How to Negotiate Your Salary … and Actually Win
Achieving a raise is true “happyness.” Are you worthy of a raise? If you are, then there are 7 great strategies you can employ to bolster your case: they must like you; you have to ask; use perfect timing; provide proof; ask for and accept multiple currencies;
solve angst; and have the right response for when they ask: “how much do you want?”
STRATEGY #1 – THEY HAVE TO LIKE YOU
We shouldn’t care about the views of our critics, but it’s a wise business strategy to be “likable.” If the decision makers don’t like you, a bigger salary isn’t your main problem. If you sense they don’t like you, then hold off negotiating your salary until you correct it. It’s not about being popular, it’s about being perceived as someone who is valuable.
In business, depending on your attitude, people will either lay bridges in front of you, or dig holes behind you.
To get paid more, you’re essentially asking someone to lay a bridge in front of you, and to take that risk they need to believe in you.
Actions to Undertake:
- Be a genuine listener → Everyone likes a good listener. Ask questions, make eye contact, use their name, and put your phone away. Always seek to understand before being understood.
- Make a good first impression → Undoing a bad first impression is almost impossible. But a good first impression lingers.
- Provide good value → Business is about delivering the goods, and popularity can’t overcome failing to do so.
- Smile and use an appropriate sense of humor → Display the right balance between being passionate and fun, and use discretion about opening up.
- Have dignity and good manners → Compose yourself as someone deserving of respect without coming across as arrogant. Be someone who respects the time, property and space of others.
- Admit the negatives – it grants you a positive → The moral confidence to be genuine and truthful conveys to people that you’re honest and that you value them.
- Be available and approachable → If people cannot reach or approach you, they’ll either forget about you, or find a reason not to like you. Earning someone’s like or admiration is impossible if you’re not present.
- Touch people → Know who and when to touch, and do it. This can range from developing a more friendly handshake, to a small pat on the back/shoulder, to a hug. (But unwanted or inappropriate touch will destroy likability).
- Be an optimist → It’s easier to criticize than compliment, but work to draw attention to positives, not negatives.
- Use the right body language → Make a study of your current body language habits, and then introduce new body language habits that project polite confidence, relaxed openness, lack of aggression, and empathy.
- Keep your eyes on your own paper → When people tell you their view or opinion, resist judging. And always limit conversations to ideas instead of people – no one trusts a gossiper.
- Avoid seeking attention or being someone you’re not → Most people have a very good bullshit detector, and tend to distrust those who draw attention to themselves – such people are not taken seriously.
- Always speak truthfully, consistently and clearly → The more objective and consistent you are, the more reliable you will seem, and people like and and are drawn to reliability. Never lie, exaggerate, or drive a personal agenda.
- Under Promise and Over Deliver → Nothing breeds good favor more than delivering the goods, and failing to deliver the goods makes you look flaky.
- Dress cleanly and keep your hands away from your face → Clothing, style and mannerisms matter. Whether or not you’re a particularly stylish person, being regarded as clean is important. Also, touching your face when conversing conveys boredom, disinterest, negativity, or that you’re being dishonest.
- Be unique and display integrity → It’s a challenging thing in today’s world to have conviction as to who you are, while not being hostile toward or caving into others. But nothing draws magnetic admiration from the right kind of people than integrity.
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STRATEGY #2 – YOU HAVE TO ASK
Every accomplished person will tout some variation of “you don’t get what you don’t ask for“, and it’s true. When trying to ask for a raise, it’s also “you don’t get what you don’t negotiate for.” The flip side of this is that almost everyone is afraid of being told “no.” Whereas, you need intel as to how the company views you – it’s not wise to evade this topic.
If we lack courage to say no to the wrong thing, we leave ourselves unavailable to say yes to the right thing – Rob Flitton.
It’s an error to wait for them to initiate the discussion about a raise, just so long as you obey Strategy #3 about Timing. First, most policies about raises are arbitrary and designed to handle all employee-situations and, if you don’t want to be herded in with accepting a token raise or what everyone else is getting, you’ll have to be the one who initiates changing this construct.
Laying strategic groundwork for this over time is the best approach.
Sometimes we have to go out on a limb, but that’s where all the fruit is.
Sometimes we tend to become offended if management doesn’t read our minds or acknowledge our success, but controlling their behavior is a daunting and impossible task to consider. And, while the grass may seem greener elsewhere, usually the grass is greener where you water it … so water it.
Actions to Undertake:
- Research their policies and tendencies → Know the terrain in which you’re operating so that you don’t make the wrong assumptions.
- Establish what their raise policy is when they hire you → Asking this question in the job interview or hiring process demonstrates self-worth, and should both obtain a very candid answer, and a rough commitment.
- If you don’t like what you hear, ask if they’re open to suggestions → A great question is “if at some point I am able to demonstrate increased value to the company, are you open to discussing a raise?” Almost no one says no to this – and if someone did, you may want to reconsider working for them.
- How you ask is important → Don’t just blurt it out – rather, gain a series of “yeses” or agreements first. “Do you feel I have done a good or exceptional job this fiscal year?” “Would you agree that my performance was better than projected?” “Is the company open to a discussion about my compensation package?” “I know I am asking outside of the normal time-frame, but may I discuss my compensation with you?” “What would be the process for having my position and financial package reviewed?”
- Avoid threats or take-it-or-leave-its → The worst way to ask for a raise it to overtly suggest you will otherwise leave the company. You can introduce competitiveness, but it must be done diplomatically. You can, for example, say “I have been approached by a competitor, but I’d prefer not to have that discussion with them.
STRATEGY #3 – USE PERFECT TIMING
Having good timing is a strong advantage when negotiating a raise. Being in the right place at the right time feels like an accidental occurrence. Rather, if one focuses sufficiently and develops the right strategy, their great timing is no accident.
Timing is about seeing things that others don’t, and then capitalizing on it.
A good hockey player plays where the puck is – a great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be – Wayne Gretzky.
If you have an impeccable case for a raise, but ask at the wrong time, you diminish your chances – but even a modest case has a great chance of winning with the right timing.
- Good financial health or news → This seems obvious, but gauge the terrain and know the facts about the company’s ability to pay, which leads them to a willingness to pay.
- You just hit it out of the park → there’s no better time to ask for an unscheduled raise than right after you’ve had a big win.
- The personal mood of the decision-maker → People in bad moods don’t approve things – people in good moods are more benevolent and optimistic. Simple math here.
- You observe that others have had raises → You don’t want to base your argument that you should get a raise because others did, but it denotes that the timing is good for your case to be made.
- You have added to your skillset or repertoire → such an event might not be worth more to the company, but it represents a valid reason for asking.
- Someone else has made you an offer → as denoted above, this can be dangerous ground, and you could end up losing your job if not handled properly, but placing an outside job offer of more money on the table can be the right time to ask.
STRATEGY #4 – PROVIDE PROOF
The bottom line in business is profit. If you are worth more than what they pay to have you there, then your case is strong – but be prepared and able to prove it.
While a salary raise is about money, it’s also about your potential. You have to demonstrate your current and future worth, and should not wait for them to deduce these – otherwise, you will be doomed to remain in some arbitrary salary range.
The best case is one that proves you’ve performed, but that also proves you will continue to trend the same way. “I think I deserve a raise” is not an argument.
Actions to Undertake:
- Do your diligence and have a strategic argument to make → Being financially inclined, focused and knowledgeable about corporate goals is far more effective than an emotional plea, so you need to know your numbers.
- Present specifics about your value → Since you’re reading this article, your job is not likely mundane. Your job stability rests upon your financial performance, so if the company believes your value to be multiples higher than your cost, you automatically have a case. If not, then you probably can’t expect more than a token raise.
- Present a value proposition → Create and maintain and ongoing enumerated list of documented results that visibly prove your value. When the time come to ask for a raise, use this information to show how you are trending in the company and make the strategic implication that your happiness depends on staying ahead of the curve – i.e., of not lagging behind in earnings versus accomplishments.
- Present your benefits, not your features → Just as with any product selling, focus on the benefits you provide, and not just facts that point out the obvious.
STRATEGY #5 – ASK FOR AND ACCEPT MULTIPLE CURRENCIES
Money is just one type of compensation, and not always the best type. Your overall job package should include both financial and non-financial rewards. By presenting more than just a salary increase as a currency, you can increase your chances of them saying “yes.”
Whether or not you have a great case for more base salary, there are numerous currencies you can negotiate for:
- Bonus salary → Companies don’t like high fixed-costs, like salaries. They can usually pay more in bonus salary if they can delay that payment or have it depend on performance.
- Authority or autonomy → During a salary negotiation it can be a great opportunity to gain the authority you want.
- Vacation time → More time off costs very little to grant.
- Benefits → This can seem like a minor item, but both insurance payments and out-of-pocket benefit costs can become pretty heavy. Getting more coverage, especially with a family, can be valuable.
- Moonlighting options → If they can’t offer you more money, then perhaps they will allow you to take on outside non-conflicting work.
- Tours of duty → A new and innovative way at looking at careers is to mutually agree for a “i” that lasts for a specific time and can then be renewed by mutual agreement.
- Company vehicle → This can be achieved if you spend time in the field seeing clients on behalf of the business – plus, it can enhance corporate image.
- Stock options or direct equity → Stock options or equity retain the most valued employees. Asking for stock options or equity can be much more lucrative than a simple raise.
- Life/work balance → Allowing you to work from a home office, or set your own hours is usually an easy thing for a company to offer.
- Training and education → Getting courses, workshops, seminars or even post-secondary education paid for can be valuable compensation. The company will usually perceive that it makes you a much better employee.
- An assistant → While an assistant would likely cost much more than a salary increase, you might be able to have someone reassigned part-time or full-time to work on your projects.
- A better office → A low-cost way for a company to reward top employees.
While you may prefer a higher salary, there can be bona fide reasons why they can’t justify it – but you will likely discover there are other currencies that they can justify.
STRATEGY #6 – SOLVE ANGST
The best CEOs are the ones who thrive on finding and fixing problems – they get up every day with enthusiasm and tell themselves “the business is in trouble today … go find out where.” This can be a lonely place for a leader because it’s rare to find others in the company who do the same – and this is where you can become very valuable to your organization.
Every human being experiences angst – angst is a great word to encompass the wide range of problems or anxieties that people face every day in their personal live and in business. Since people are always actively looking for solutions to angst, the greatest marketers tap into this and build products that solve angst. This was, for example, what made Steve Jobs so prescient.
If you become the kind of employee who is a known problem-solver, you can be regarded as much more valuable when it comes to asking for a raise. Too many employees are “maliciously obedient” – this type of person acts, but only in strict accordance with instructions. And since many tasks require critical thinking and adaptation, they will plunge ahead knowing the instructions are no longer useful. When asked why they went ahead anyway, they say “well, that’s what you told me to do.” (They are maliciously obedient).
Give them the facts, and not your evaluation of the facts until and unless asked to.
Actions to Undertake:
- Never hide bad news → Any CEO or corporate leader worth their salt thrives on bad news, and counts on their people to bring it forward. When it comes to raise time, they will remember you as being morally courageous in their favor.
- Always present a solution along with the problem → When delivering bad news or revealing a problem, offer several potential solutions with them, not just one.
- Don’t drive agendas → The reason you have multiple solutions to consider is that you don’t want to be seen to be self-serving or manipulative, and you want them to be able to weigh alternative.
- Never “pocket-pick” → The pocket-picker is the person who drops problems into other people’s laps. They present an issue, but no exit strategy or way out.
STRATEGY #7 – THE RIGHT RESPONSE
Experienced HR people or managers are trained on how to save money by not offering an amount first. This is why, for example, employment applications always ask for your expected salary – it sets an arbitrary range. Similarly, the person interviewing you will almost always ask what you expect; in a new job interview they’ll ask you how much you’ll take.
Answering this question directly is a mistake. But, they will be persistent.
The first time they ask how much you want, say:
It’s the work I find interesting, which is more important to me than the amount of the initial offer .
The second time they ask, say:
It’s my policy to consider any reasonable offer.
While they normally won’t ask a third time, here’s how you should respond:
You’re in a much better position than me to know what you can afford and how much I am worth to you.
This is also sometimes called the Noel Smith-Wenkle method.