Are you getting paid what you deserve?
Negotiating your salary is the easiest way for you to make more money. It is as simple as that. It is the most effective way for you to afford the vacation you’ve wanted to take or the new car that you desperately need.
And although that seems like common sense, there are still many employees who do not negotiate their salaries. Asking your boss for more money is probably up there with doing your taxes and cleaning the gutters on your list of favorite things to do.
This is why I’ve put together this guide. There are a lot of resources out there, which means there is a lot of BS to sift through to get to the good stuff. This guide is your one-stop shop for negotiating your salary.
The strategies in this guide have been proven to work over and over by people that have been in your exact position.
In this guide, you will learn how to shift your mindset and become a confident negotiator by preparing each and every part of your negotiation. I’ve included some of my top articles and the exact scripts you can use in your negotiation.
I do have one WARNING: This is the most comprehensive guide to salary negotiation you will find anywhere. That means it is beefy! To help you, I’ve included the table of contents below and the ability to download a PDF version of this guide, so you can consume it however and whenever you want.
Alright, let’s get started on getting you paid!
Table of Contents
- Getting into the Salary Negotiation Mindset
- What Should You be Getting Paid? (hint: it’s much more than you think)
- Develop you Value Project
- The Conversation Roadmap
- Final Thoughts: How to make your negotiation stress-free
- Ultimate Guide: How To Get a Raise You Deserve
Getting into the Salary Negotiation Mindset
For most of my life, I SUCKED at negotiating.
I was too scared to even try and I had every excuse in the book, especially for negotiating my salary:
“I’m afraid they’ll say no.”
“They will give me a raise if I work hard.”
“I can’t negotiate.”
Negotiating even a $5,000 salary bump would have been life-changing for me. I was really struggling to pay the bills and I was helping put my brother through college. An extra $400 a month would have made a huge difference!
Not only that, I also knew that a person in my position could make up to $10,000 more than I was making at the time. Even then, I wasn’t negotiating my salary. I was leaving thousands of dollars on the table.
I started wondering how many times I left money on the table by letting fear stop me from negotiating. Times like buying my first house, buying my first car, and raises for 3 promotions.
And, there are countless more situations in which a negotiation would have gotten me a better deal.
That’s when I finally realized that to live the life I want to live, free of worry about money, I had to become a better negotiator.
Since that time, I’ve devoted countless hours to becoming a great negotiator. And guess what? I LOVE negotiations now. It is weird to hear myself say that, but I do. I love that by taking a tiny risk, there can be such a HUGE reward.
Even though negotiating your salary is the easiest way to make more money, there are still countless folks that talk themselves out of negotiating their salary every day.
According to research from the recruiting software company Jobvite, “only 29% of job seekers negotiated their salary at their current or most recent job, and 48% still don’t feel comfortable doing it at all”.
This means that 71% of employees aren’t negotiating, even though, “84% of job seekers negotiated salaries for higher pay”, which was the result of the same study.
I am going to show you exactly how to shift your mindset and battle the biggest mental roadblocks in negotiation in order to make it a stress-free endeavor. By shifting your mindset and preparing the right way, you will gain the confidence to negotiate your salary and get paid what you’re with.
How do I know it works? Because after years and years of convincing myself otherwise, this is exactly what I did to get over $50k in raises over a period of 4 years.
Excuse #1: “I’m afraid they’ll say no.”
It is so easy to fall into this trap. Why are we so afraid of someone saying no? If I told you to call your credit card company right now and negotiate your annual fee, I’m sure it would make you uncomfortable to do so. But if you really look at it, what is the worst thing that can happen? They say no. That’s it! And you’re not even face to face with the person.
This fear is not only a hindrance to your negotiation skills but everything we do in life. Starting a business, applying for a new job, and countless other potential improvements to our lives that we don’t try just because we’re afraid it won’t work out.
The best thing is to start with small situations that make you a little uncomfortable but get you some small wins. Start by buying a couple of things on craigslist and force yourself to negotiate the price. Do you really care if you get that used coffee table for five dollars less? Probably not, but it’s the first step towards building your confidence, and then you can move on to bigger things.
Excuse #2: “I’m just grateful I have a job.”
I knew so many people that were looking for jobs, either because they were unhappy with their current one, or they were unemployed. Meanwhile, I felt like I was sitting pretty with a job I actually enjoyed. I felt grateful just to have a job.
At the time, during the 2008 recession, there were constant reminders that we all should just feel lucky to have a job.
The truth is, I agree that you should feel fortunate to have a job you enjoy… but, it is important to understand that the company is also lucky to have you. You do great work, and that work should be appreciated and fairly compensated for.
Excuse #3: “They will give me a raise if I work hard.”
If you just work hard, they’ll pay you what you deserve, right?
When I was promoted to a management position, I realized just how wrong this mindset was. Your manager has a million things going on, and giving you a raise is not near the top of that list, unless you make it so.
It is up to you to show your value and make sure you’re paid for the massive value you bring to the company. If you keep waiting for the raise you deserve to just fall in your lap, I guarantee it won’t happen.
When was the last time you got a significant raise without asking? I thought so.
Excuse #4: “I can’t negotiate.”
I’ve never negotiated before. My boss wouldn’t go for it. Sure, I’ve heard of others negotiating but their boss appreciates them… they had a few more years of experience… my industry is different…
And while you’re stuck thinking about all these excuses, others are negotiating and getting paid what they deserve.
The truth is, you CAN negotiate, and this guide will get you there.
Excuse #5: “We didn’t hit our goals as a company, so it wasn’t the best year. I shouldn’t bring it up.”
There will always be something going on in the economy or the finances within the company. The company may not have hit their financial goals… the economy may be in a recession… those are all things that you can’t control.
What you can control is your value and how much that is worth. During any type of downturn, the most important thing for a company is to keep the best of the best. That is where you come in. In order to keep you, they have to pay you fairly.
Everything is Negotiable
The belief that you need to truly understand is that everything is negotiable.
Now, you may be thinking ‘that’s not always true,’ and you might be right, to an extent. The important part is that for any situation, you need to learn how to ask ‘what can I negotiate?’
Once you start thinking about it that way, it will open up a world of possibilities.
Leasing a new apartment? You can negotiate monthly rent or amenities.
Getting a new credit card? You can negotiate the fees associated with it.
Getting car insurance? You can negotiate the rate.
Once you really imprint this into your mind, you will start to see everyday situations in a whole new light.
Noah Kagan, the founder of 2 multi-million dollar businesses, came up with a great exercise that you can apply to this first rule. Next time you’re paying for your daily cup of coffee, ask for a discount. Does that scare you? Good. But you can do it. And you’ll survive.
This isn’t designed to help you save money on coffee, it is actually the opposite. This challenge is all about failure; it is designed to put yourself in an uncomfortable situation and learn more about yourself and the fears you have about rejection. Try it out, many people have even gotten the discount!
What Should You be Getting Paid? (hint: it’s much more than you think)
Step 1: Find the Range
The first step in figuring out what your salary should be is to understand what the market rate is. The way this is presented online is by salary ranges since there is a wide array of skills, experience, and responsibilities from person to person.
After combing through countless websites and salary calculators, these are the top three that you should use for this initial research into what your salary should be.
PRO TIP: As you start looking at the different sources of salary figures, make sure that you are checking the job descriptions instead of just the job title. The description should give you a good idea of whether the range you are looking at represents what you do. If it doesn’t, you can look at related job titles that may have a better representation of what you do. This is much more important than getting the job title exactly correct.
Glassdoor takes in salary and management reports from the users themselves. Glassdoor is especially useful when there is a good amount of data entered, making any one inaccurate entry less impactful.
It is especially helpful by offering you the National Average as well as the average in your city, which gives you insight into how your city fares in this industry. For example, for a Mechanical Engineer in Atlanta, GA, this was the result in seconds:
As you can see in the last paragraph, there have been 336 salaries submitted anonymously, so the data set is large enough for me to feel very comfortable with this range.
Payscale takes a much more in-depth approach to your salary information. This is important because it will calculate your salary range based on your specific factors.
The salary survey will begin by asking what your current situation is:
Then you will continue to input the important career details that the calculator needs to give you your salary report:
At the end, it will ask if you want to save your information, but you don’t need to!
Click on the link below the sign-up form that says “just show my salary report”:
Then, you get your salary report instantly. It takes a little more time to fill out the information, but the report is worth it to start seeing how your individual factors start to influence the salary range for your specific situation.
You will also notice that you put in your current salary if you are looking at your current position, so you’re able to quickly see how you compare to others in your profession:
Salary.com is another great resource. This site is especially useful to compare 3 different job titles – this is really nice when you are wearing multiple hats and have responsibilities that surpass just one job title:
Once you compare a few positions, it is simple to find the position that mostly fits your career track and find the salary report:
At this point, you should have at least 1-3 different sources for what your range should be.
Looking at the three results for a Mechanical Engineer, the following were the ranges that were found:
- Glassdoor.com: 58k – 98k
- Payscale.com: 57k – 88k
- Salary.com: 71k – 86k
As you can see, they fall within a similar range. I like to pick the range that fits my profile the best, and in this case, we will go with Salary.com, which is in between the two others.
PRO TIP: This is where you can use your own knowledge of your career to choose the highest range you can. As a top performer, and if you’re able to justify your value as we will discuss in the next step, don’t be afraid to choose the highest range that still fits your situation.
Step 2: Understand Your Value
Now that you’ve figured out your range, it is time to understand your value.
Your value is the single most important part of your salary negotiation and how you will justify the salary number that you want.
As mentioned above, the range that you found is based on many factors, including location, experience, responsibilities, and type of company. For example, a Mechanical Engineer working for a company of 50 employees in rural America will typically make less than an Engineer working for a huge global company in New York City. There is also a big difference between an Engineer that has 10 years of experience versus 2 years.
Whether you’re figuring out what you should be making in your current role or for a role that you’re interviewing for, there are the main factors to consider: experience, cost of living, skills/training, and your overall value. Your overall value can be defined in a few different ways.
For example, if you are looking at the salary in your current role, you can use how you’ve kicked ass in your current job to show your value. If you’re going to interview for a new job, you can show your value with a pre-interview project that shows your potential employer that you are a top performer that they can’t pass up on.
You can start to see how the factors affect you range visually by using a simple diagram as shown in the example below:
As you can see, for the first three categories, the Mechanical Engineer is hovering around the midway point, and their value is at the high end of the range.
The value that you bring to the table is unique and overshadows all other factors because that is the one that no one else can replicate and an employer can’t get with someone else. Knowing that you are doing an exceptional job at your current job, or showing your awesome problem-solving skills during the interview is what wins you the job and the salary that you want.
Step 3: Decide on the Salary You Deserve
Now that you’ve thought about the different factors and how you compare, it is time to choose the salary that you want.
A very simple way to do this is to essentially average the 4 categories. You have a lot of leeway here. Remember, your value is what will show through your negotiation, so let that factor weigh heavier than the others.
For the Mechanical Engineer, in this case, a good salary number to choose would be in between $82,000 – $84,000.
I recommend choosing a number that is not the exact number at the top end of the range, but rather, in the upper third of the range. That way you are opening up possibilities when you get into your negotiation and how you justify the salary, which will show that you are not being “greedy”, but you are also making sure you tell them that you should be paid as an above average performer.
Everyone’s situation is unique, so the most important thing to remember is that you will be selling your value, so as you think about that, pick a number that you feel comfortable picking due to the value that you bring, as well as the effect that the other factors have.
PRO TIP: I recommend that you choose one number, not a range. A range is an invitation for the employer to choose your lowest number. Have one number in mind and due to your research, you should feel confident that it is the salary you deserve.
Develop you Value Project
Have you ever run a marathon without training and running for months?
Have you ever done a presentation without ever looking at the Powerpoint?
No. No. No. What do you think would happen if you did?
There is no doubt that most of us would fail, and the same holds true when going into an interview or salary negotiation without preparing to show your value in advance.
And, when people don’t do it, it makes me really upset. Not exactly pissed off, but clenching-my-fist kind of annoyed. It puts me in a “I deserve to get myself some ice cream because I’ve had a stressful day” kind of mood. If that matters to you at all.
*sigh* (don’t rant don’t rant dont rant)
Okay, okay. I’ll cut to the point.
If you just do ONE thing to prepare for your negotiation, THIS is it.
You can get through a negotiation without planning ahead on how they will tell you no, or the rules to follow to be a good negotiator, but this is the one tactic that has resulted in raises for my students in the tens of thousands of dollars.
IT WORKS. There are no secret gimmicks or tricks to help you earn the salary you deserve and anyone that tells you that is full of shit. Your next massive raise isn’t just going to fall in your lap, either. But there is a tactic that makes salary negotiations 10X more successful, and that is building your Value Project.
In this guide, I am going to tell you exactly HOW to do it. There are plenty of examples and exact templates and scripts you will be able to use immediately. This is the only guide you’ll need to create the most mouthwatering, irresistible Value Project that will leave your boss or hiring manager salivating at the thought of giving you more money.
Let’s get to it!
This entire exercise boils down to one goal: you want to show that the value you bring to a company should result in a better salary.
Simple, right? Now the question is, how?
The first step is to define your value. It is really easy to walk into your boss’s office and tell them how great you are and how you can do no wrong. That’s not enough! The most important part is to actually prove it. By defining your value in a way that shows your boss the tangible impact you’re making to the company, you will show them that the raise will be an amazing investment for them – it will be peanuts compared to the value that you provide.
Most people walk into an interview or a salary negotiation and just simply answer any questions and then just ask for a raise… without any real thought or connection to the person they’re talking to.
This is where you will stand out. This is what will win you the job and the raise.
By understanding this, you will be able to pinpoint the traits that they are willing to invest in to make them successful.
This technique works for when you’re asking for a raise at your current job or negotiating a job offer. It simply works.
Understand the Company’s Goals
You may know the company very well if you’ve worked there, or you may be interviewing at a new company; either way, you need to fully understand what the company’s goals are and how to help the company achieve them.
A really good example comes from one of my students. When going through this exercise, she found out that the top goal for the company she was working for at the time was to grow a part of the business by gaining more customers. The biggest obstacle was that the company was a new player in this part of the business, so it made it tough to win over new customers. With this knowledge, she knew that she needed to address this in her value pitch. So, she decided to take it upon herself to design a value proposition that would show new customers what was unique about her company, and then put this new technique into practice. She was able to show that by using this value proposition she was able to double the number of customers she was bringing on.
In this example, you can see that she addressed a company goal and was able to prove that she has helped solve it by providing her own solution. In her raise negotiations, she was able to get a 30% raise!
Here is a list of the things to jot down when you are looking up the company:
- Mission Statement
- Vision Statement
- Company values
- What has made other employees successful at the company?
- Your department’s goals and reason for existing
- Check out the company’s product or service – is there a way to improve the user’s experience? This is a chance to get creative with a solution.
These can all provide valuable insight into how you fit into the grand scheme of the company’s goals and help you carve out an area where you can provide a huge impact toward those goals.
Hopes, Dreams and Fears
Now that you fully understand the company, it is time to focus on the person that will be sitting in front of you during this negotiation.
It all comes down to understanding your boss or interviewer. What are their hopes and dreams? What keeps them up at night? How can you solve their problems?
Your goal is to prove to them that you can solve their problems and make them look good.
I used to manage a facility of about 200 people, and I saw it all when it comes to salary negotiation. From “I need a raise cause I’m buying a house” to “I’m having a second kid – what do you think about giving me a bigger raise this year?” Aside from the comical ways I was asked, there was one employee who really nailed it. This employee knew exactly what my hopes, dreams, and fears were.
At the time, we were going through a rough patch at the facility where we were not hitting our most important efficiency metrics, and I was actively figuring out the best way to get us out of that rut. It was probably very noticeable to my employees that I was pretty concerned about these metrics and wanted to see progress sooner rather than later.
As we were nearing our annual review cycle, this employee approached me and let me know that he wanted to talk about his compensation. As the employee started the negotiation, I noticed immediately that he came prepared. Later in the discussion, he pulled out a packet and showed me the roadmap to getting at least one metric back on track within 30 days. He wasn’t even the manager in charge of improving that metric! I felt like a kid on Christmas morning. This is the kind of stuff I wanted to see from my employees.
This guy gets it. He understood exactly what was keeping me up at night and how to solve it, and I couldn’t wait to give him the raise I knew an employee like him deserves. On top of that, he also accomplished the goal he had set in his roadmap. Win-win!
This is one thing that a lot of folks don’t really get yet – a negotiation can really be a win-win. When you can really connect with your boss or the interviewer, and deliver your value, the employer will be HAPPY to give you that raise. It makes it an easy decision.
Here is a list of things that you can look into as you figure out the hopes, dreams, and fears of the person sitting in front of you (whether they are your current boss or someone you don’t know that is interviewing you)
- What are his/her goals? Are they meeting those goals? How can you help them achieve those goals?
- What are their biggest struggles right now? Does a certain department need help? How can you help them?
- Check out LinkedIn or online profile: what are they interested in? Where are they from? Getting a few details like this can help you connect with them in certain ways, like being from the same state or liking the same NFL team.
- What is one way you can improve their everyday life? If you see them struggle with the same report every morning, what is one way you can improve that?
Understand the Position
The last piece of background knowledge to gather is the position details. This is more geared for a new job negotiation but also works in your current role.
What will you be doing in the new role? Do you have a job description or job posting? Just using these documents can be a big help. Also, understand why they are hiring for this role? Why now, and not a year from now? Is it a new position? These questions bring more clarity to what the real issues are that they want to be solved by hiring for this position.
Another great way to gain insight into a new position is to talk to other employees in this company (by connecting on LinkedIn). By asking great questions, you are not only gathering great information into the position and company, you are also gaining a cheerleader inside the company. You can also reach out to people that are doing this position for other companies. This is a great way to see some differences in the way other companies approach this position and could give you another creative solution to an issue the company is trying to solve.
As you start to gather this information, make notes on the requirements and tasks that you know you can impact from day 1.
What are some things you may be able to prove to them you can do extremely well? Showing this before they even hire you is a game changer.
Putting It Together
At this point, you’ve done your background research. You understand the overarching company goals, as well as understanding the person that is in charge of talking to you about your raise. In addition, you know what you would be doing in the new position.
You should have a pretty good feeling about how you can add massive value to the company and to your boss.
Now it is time to start putting together the Value that you bring to the table. It is critical that you keep the background knowledge you’ve gathered already at the front of your mind for this next step.
Now we get to the fun part. You’ve done your research and now it is time to create your value.
This is where you will put together the presentation that will have your employer excited to give you the raise you deserve.
Even from a Harvard Business Review article from 2012, it shows the surge in the number of companies giving projects as part of their interviews. The article explains that companies have been burned too many times by the good ole interview method – ask questions, check references and a possible quiz, and nothing compares to working with a candidate on a project.
The article ends with the question:
“Should your next hire come from a great set of interviews and references? Or from knocking your socks off a project?”
And that is exactly what it boils down to. Put yourself in the hiring manager’s shoes and answer the question above. Now think if the candidate took the initiative to do a project, rather than being assigned? That’s even more powerful because it is unexpected and puts you above anyone else that is applying for the job.
A buddy of mine, Austin Belcak, wrote an awesome article on detailing 10+ real validation projects that worked. In it, there is an awesome example of DKIRK creating a rap video to land a job at Vayner Media. A rap video! Now, we don’t all have the chops to create a rap video, but use your talents to get as creative as possible!
Alright, let’s get to the ‘how’. You’ve done a ton of research and this is where you begin to use it. The research you did will point the way as you try to figure out what project to do.
For example, let’s say you’re a graphic designer. You have an interview set up with a company that wants to re-brand – which is why they are hiring for the position. You go to their website, check out their marketing materials and articles written about the company. Do you think it is more powerful for you to show up to your interview with a portfolio of your past work, or a project in which you show exactly how they can retool and optimize their website, including real user interaction testing (by getting 10 of your friends to do it for you)? There is no question!
In that example, the actual specific need for the position was used to create a project. In the example that I mentioned from Austin, that project was unique and interesting and it was meant to stand out, not necessarily tied to a specific need.
Take a look at the job description or job posting and take a look at the requirements that have a tangible deliverable. If it shows ‘develop a communication plan’, then that is a prime candidate for your special project because now you’re able to show them you can do the job and provide a specific deliverable before even being hired for it.
If you’re going for a Product Manager position, show how you would improve the product you will be managing.
If you are going for a Technical/project manager, show them exactly how you would improve efficiency on a project for them.
As you can see, the most powerful projects are tailored to the position you’re going for and the needs of the company.
If you can’t think of a project, a route you can take is to create a plan for your first 30-60-90 days on the job. How would you solve their problems in those first days on the job? This is still a very powerful way to show your savvy and initiative.
Primarily for when you are asking for a raise or building your case for a promotion, looking back at your accomplishments and past performance is a great way to show your boss the impact you bring to the company. Many managers are way too busy to think about every little thing that you do, and most only remember the last time you messed up. This is where you are able to show ‘proof’ of how valuable you are.
Your accomplishments should be a summary of the positive results your actions have created. This is where you want to show the impact of your work. There is a distinct difference between
I was the team leader for a cost reduction team
I led a cost reduction team to reduce the company’s annual costs by 10%
The first only describes the activity you were involved in. The second adds the result and positive impact that the activity had on the company. This is also the difference between bullet points you see on a great resume compared to an average one.
To make this easier when it comes time for your negotiation, write these accomplishments down in a word document or spreadsheet to keep track of them. It shouldn’t be surprising that you will probably forget accomplishments that occurred over 6 months ago. For me, I forget stuff that I did last week, so I definitely have to write this stuff down.
If you’re trying to remember your last year right now, look through old emails, presentations, documents, or anything else that you may have created for different projects.
Examples of accomplishments are:
- Revenue you earned
- Money you saved
- Customer satisfaction you achieved
- Tight deadlines you met/beat
- Solutions you implemented
- Money you saved
- Initiative you demonstrated
Have you taken on any new or extra responsibilities?
Take a look at what your job description is. What is the scope of your job title and position? It will be important to define what your standard job responsibilities are in order to show all of the extra responsibilities that you have. Every ‘extra’ responsibility you have is very effective ammo as you build your Value Project because it makes the negotiation strategy a simple equation:
Current job responsibility + extra responsibility = extra $$$
The following is a great example from one of my students. It is as simple as it gets, but it is very powerful because it shows exactly what your extra responsibilities are.
Your goal? You want to make it as easy as possible to the boss – don’t make them think. When you’ve put together all of the information they need to make a decision, you’ve taken away the burden for them to have to think about and analyze this decision. Now that you’ve done all the work, all they have to do is say yes.
The work is done! It’s time to take a deep breath and feel good about the tough part being done. You’ve now created something that will add massive value to the company, and now the important piece is how to deliver this value.
If you’ve already secured the interview or are meeting with your current boss in the company, I suggest that you print out the project and have it with you. A very powerful move is being able to present it during the actual meeting. When you present a project like this, the person on the other side of the table will immediately understand that you’ve come prepared and you came to play. They know you’re not just asking them for raise to be able to pay for your new car.
At this point, the tone of the meeting changes as the person realizes and appreciates the extra effort you’ve put in. They are now much more open to the idea of the raise.
So, when do you present it? This will vary depending on where the conversation goes, but as you’re answering questions, usually you can find a way to circle it back to the project in some way. Or, you can just interject and go for it by saying something like “Before I forget, I’d love to show you something I’ve put together – I am really excited about it”. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself, the moment will present itself.
If you are interviewing remotely, a great way to present is to send this project via email a few minutes/hours before your interview. Then, during the interview, you can mention the project, talk about it and let them know it is already in their inbox. It will be music to their ears!
A sample email template for that could be as simple as this:
I am really looking forward to our conversation later today. I couldn’t be more excited about this opportunity and felt it would be helpful to show the value that I could bring to [company]. I’ve put together [describe the project]. I’d love to hear your feedback on our call later.
Thank you for taking the time and talk to you later today,
Another way you can present your value is when you are trying to secure an interview. In this situation, it is critical that you figure out who it should go to. A project like this is going to appeal more to the manager that is hiring, or an executive like the CEO of a company rather than human resources. If you go on linkedIn, there is usually information that will lead you to get the right email address for the person you’d like to send it to.
Here is a sample email that you can use in this situation:
My name is [your name] and I recently heard about your open position for [position]. I am beyond interested in a position like this, and I thought it would be helpful to show you the value that I can bring to [company]. I’ve put together [describe the project – show the impact it would have on the company].
Thank you so much for taking the time to read this – I’d love to hear your feedback and possible next steps.
The Conversation Roadmap
“So I just found out that Johnny in Accounting makes more than me. Can I get a raise?”
“I’ve been here for a few months now, can I get a raise?”
“If I don’t get $1,000 more, I’m not taking the job.”
Alright, we got that out of the way. NEVER say those things. Ever. These are what I call Raise Killers, and they are a surefire way to end the conversation before it even begins.
As you will see throughout the Conversation Roadmap, the overall theme will be focused on YOUR value. No matter where the conversation goes, your goal is to continue to focus on the value that you bring to the table. It is never about Johnny in accounting or your $50,000 truck, it is about making it an easy decision for the company to invest in the value that you bring.
In this section, you will see the exact scripts on getting through the entire negotiation conversation from scheduling the meeting to the follow-up.
Get the Meeting Scheduled
If you are going to negotiate your salary in your current job, the most important thing to do before starting the conversation is to get a meeting scheduled. Do not ask for a raise as you’re passing by in the hallway, or as you make coffee in the morning.
When you are thinking about scheduling the meeting, timing is a factor you should consider, but don’t let it paralyze your progress. There are many articles out there that will tell you the exact time to have it. Do it on a Friday mid-morning… One of the most prolific business leaders Carl Icahn has suggested that you schedule it in the late afternoon and sleep late –then the manager has a lot less willpower toward the end of the day. Don’t let all of this create indecision for you.
You know your boss and you should be able to decide for yourself a time that your boss isn’t dealing with a major catastrophe and has the time to sit down with you and focus on what you’re going to say.
Use your common sense. It is probably not the best idea to discuss a raise if your company is laying off half the workforce. I would wait a bit on that one.
Another very good consideration is whether you regularly have 1-1 meetings with your boss or not. Josh Doody, from Fearless Salary Negotiation, explains it really well, “If you have a regular 1-on-1 with your manager, even as infrequently as once a month, that’s the perfect time to discuss a salary increase.” That is absolutely right, since that is a very nice way to schedule the meeting without any added pressure.
Here are the three simple rules when scheduling the time to discuss a raise:
- Make sure you’re prepared – if you’ve done everything in this guide so far, you are completely ready to schedule the meeting. Don’t put yourself in a bind by scheduling it before you have your ducks in a row.
- Make sure there are no catastrophes going on – Don’t do it after your department just lost its biggest client. Or after a bunch of layoffs. If the boss is completely overwhelmed with a situation, your chances of succeeding will be slim. Your boss may always seem “busy”, so don’t let that deter you either. You just want to make sure there isn’t something really pressing at the time you ask.
- Schedule it around your manager’s schedule – make a sacrifice if you need to but make sure that you give them many options to schedule it when they want.
PRO TIP: One of the most effective times to have this talk is during your annual review. This comes at a time where salary is discussed, so the topic is there for you to take over and negotiate the terms. Don’t let this sway you from scheduling it now if all of the other rules hold, however!
How to Start the Conversation
Alright, now picture yourself in the meeting. You’re either in an interview or a scheduled meeting with your boss, and your hands are sweaty as your heart is pounding. This is the most uncomfortable part of the process and you’re asking yourself, “How do I bring it up??”
First of all, please realize that this is totally normal. The best tip I can give is that there is no doubt you will feel a certain degree of nervousness once you reach this point, so it is important to know that it is coming. Once you admit that fact, you can then prepare how to combat that feeling, and prevent you from not even bringing up the question. I’ve with numerous students who prepared every other part of the negotiation, but once they got to the meeting, they couldn’t bring themselves to actually do it.
The first thing to remember is that you are going to negotiate your salary in a very non-emotional and logical way. There is really no downside to bringing up a salary negotiation in a professional and logical manner. Any employer worth their salt will expect you to negotiate your salary. The second is that you are extremely prepared. There is no better time than now to go for what you deserve.
There are so many ways to bring up the topic during the conversation, depending on what is being discussed and whether it is for a new job or a current position. This where we get into The Pitch.
Crafting the Perfect Pitch
There are three rules that I want you to keep in mind as you craft your perfect pitch.
- Show your excitement/commitment to the opportunity or current job
- Give them the perceived power in the discussion – “would it be ok to discuss…?”
- Show that you’re working together on this
And the most important, stay focused on your value.
Situation: The hiring manager gives you the offer and it is at the low or below the range you have seen for this role.
What you say:
“First of all, I just want to say how excited I am about this opportunity. This is a company I can see at for a very long time. With that being said, taking into account my experience and value that I bring to the table, I’d like to discuss the salary. Would that be ok to discuss right now?
According to my research about this role, I’ve found the salary range for someone with my qualifications to be within $XX to $XX. With the value I’ve shown that I can provide, and based on what I do, I’d like to be at $XX.”
Breaking down the pitch:
As you can see, we’re following our rules. It is good to start with excitement. Show that you are excited and committed to them, which gives them an assurance that this negotiation can be fruitful for them as well.
Then, you give them the power when you ask if it would be ok to discuss. It is a psychological game, and at this point, you want them to have the perceived power in the conversation. And then, as you give them your salary number, your tone needs to continue to show that you’re working together for this.
This is the overall structure of the pith, which you will see is the common thread among any response. Here are a few more situations:
Situation: You have just discussed your annual review and your boss just gave you a low raise, which still has you in the lower half of the range that you have seen for this role.
What you say?
“Do you mind if we talk about my compensation? Look, I love what I do here, and I love being part of this company. This is where I want to be. With that being said, taking into account my experience and value that I bring to the table, I’d like to discuss the salary.
Here is a document that I put together (this would be your Value Project) to show how I’ve gone above and beyond this year. So, I’d like to discuss a salary adjustment based on my increased responsibilities and contributions.
I’ve been looking at salaries for my role, and as you know, the market is pretty high for this position. I’ve found the range to be $XX to $XX, based on my value and what I do, I’d like to be at $XX. For me, I just want to make sure the number makes sense and that we can work together to come to a fair agreement.”
Breaking down the pitch:
The intro is focused on showing your commitment and excitement. Then, if you haven’t presented it yet, you can wow your manager by pulling out your Value Project. This is where the boss now realizes that you mean business; this isn’t just an off-the-cuff conversation.
Also, notice that when you reveal the salary number, you should give a number and not a range. If you give a range, you just invite the employer to make a choice, and they will probably choose the bottom of it. If you give them a specific number, now they know where they need to go exactly.
Then you continue the tone of working together.
Situation: You have asked your boss to meet, and you will be bringing up your compensation.
What you say?
“Thank you for taking the time to meet with me today. The reason I asked for a meeting was that I wanted to talk about my compensation. First of all, I want to say that I love working for you and being part of this company. This is where I want to be. With that being said, taking into account my experience and value that I bring to the table, I’d like to discuss the salary.
Here is a document that I put together (this would be your Value Project) to show my accomplishments from this past year. As you can see from my results, I’ve shown the high value that I bring to the organization.
After doing a bit of research on my role, I’ve found the salary range for someone with my qualifications in this role to be within $XX – $XX. Based on my responsibilities and the value that I bring, I’d like to be at $XX. I’d love to work together to come up with a fair adjustment.”
Breaking down the pitch:
One thing to keep in mind is that as soon as you bring up the fact that you would like to discuss compensation, your manager’s heart rate just shot up and they are thinking “Here we go…” This is totally normal since this conversation is tough one both for the employee and the manager.
The good news is, now you know this and are going to be prepared to put them at ease as soon as you bring it up. This is where you talk about your commitment and excitement to be here. This is a good way to get them at ease again so that you can have a great conversation.
Avoid the Raise Killers
As you can see from the examples, we are still holding to our rule of staying focused on your value. Any time you stray away from this theme, you may be delving into what I call Raise Killers.
These are comments and statements that will severely reduce, if not kill, the chance to succeed in your negotiation.
Here are the top Raise Killers to avoid:
- Never talk about any personal reasons for needing a raise. This is not the reason that is going to win over the conversation. The reason they will invest in you is because of the value that you bring.
- Never give an ultimatum. Ultimatums are aggressive and you must be willing to back it up if the conversation doesn’t go well. This puts the manager on the defensive and it is hard to get the conversation back to “let’s work together”.
- Do not answer the question “what is your current salary?” or “How low are you willing to go?” You probably think I’m kidding on that last one, but it is from a real situation I found on the awesome blog Ask a Manager. Alison Green explains, “Good employers do not pressure people to work for the absolute lowest figure they’d find tolerable. Good employers understand that in order to attract and keep good employees, they need to pay a salary that feels reasonably fair and in line with market rates, and that if they are blatant about their desire to cheap out on salary, they will reap the results of that in low performance and high turnover.” I couldn’t have said it better myself. You can respond to this with the following: “what is important to me right now is that we’re a good fit for each other, I’m sure we’ll be able to come up with a number that makes sense for both us.”
- Don’t let yourself waver on the pitch that you decided on. You’ve done a ton of research at this point and you should feel very confident. Once you get into the interview, it is normal that fear starts to take over and will make you feel like maybe you’re asking for too much. Then your ask turns into something like “maybe there is a way to get a bigger raise this year?” There is no specific number, no focus on your value and it is a very wishy-washy presentation. There is a reason you are crafting your pitch early on, stick to it!
- Do not ask for your raise in an email. As Alison Doyle, the founder of Career Tool Belt, mentions in her article on Do’s and Don’t’s for Asking for a Raise on The Balance, “It’s the best way to show that you’re serious, and will also allow you to gauge your boss’s reaction to your request.” You want to be able to see the reaction and be able understand what your next move will be. You will be completely prepared for this, and your boss won’t, which will give you the upper hand as you’re discussing in the moment.
Don’t Take No for an Answer
There are many ways that the employer can tell you no. On the other hand, there are just as many ways for you to counter that no answer.
Here are the most common ways for an employer to tell you no:
“You have not been here long enough”
“Based on your performance, I don’t think you deserve the raise”
“You are not putting in an extra effort to earn this raise”
“Your pay is comparable to what is out there in the marketplace”/ “You’re already at the top of the pay scale.”
“This is what everyone, including your coworkers, make in this position”
“If we give you a raise, we may have to give other people a raise too”
“You’ve already gotten X raises (or X % raise) recently, so we’re not going to do that this year”
“Corporate doesn’t allow raises bigger than the standard cost of living increase.”
“There’s no room in the budget for this year…”
“There’s a pay structure we need to keep in place so you won’t be making more than your higher-ups.”
“It’s not the time for raises.”
“You’ve reached the top level of salary in this role”
“There is no flexibility with this salary”
“In this economy, the company is not doing as well as we wanted”/ “Sales are down this year”
“Right now is not a good time, maybe next year”
“We are going to be reducing the workforce and are unable to pay anyone raises right now”
“We don’t give raises because of personal situations” (IE, if you asked for raise because you’re having a baby)
“If you can get paid that at another job, go ahead and take it”
As you read through these rebuttals, highlight the ones that make the most sense for your situation. As you read through you will start to see the ones that you feel pertain to you more than others. In addition, add any that you don’t see on the list but see as a potential answer from the employer.
Your Counter Offer Plan
Now that you have your list of ways the employer can tell you no, it is time to develop your counter offer plan.
There is one very important guideline as you go into your counter offer: Any counteroffer statement that you make should only focus on the value that you bring to the table.
If you are getting pushback due to the amount of time you’ve been at the company, or if the one mistake you made this whole year is being put in front of you, then you still have an opportunity to turn the conversation around.
“Although I’ve only been here for about a year, I’d like to focus on the value that I bring (or could bring for a new job) to the organization. Based on what I see as the market value, I feel this is a fair adjustment in my salary”
If you get the other two answers about lack of effort or negative performance review, it may be a time for you to really consider putting in some work to show your boss your value before you continue negotiating. Or, if you really feel that you’ve shown tremendous value already, be ready to show that in your Value Project.
Salary comparisons are a nice, easy way for the boss to deflect and to distract you from the negotiation. Don’t fall for it. Your answer needs to bring the focus back to you and away from the other folks mentioned.
“I certainly understand that, and I get that there is a specific salary for average performers. But for a top performer, and the contribution that I feel that I am making (or will make) to the organization, I feel this is a fair adjustment. My goal is to be exceptional and bring you exceptional results, and I just want to be fairly compensated for that.”
Corporate decisions are also very common when an employer says no. This answer can be very similar to the one for salary comparisons. Bring it back to your value and the difference between you and average performers.
“I certainly understand that the budget is tight and for many average performers, there may be a fixed budget. But for a top performer, and the contribution that I feel that I am making to the organization, I feel this is a fair adjustment. My goal is to be exceptional and bring you exceptional results, and I just want to be fairly compensated for that.”
These types of responses may be tough to beat, due to what a company may be going through. As mentioned before, it is critical that you do not start a negotiation if the company is going through a financial crisis. But, if you feel the situation isn’t that bad, and this is just an excuse for the company, then once again get the focus back to your value.
“I totally get that. At the end of the day, I would look at this as an investment. You can go with someone at $XX that will bring you Y value, or you can go with someone at $XX (the salary that you want) that can bring you twice (or whatever multiple you want to use) the value. As you’ve seen in the value that I’ve shown in the past, the return on this investment is more than guaranteed. Compared to other candidates, I will undoubtedly make up the difference in salary through the impact I’ll bring to the organization.”
For any bad negotiation mistakes (raise killers!), it will be tough to turn the conversation around. This is where you can just eat your words, and try to steer the conversation back to your value.
“You’re absolutely right; I made a mistake bringing up my personal situation. I’d like to start over, and really focus on the value that I bring to the organization…”
After you’ve turned the conversation around to your value, it will be important to see how they respond. I’ve had numerous students that got a great raise even after an initial no answer, by staying strong and bringing the conversation around.
After you’ve stayed true to your initial ask, but you still get a no, it is time to become flexible in what you are asking for.
There are many other factors to consider in a negotiation, and here are the most common:
- Vacation time
- Maternity/Paternity leave
- Flex time (starting the day later and finishing later, for example)
- Signing bonus or bonus plan in general
- Relocation/moving expenses
- Remote work time
- Education stipends
- Stock options
- Earlier salary review
Take a look at the list and figure out what is most important to you, and focus on that. Don’t start naming off 10 different things that you want. Focus on 1-2 that are important to you.
The one that has a high chance of success is the earlier salary review option. This is a great way to kick the can down the road for the manager, and it gives you a chance to show your value once again.
“Thank you very much for taking the time to discuss this with me today. I think it is a fair adjustment today (the adjustment was lower than you wanted), but what do you think about having a review in 6 months to review my contributions and a potential compensation adjustment to get me closer to where I want to be?”
As you go into some of these different factors, negotiate multiple factors at the same time. You don’t want to ask for one thing, and then if they employer says yes, then move on to the next. If you ask for one thing and they meet that demand, the employer will assume you will be ready to accept the offer. If you then go ahead and ask for something else, they will be less likely to be as generous.
Make sure that you are clear about the couple of things that you’d like to negotiate and how important they are to you. If you just list 5 things, without an order of importance, they make come back with answers to demands you may not care much about.
Final Thoughts: How to make your negotiation stress-free
At this point, you’ve got the entire roadmap for how to successfully negotiate your salary without stressing out about it. How do we make it a stress-free process? By remembering the following:
Facts versus emotions
It becomes much easier to go into your entire negotiation when you have a good data set for your desired salary range. It is not emotional or neutral. It is just the facts.
It is all about your Value
I’m sure I sound like a broken record with how many times I mentioned: “value” (I counted: I wrote the word value 159 times in this guide!). There is a reason for this. You will not be worrying about your peers, any personal situations or about your last boss; the only thing you will be focused on is the value that you bring to the table. After you build your value project, you will be extremely confident in focusing and presenting your value (160 and counting…).
You will know your response
Negotiation conversations can go many different routes, and you will be ready to take any of them. By practicing the different ways your employer can say no (and how to respond) and the different ways to craft your perfect pitch, you will be ready to respond to any situation.
Practice, practice, practice
You have your data, you know your value, and you’ve crafted your conversation. Now, by practicing in front of a mirror or in front of friends or family, you can really perfect what you’re going to say. Once you do it once, you will see the power of being able to hear yourself say it out loud and you’ll be able to understand how you want to deliver it. Have your friend go through the different ways they will say no. You will also gain incredible confidence knowing you’ve done it already – and the real negotiation will seem like a piece of cake.