The number one mistake women make when asking for a pay raise is focusing on themselves instead of on the value they bring to their organizations. So take note: Do not make your pay raise request all about you, especially to your employer! Remember that in these tough economic times, there are many women (and men for that matter) who would just love to have your position—and at your current pay. So what can you do to negotiate that raise you know you deserve? You give them a reason to pay you more by showing them in detail how you plan to solve their organizational problems.

Before you walk into your boss’s office to negotiate that raise, you must take the most important step of a negotiation: Prepare! Prepare! Prepare! The majority, 85% to be precise, of whether you succeed or fail will be determined by how prepared you are to negotiate. Here are three simple steps you can take to ready yourself for your negotiation:

1. Create a plan that lifts your value and best attributes.
You do this by identifying and presenting to your boss a current organizational problem and the steps you will take to solve that problem (of course, pick a problem that will show off your strengths when you implement the solution). For example, let’s say that the company you work for needs to expand its facilities to satisfy product demand. The expansion requires community support before the project can move forward. Your company has struggled with developing community relationships over the years due to a 10-year-old lawsuit that accused the organization of employee exploitation. You happen to have strong relationships with community organizational leaders and propose a step-by-step plan as to how your company can work with these leaders to gain community trust, resulting in the necessary community support to get the expansion approved. Given that the expansion will satisfy product demand, your solution has just added to the bottom line—and more than paid for your raise.

2. Always ask for more.
When you ask for a raise, make sure you ask for more than that for which you are willing to settle. Studies show that when negotiating raises, employers will give you some of what you ask for, but most likely will not give you all of what you request. So, if 15% is what you’re really after, start with at least 25%. Aim higher and, who knows, you just might get more than you expected.

3. Have an alternate plan in your back pocket.
Before you walk into your negotiation, practice being your own devil’s advocate. Think about all the possible reasons your boss would not want to give you a raise and be ready with a list of other concessions for which you could ask. For example, if he says: I’m sorry but right now times are tough and we can’t afford to give you that raise. You respond with: I understand. How about we try to find other ways to work this out? An option may be to reduce my work days from 5 to 4 or allow me to work from home two days a week. In order to negotiate from a position of strength, you must ask yourself and be able to answer the following: If I am asking for more money, what am I providing to justify getting more? How am I adding value to the bottom line?

In answering these questions, you must be brutally honest with yourself. And when walking into that office, you most be fully confident in yourself. Only then will you be able to negotiate from a powerful posture.

Now get to planning and go get that raise!