Eight Proven Tactics for Salary Negotiations
VP of Engineering at Layer
While for most people negotiating salary is uncomfortable and daunting, it is not something people should shy away from. On the contrary, I believe that people should take a more proactive approach and initiate those conversations wherever an opportunity arises.
I came up with eight proven tactics, typically used in business negotiations, that I managed to successfully extrapolate to salary negotiations.
1.Where’s the beef?
Whatever the context (interviewing, annual review, etc.), make it clear why you are bringing this up and what you want to achieve. People are usually more interested in a conversation when they know what it is about and what there is in it for them. Your agenda should be clear, but you may wish to reiterate on it during the conversation. If you are with the company for a while, express your enthusiasm for the role and your interest to continue the collaboration while emphasizing at the same time the need to negotiate your salary or compensation package.
2. Information is the king
Do your homework diligently and come to the meeting prepared and with a written and nicely packed track record of projects you delivered and the impact you made. It should also include information on why you are successful at your role and why you deserve a salary raise. Know what is important for your boss and for the company at that particular time, but also in the future. It’s not the work per se, but how much impact your work can potentially have that makes the difference. Part of your preparation should include research to understand your market value and your position within the company. Consider your skills and domain knowledge that are particularly valuable to the company and come up with a bare minimum and optimistic maximum salary. Remember, the one who comes to the meeting with more information usually ends up driving the conversation and toward the direction they want.
3. Communication nuance
Body languages, non-verbal cues, and a well-timed conversation are important nuances that add to the favorable outcome of your negotiations. Therefore, start off with choosing good timing. This means choosing the best time of the year when the company is assessing expectations more closely (closer to performance review sessions, a mid-year, or end of a quarter) or more exact date and time of the actual conversation. Also during the conversation pay attention to body language; it is worth knowing that 93% of our communication is determined by nonverbal cues. The same applies when you want to convey a message yourself: don't only use words, but also use persuasive gestures. I encourage people to approach the conversation in a calm and confident way. Lastly, don’t be afraid of silence – silence happening in the middle of a conversation sometimes makes the other party speak up and share more information. Remember, no one wants to end negotiations before they have an acceptable outcome.
4. The common ground
Before the negotiation starts, find a common ground with your boss and your company. We as humans are more similar than different, so make sure your boss understands why you want to talk about your salary and where this is coming from. Reinforce empathy and help them put themselves in your shoes. Needless to say, your efforts should come with humility and sympathy. That includes being flexible and not exceedingly unrealistic. A successful negotiation means that you have checked off something from your list, not that you managed to accomplish everything you planned. Additionally, think of the compensation as a package that you can always add to, deduct, or swap monetary benefits to find the right fit. For instance, if they can’t give you a raise, you could agree on a bonus or more paid vacation days.
5. Exploding offers
This is a common situation that happens when you want to negotiate your offer as a part of the interviewing process for a new role. A practice applied is to put extra pressure on a decision-making process by setting a deadline for it. For example, you would be told, This is our offer, but it would expire next Monday. The idea behind this approach is that we as humans tend to get easily distracted, ignore critical information, and make more mistakes when in a hurry. I personally learned this one the hard way. In salary negotiations, deadlines don’t mean anything, so be aware of it and don’t allow yourself to fall into that trap.
6. Play with power
Approaching the conversation with power and confidence is necessary for a successful negotiation. Even if you don’t feel that way, you need to project confidence if you want to have a smooth and convincing conversation. On the other hand, you can decide to play the “Powerlessness” card whenever you feel like the negotiation is heading towards a dead end. No one wants to feel powerless, so if necessary, you can say to your boss “It seems that there is nothing they can do for me”. This may trigger a response from them and they will try to do something to show you they are not powerless. There is also the “No” card you can play. It can be easily exemplified with a question: Do you want this to/fail? You ask this when you want the other party to acknowledge they don’t want the conversation to be a fail. When you get a No as a reply, you then build up the conversation towards a constructive outcome.
7. Precise numbers
If possible, don’t use precise numbers for a salary because they are almost always perceived as estimates. If you throw a round number ($5,000) even though it is easy to understand, you will be perceived as someone who didn’t do their math. Instead, use numbers that look accurate and are attentively calculated ($4,800). These numbers are harder to grasp or remember but are considered more reliable.
8. Hook The Anchor
If you have done your research, and you know what is a reasonable salary you are willing to go with, be the first to say it. This method is called “Anchoring” because you are forcing the conversation to revolve around that number. Neither side can then go way higher or lower from that because otherwise, the negotiation would feel unreasonable. If your boss throws a number first and it’s lower than what you expected, don’t let them anchor you. Instead, challenge it with thoughtful open-ended questions and let them elaborate until you can re-settle the range.
- Don’t take no for an answer. There’s always a way to go back with new information and ask for a raise from a different angle and with fresh facts. A rejection for what you are asking is not the end of the conversation, and particularly not of your aspirations.
- If you are still not successful, try to understand what is missing. Maybe you are not showing the results of your work convincingly? Maybe you need to be more involved and proactive in the company? Or you need to work on branding yourself and work on more impactful projects? There are many reasons why your boss might not be willing to reconsider your compensation package. Don’t take a single-sided view on the matter and try to look into things more holistically.
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