Entering into a salary negotiation with an employer can be an awkward and anxiety-inducing experience. But by taking the time to properly prepare, you’ll not only put yourself in a position to get the best deal possible, you’ll help calm jittery nerves.

Following are two examples of how a salary negotiation can go awry – and one that went well. All three anecdotes provide valuable lessons on how to conduct yourself during a salary negotiation so you achieve the best result.

Going in unprepared

Samantha landed a job interview for a copywriter position. In the middle of the job interview, the hiring manager surprised her by asking about her salary expectations. Having not given it sufficient thought prior to the interview, Samantha was quick to say $45,000 (a couple thousand more than she currently earns). She thought nothing of it until she was formally offered the role after a follow-up interview. Sally then did some research and realized that with her two years of experience she could be earning between $46,750 and $70,000. Unfortunately, she felt she had already boxed herself in.

Lesson: Do your research prior to even a first interview. While it’s generally best to let the employer broach the subject of salary, it’s smart to enter the meeting with a range in mind in case the discussion turns to compensation. You can find out what your skills and experience are worth by reviewing industry resources such as the Robert Half Salary Guide.

Getting personal

Dave was offered a new position as a marketing manager with his current employer. Dave has been with the company since he graduated college four years ago. He was keen to make a bigger dent in his student loans. During the salary negotiation discussion, Dave mentioned the loans and asked for more money.

Lesson: Keep it professional. Employers are not interested in your personal finances. When asking for a higher salary, Dave should have focused on highlighting concrete examples of the value he’s added to the organization.

Considering the big picture

Sean is a skilled art director with more than five years of experience. He recently received two job offers for about the same starting pay. One offer came from a small firm where he could see himself grow and prosper; the other opportunity came with a higher starting salary at a more established firm. Sean knew that the smaller agency wouldn’t be able to beat the higher salary, but he carefully considered the entire compensation package and successfully negotiated additional vacation days and a flexible work arrangement, which closed the gap between the two offers.

Lesson: Consider the full picture. Sean didn’t base his decision on salary alone. He took the time to evaluate the entire package, and then negotiated wisely in regard to additional perks and benefits.

Read our post on six key questions to consider when negotiating salary.