You might have heard that it's best to let the other side make the first offer when negotiating. However, if you only find out what they want at the table, you may be at a disadvantage. Instead, research first.
Photo by U.S. Department of Agriculture.
As business blog Inc. points out, you can often get an idea of what it is the other party wants in most business deals before you even get to the table. For example, it's not hard to figure out that your employer doesn't want to pay you too much money. You can find out from coworkers or even the internet what your company is comfortable paying someone in your position. If you can have this information before you even reach the negotiating table, you don't need to wait for the first offer, since you already know what they want:
While I would agree that is preferable on many occasions, you will not always have the liberty to force the other side to make the first proposal. The leverage of the parties will commonly count heavily toward who presents the first offer or demand. Do not fight this too hard for fear that it may kill a potential deal altogether. Research the other side thoroughly to get a better understanding of the leverage of the parties going into any discussions.
Through research, you may also find information about the other side's negotiation style, tactics and proclivity for getting a deal done. That could even lead you to want to provide the first proposal.
Of course, this may require a bit of cunning. Asking coworkers how much they make can be a touchy subject (though it shouldn't be), but if you know someone that's successfully negotiated a raise, you can ask them what techniques they used.