The prospect of asking the boss for a raise strikes fear in the hearts of even the most deserving employees. As a result, many of them never ask.

Instead, they work hard, demonstrate their loyalty, behave professionally and perform at their peak. They expect the boss to notice that and reward them with raises, promotions or plum assignments.

They’re sorely disappointed when that doesn’t happen.

The fact is, employees who don’t ask for raises—or promotions or the primo projects—are less likely to get them than those who do. If you don’t ask, you won’t get.

Asking can be hard. What if the answer is “no?”

So many employees forgo the money and recognition they deserve because they are afraid of the “no.” It makes them afraid to even ask.

The only way to get to the “yes” is to ask for one. Here’s how to go about popping the question:

First: Before you ask for anything, make a plan. If you want a raise, for example, decide how much money you want and how much you’ll settle for. Make a list of the reasons why you deserve what you’re asking for and what you have done to earn it. Figure out who can approve a raise; asking the wrong person won’t get you anywhere. Jot down the points you want to make during the conversation with your boss. Look in the mirror and practice what you will say.

Walk into the boss’s office prepared. That way, you won’t stumble over your words, forget what you wanted to say or give into your fear. Prepare for how you will react when the boss says “yes.” And prepare a follow-up request in case the answer is “no.” Think of all the reasons your manager might give you for denying your request, and how you will respond to each one calmly and logically. Come up with an alternative proposal—involving bonuses or staggered increases, for example—as a fall back.

Second: Choose just the right moment to ask. Look for your opportunity. If the company is laying people off and cutting budgets, that might not be the best time. If the staff has just celebrated a record quarter, seize the day. If you want a promotion into a job that has just become available, don’t delay. Opportunities come and go. Don’t miss yours.

Third: Figure out how your boss or your company could benefit by giving you what you ask for. Listen when your manager talks about a problem and offer to solve it. Amid a rash of resignations, agree to stick around in exchange for more money or the private office you’ve had your eye on.

If giving you what you want results in the boss’s getting something valuable in return, you’ve set up a win for both of you.

Fourth: Come right out and ask. Don’t wait for the boss to figure out what you want; speak up. Be polite. Make a request, not a demand. Stay calm. Follow your plan.

What to avoid:

  • Ultimatums; don’t threaten to quit if you don’t get what you want.
  • Comparisons; focus on your own qualities and leave your co-workers out of it. If you know someone else makes more money than you do, keep that to yourself.
  • Wrong reasons; you don’t deserve a raise because you’ve worked at your company for 10 years. You deserve if because of the stellar work you’ve done during that time.
  • Whining; avoid saying things like, “It’s not fair.” You’re asking for a merit raise, not a pity party.

Fifth: Keep your promises. If you got the raise or promotion or extra week off because you agreed to work harder, meet all deadlines and enroll in a management class, do it. The best way to show gratitude to the person who said “yes” is to do what you said you would do.

Even if the answer was “no,” show your gratitude. Follow up with the boss often to show off your hard work. Don’t show any hard feelings; remain professional. This will make it easier to ask again later. A “no” right now, after all, doesn’t mean “no” forever.

 If you have good, ongoing relationships with the decision-makers at your company, they will treat you more favorably when you ask them for what you deserve.

In short, treat your request for a raise or for anything else the same way you would if you were making a sale. When you ask for a raise you need to sell your boss on giving it to you. You need to sell your worth by reminding the decision-maker of your value. And you need to sell yourself on believing that you deserve what you’re asking for.

Give yourself permission to ask for what you want. Give yourself permission to go out and get what you deserve!