You work hard every day, meet your deadlines, and you have a solid reputation as a go-getter at your company. So when it comes time to ask for a slightly larger piece of the salary pie, your work should speak for itself, right? Shouldn’t asking be as easy as, well, asking?

Unfortunately, that’s not how things tend to work in the cubicles of Canada. Whether you’re a job seeker aiming for a higher starting salary, or a long-term employee wanting a raise at your mid-year review, negotiating for higher pay is no easy feat.

In other words, ‘winging-it’ definitely isn’t an option.

And while you may already be daydreaming about how you’re going to live it up with a little extra moola, managers likely won’t be convinced by a request to help fund your next PS4 purchase.

So outside of promising to let them in on some game-time, what will convince them? You’ll find that the most successful negotiators are the best prepared. Here are some tips to help you master the art of the deal.

The best negotiators build a business case

No matter how good your relationship is with your manager, salary negotiation isn’t like asking a friend for some cash. You need to build a case that demonstrates what you offer the company and how your work speaks to the bottom line. Focus on the return on investment you provide day-to-day, and highlight relevant achievements, quantifying them as much as possible. Show your manager that offering you a raise is also good for business.

The best negotiators know what they’re worth going in

Do some serious research beforehand to determine your market value. Going in with an arbitrary number won’t do anything to help your case, and may actually work against you if you can’t back up why you chose a particular price. Review hiring resources such as industry reports and the annual Salary Guide from Robert Half to get a better sense of what a realistic salary request might be. Also ask colleagues and recruiters in your field for their insights on current trends. Know what puts your skills or qualifications in demand, what your industry is paying for those abilities, and show the company why what you can do should matter to them.

The best negotiators know timing is everything

Timing counts. For the same reason you don’t hold a picnic in the middle of the winter, wait until the career skies clear (i.e., you and/or the business just had a major success), before approaching your supervisor. Maybe you’ve just finished a big initiative for the company, or spearheaded an event that attracted new business. Whatever the case may be, make sure your success is still fresh in your managers’ minds.

Don’t catch them by surprise. Schedule your meeting ahead of time and make it clear you’d like to discuss compensation. That way they’ll have a chance to reflect on your recent achievements and gather their own salary research if need be.

The best negotiators consider more than money

Sometimes a company simply isn’t in the position to bump your pay, and in these cases it’s important to consider that getting more doesn’t have to be about making more. You may find that asking for non-monetary perks or extended benefits packages ultimately end up being more valuable to you and your lifestyle in the long run. Look beyond the paycheque and ask yourself whether things like professional development opportunities, a flexible work environment, free fitness memberships, or a monthly phone allowance outweigh straight dollars. Get creative with what compensation means to you.

Successful salary negotiation comes down to a solid strategy, great preparation, and even better follow-through. Remember, no one is going to call suddenly and give you exactly what you want. You have to be willing to ask for it — and articulate enough to demonstrate why you deserve it. Know your worth, recognize when (and when not) to ask, and be open to perks that may end up being more valuable to you than a fatter paycheque.

About Ashleigh Brown

Ashleigh Brown is the Regional Vice President with Robert Half in British Columbia.