribbean chapter and hosted by Akerman LLP. “Because you will have an ongoing relationship with your boss, a take-no-prisoners strategy cam backfire. You might get the raise, but your boss may say, ‘I never want to see you again.’”

Cristina Gonzalez (UM BS ’80) co-chair of the ULI chapter, and senior principal and senior vice president, Langan Engineering, welcomed 30-plus attendees to the Women’s Leadership Initiative professional development session Strategies for Career Success: Salary Negotiation and Leveraging Your Hiring Potential. She said, “Our goal is to promote the advancement of women leaders in real estate and development worldwide. We want women to gain a sense of confidence as they build their career skills."

Cristina Gonzalez
Cristina Gonzalez, co-chair of the Urban Land Institute Southeast Florida/Caribbean chapter

Tips for getting a raise
In his talk, Shapiro offered a series of tips for successfully getting a raise or negotiating compensation with a new employer. “You need to plan your strategy in advance,” he said. “However, an approach that will work in one company might not in another.” Here are his suggestions.

  • Do your homework. Seek out information on salaries, think about how well your employer is doing and whether or not it’s a hot market for talent. “Real estate is cyclical, and your leverage may change depending on the state of the market,” he said. “You should also look at comparable salaries in your area, since they may be very different in other parts of the country.”
  • Determine your personal bargaining power. “If you generate revenue, you will usually have more leverage than if you are on the cost side,” he said. “You should also identify what makes you special, such as your book of business or your training or skills. Try to convince the boss that you’re indispensible.”
  • Plan the timing.  If your boss is busy closing a deal, now is not the time to ask for a raise. But don’t sit around waiting wait for your annual review, Shapiro added. “You want to pick a good time to start the salary conversation and make sure the decision makers know your worth.”
  • Consider the culture. Shapiro noted that every real estate organization has its own culture. For instance, a small entrepreneurial firm may handle salary negotiations very differently than a large corporation.
  • Know the decision maker. Consider your boss’ personality before making your request, and try to have your conversation in a casual setting, such as a coffee shop or over lunch
  • Talk about salary face to face. Don’t ask for a raise on the phone or through email or text. “It’s much harder to say no to an email than to a person in front of you,” Shapiro said.
  • Keep the conversation surgical but pleasant. Don’t be negative or overly emotional. “Crying doesn’t work,” Shapiro said. “This talk should be all about your role in the organization and the value you have added since your last raise.”
  • Think about alternative perks. If conditions aren’t right for a big raise, you might be able to negotiate for a higher title, a corner office or more vacation time.
  • Remember the laws of physics. “Every action has an equal and opposite reaction,” Shapiro said. “If you get a big raise, your boss will expect a much higher performance in the coming year.”

Seeking a new position
Many of these negotiating strategies also apply when seeking a new position with a higher salary, according to Shapiro. “Be realistic, but don’t sell yourself short,” he said. “You might suggest a salary 10 to 15 percent higher than your desired level and wait and see how the interviewer responds."

If you do get an offer with a higher salary, you could ask your current employer to match that amount. “But be prepared to walk across the street if your company says no,” Shapiro said.

Asked about finding a new position in real estate, Shapiro said networking is the key. “Use your LinkedIn and alumni connections to build your professional network,” he said. “Look for a personal introduction to a potential employer, so you don’t have to reach out to a stranger.”

When applying for a new job, be sure your application is accurate, and triple check for any typos or grammatical errors.  You should also be well prepared to answer an interviewer’s typical questions, such as “Why do you want to work here?” or “Why should we hire you?”

Finally, Shapiro suggested that job applicants practice their verbal skills, including making small talk with the interviewer before getting down to business.  “You want to generate enthusiasm and excitement,” he said. “Ideally, the interviewer will feel like you are the right choice for the position.”

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