Learning how to negotiate a raise can earn you a Big Win and help you earn thousands more a year, which adds up over your lifetime.
Check out how much a $5,000 increase in salary can add up over the years:
Unfortunately, there are a lot of misconceptions out there when it comes to negotiating salary.
I want to detail the exact steps to nail a negotiation, show you exactly what to say when negotiating a raise, and bust a few of the myths out there.
How to negotiate a raise you deserve
- Step 1: Track the results you get at your job
- Step 2: Show your boss your results & ask what you can improve
- Step 3: Schedule a meeting with your boss to discuss compensation and ways you can add value
- Step 4: Practice negotiating a raise with a friend before the meeting with your boss
- Bonus: Perks to ask for beyond salary
- 5 salary negotiation myths to bust
- Hack your day job
How to negotiate a raise you deserve (in 3 months)
These principles will help you prepare to negotiate your raise, allowing you to talk to the boss confidently and be ready to earn more money.
Step 1: 3 months before you ask for a raise
The key to getting a raise is remembering that it’s not about you. It’s about what you can do for your employer.
You can’t tell them you need more money because your expenses are high. Nobody cares. BUT you can show how your work has clearly been contributing to the company’s success and ask to be compensated fairly.
That’s why three months before you ask for a raise, you’re going to start tracking everything you do at work and the results you get.
That last part is crucial. It’s not enough to say what you’ve been doing. You also have to show your employer the fruits of your labor.
For example: If you were on a team that sold 25,000 widgets, figure out what you did to help make that happen, and as much as possible, quantify it.
If you can’t figure out the exact results you’re causing, ask someone at work who’s more experienced and can help you. This is a classic question that new employees have, and many experienced coworkers would be happy to help you.
Plus the work ethic will showcase to your coworkers and company why you’re a person who deserves a raise.
At the same time, ask your boss if you can sit down and discuss ways you can excel at work. Make it clear you want to exceed expectations and ask what that would entail. If you’re really clever, you can hint about discussing compensation in the future.
Before you meet with your boss to begin this process it’s a good idea to make sure you’re aware of “competence triggers”. I explain what they are (and how to use them to your advantage) in the video below:
- Track your results — and use hard numbers.
- Discuss how you can improve your work with your boss.
Step 2: 2 months before you ask for a raise
Now it’s time to meet with your boss again and show her what you’ve been tracking. Ask what you could do better.
You want to make sure you’re on the right track with your work. More importantly, you want to communicate that to your boss.
Also during this time, find a goal salary you want to hit.
You need to know your exact salary goal if you want to crush your raise negotiations.
If you don’t have a hard number, you’re going to be at the mercy of your boss, who will simply control the conversation. That’s what they do for a living.
When you know what you want, though, not only can you communicate crisply to the other person, you can also demonstrate why you deserve that much.
That’s why you can’t just go in and say, “I want to make $100,000 a year!!!”
Instead, you have to show them your value — I’ll go into this more later with the Briefcase Technique.
Before you even speak to your boss to negotiate a raise, you should have done as much research as you could about what the average industry pay is for your job. Only then can you properly apply the tactics in this article to effectively negotiate salary.
To that end, there are a few great resources for you to find a good place to start:
- Salary.com: This is a great website for both employers and job seekers to compare compensation rates for specific jobs across a huge variety of companies.
- Glassdoor.com: Though this site primarily acts as a “Yelp for jobs,” it also includes an incredibly handy salary tool that allows you to look at the national average salary for your job as well as the average rate of compensation in your city.
- PayScale.com: This website sends you a personalized salary report based on a questionnaire you fill out regarding your career history. It’s especially great for recent college grads.
- Ask a friend: Do you know anyone who has worked in this field before? Maybe a friend of yours has been in the industry for a few years. Ask them how much they were paid — as well as advice on how much you should ask as well.
- Google it: A search as simple as “average digital marketer salary” will give you a wealth of information that you can use.
Only with sound research can you ever expect to negotiate well.
- Show your boss that you’ve been taking initiative and tracking your results. Ask her what you can improve.
- Find an exact salary goal you want to hit. Only then will you be able to negotiate effectively.
Step 3: 1 month before you ask for a raise
Now it’s time to directly mention to your boss that — because you’ve been a Top Performer — you’d like to discuss compensation in a meeting the next month.
Ask what you’ll need to bring to make it a fruitful discussion. Listen very carefully to what he has to say.
Now is also the perfect time to identify issues in the company and figure out ways you can solve them.
I once had a guy I interviewed for a job. He negotiated with me — but he kept offering things I didn’t care about.
He said things like, “I can also do [X skill that doesn’t matter] for you, and [Y work that’s already getting done by others], and [Z value that I’m already doing better myself].”
If he had taken the time to find out what I REALLY wanted — which was reliability — he would have been able to offer specific examples, like a weekly digest of everything that he accomplished and what he was working on the next week.
If he did THAT, I would have been more than happy to pay him thousands more for the peace of mind.
But because he didn’t take the time to find out what I wanted as the employer, I didn’t hire him.
Which is why it’s so important to identify the main issues the employer is currently facing so you can later find out how to solve them.
Once you recognize all of the areas where you can add value to the company, you’re going to use one of my favorite tactics: The Briefcase Technique.
This is one of my absolute favorite techniques to utilize in interviews, salary negotiations, client proposals — whatever! And the beauty of it is that you’ve already done 90% of the work before you started speaking to your boss.
Here’s how it works:
First, you’re going to leverage the information you found when researching issues your employer is facing. Then you’re going to create a 1-5 page proposal document showcasing the specific areas in the company wherein you can add value.
Then, you’re going to bring the proposal with you when you negotiate your salary. When the question of compensation inevitably arises, you’re going to pull out this document and outline exactly how you’re going to solve the challenges of the company.
Boss: So what do you want for a raise?
You: Actually, before we discuss compensation, I’d love to show you something I put together.
And then you literally pull out your proposal document detailing the pain points of the company and EXACTLY how you can help them. IWT bonus points if you actually use a briefcase.
By identifying the pain points the company is experiencing, you can show the boss where specifically you’re going to add value — making you a very valuable hire.
Approach the proposal as the most compelling menu they’ve ever received — complete with issues that they know about and how YOU are the person to solve those problems.
I go into even more detail on the Briefcase Technique in this video. Check it out below.
- Schedule a meeting with your boss to discuss compensation. Make it clear to her that you’re a Top Performer. As such, you want your salary to reflect that.
- Find the issues in your company and figure out ways to solve them.
Step 4: 2 weeks before you ask for a raise
Most people will lose tens of thousands of dollars over their lives due to their failure to practice negotiations. Actually, most people won’t negotiate at all. Even when people DO negotiate, they won’t practice.
They’ll say things like:
- “It feels weird.”
- “Who would I practice with?”
- “What do I say?”
It doesn’t matter though. That’s why you’re practicing.
As I always say: Don’t shoot your first basket in the NBA. After all, if you don’t practice, you’ll be going into negotiations cold, with your boss whose job it is to negotiate all day.
So find a friend or family member to run through tactics with. You can even go to your local farmer’s market and haggle for small items or try negotiating on Craigslist. Every little bit helps.
Here are a few question scripts you should prepare responses for — and have your practice partner run through with you:
- “What is your salary expectation?”
By the time you walk into negotiations, you should already have a firm number or range in mind.
- “There’s no room in our budget. We can’t possibly give you more money.”
LIE!!! If they tell you something like this, make sure you DON’T FALL INTO THIS TRAP. This is a scare tactic companies often use to make us settle for less than we deserve . . . and pocket the money that should’ve been ours.
- “What are you making now?”
This question is asked by employers to see if you’re making the industry average. After all, if you’re NOT making the average, they’re going to wonder why. And this greatly affects what they’re going to offer you.That’s why it’s so imperative you showcase how you’re going to add value to the company with the Briefcase Technique before the question of salary comes up — so that you’ll look incredible once it does.
- Find 1-3 friends to practice the raise negotiations with you. Make sure they give you honest feedback, and don’t let them pull any punches with the questions they ask.
- Prepare good answers to basic questions a boss might ask you.
Bonus: Perks to ask for beyond salary
Salary is just the first step of what you can negotiate in the process. In fact, there is a large number of benefits you can negotiate if you’re a Top Performer.
- Telecommuting. That’s right — you can actually negotiate with your boss to convince them to let you work from home.
- Stock options. Some companies offer options for their employees to incentivize their work. Though there are often times a fixed number for all employees to receive, you can actually negotiate for more stock options with the understanding that you are a top candidate.
- Vacation days. Paid time off and vacation time are benefits most every company offers — but not many people realize that you can actually negotiate your vacation days too.
For each of these, it helps to simply remember the ARMS technique. An example using telecommuting:
- Agree. This is a nice psychological trick of giving your employer something they agree with first — so they’re more apt to go along with the rest of your pitch.
- Reframe. Instead of showing your employer how much telecommuting will benefit you, you’re going to show them how great it would be for the company to embrace it.
- Make your case. Here you make your pitch: Sell them on the idea of you working from home — but give them an out by saying you’ll work in an office if it affects your work output.
- Shut up. When you’re done, you’re done. Yield the floor and let the employer speak.
Here’s a great script you can use to negotiate remote work.
You: This is great news. I’m thrilled to be invited to join your company and look forward to adding great value to the organization.
That being said, I’m afraid the commute time will affect both my workflow and focus. It would make a world of difference if I could work from home a day or two each week.
Boss: I’m sorry. We don’t do that here.
You: [Agree] I understand that your company hasn’t done it in the past — but this could be a great opportunity. We have the technology to make everything possible.
[Reframe] If it works out, we can find candidates in other states for XYZ roles.
[Make your case] And given my credentials and background, testing it out with me on a small scale is low risk. If it doesn’t work out, we can always go back to the old way.
[Shut up] So what do you think?
And if they agree, good job on the Big Win! If not, that’s fine too. You can always go back during your review period and pitch again after you’ve really shown your value to the company.
In this video, I interviewed my friend Justin Wilson, a former management consultant and an absolute MASTER at negotiations. We ran through a mock negotiation wherein he expertly negotiated for benefits outside of salary.
Check the video out at the 2:52 mark.
5 myths to bust about negotiating a raise
Now that we’ve covered the crunchy tactics, let’s take a look at the mindsets that stop us from getting what we want.
You’re your own worst enemy when it comes to salary negotiations. Once you get past your mental barriers, you’ll be ready to tackle your raise.
Let’s take a look at the five most persistent myths out there when it comes to salary negotiations.
Negotiating a raise myth #1: Salary negotiations need to be adversarial
Here are some common phrases of people who don’t know how to negotiate a raise:
- “I don’t want to be mean.”
- “My boss is smart. I’ll just accept whatever he wants to pay me.”
- “I hate arguing with people.”
The first thing you need to realize is that you shouldn’t be mean while you negotiate — quite the opposite. You want to explore the situation with care and nuance. After all, both your boss and you want the exact same thing: For you to keep working there.
Negotiation myth #2: I need to read (and read, and read) a lot about negotiating before I do anything
This is one of the biggest pitfalls someone can get into when they’re trying anything new — studying instead of doing.
Don’t get me wrong, you do need to get educated. BUT you’ll learn 100x more from practicing five negotiations than from reading another blog post or watching another YouTube video about negotiating — and yes that includes THIS article.
Negotiation myth #3: You can negotiate everything
Unfortunately, sometimes you’re just going to have to accept that your boss won’t budge during negotiations.
After all, you’re not entitled to getting your way with everything (though there are still a lot of things you can get if you negotiate well).
Negotiation myth #4: Some people are born negotiators
Let’s make one thing clear: negotiating is a skill. And like any other skill, it can be learned, honed, and mastered.
Luckily, I learned from some of the best negotiation masters of all: my parents.
For example, my mom would show me how to negotiate at department stores when I was a little kid. Then, visiting India, I saw the game taken to a whole new level when they dealt with salespeople in stores and markets.
The point is, the people around you matter and practice matters. Sure, none of us may ever be the world’s top negotiator . . . but we don’t have to. If we just become marginally better than we currently are, we can reap disproportionate rewards.
Negotiating a raise myth #5: I don’t know as much as my boss to “win” at negotiations
This kind of goes back to negotiation myth #1: Stop looking at negotiating as a zero-sum game.
People seem to think that someone has to get screwed over in a negotiation to get what you want — but that’s completely backward.
Of course, you can’t just make a demand and expect the other person to give it to you — you have to make a case for it. An employer is happy to give a raise to keep an employee who does fantastic work and provides value every day.
You’ll hear some people say “no,” but I promise you’ll be surprised by how many people say “yes!”
As long as you prepare and are ready to make your case, salary negotiation becomes a lot less scary.