If I told you that I knew a legitimate way make $10k in under an hour, would you listen? Of course you would! You’re not an idiot. Show of hands on who wants the secret? Yep – I see all of you raising your hands.
Now if I told you that the way to make an extra 5-figures in under an hour was to simply walk into your boss’ office and politely and professionally ask for a salary negotiation, would you still be as willing to listen? Moreover, would you do it?
Sadly, statistics say that approximately 57% of you would not. And if you’re a woman, then you’re even less likely to do it. This is a shame, because according to a recent study by Payscale.com, approximately 75% of people who ask for a raise actually got one, and of those people, 44% got the amount they wanted. That’s pretty good odds, if you ask me.
Why Don’t We Ask For More Money?
There are several reasons that people don’t ask their employers for more money, the top one being that their employer gave a raise without their having to ask for one. To those people, well lah-dee-dah! Good for you.
The second most common excuse for not asking for a raise is that it’s uncomfortable to negotiate your salary. Well, no shit, Sherlock. Of course it’s uncomfortable! If it was easy, everyone would be doing it, and you’d all be rolling around with your good buddy Benjamin and I wouldn’t get to write this blog!
But is asking for a raise more uncomfortable than going home every night after busting your ass, knowing that you’re not getting paid what you know you’re worth? Is it more uncomfortable than watching every penny in order to make sure that you have enough money to get by until your next paycheck?
Get out of your own head for a second and really think about it – what’s an hour of discomfort in comparison to another year (or 10) of misery?
I can say all this now, because up until about 7 months ago, I was the chickenshit who was too scared to ask for what I deserved. Prior to that, I was completely overwhelmed with work from my former full-time job. Business was up – in fact it had been on a very steady rise for awhile.
The problem was, as business increased, so did my workload. I was tasked with training new employees who were quickly shuffled into other departments where the need was deemed more critical. The fact was, the needs in my department were critical, but I am not the type of person to easily admit when I need help, so I simply kept my mouth shut, put on a smile, and worked harder.
As a result, I became miserable. Not only that, I became resentful. I resented my employer for not seeing just how much I was doing. I dreaded getting up and doing my job every day.
Luckily, my guy is from Philly. If you know anyone from Philly, you know they don’t tend to beat around the bush. They just come right out and tell you how it is.
So one day, when I was particularly stressed out and overwhelmed, did he come up to me and give me a big, long hug, telling me to hang in there… that everything would be ok? Hell no! Guys from Philly don’t do that.
He looked at me and told me, “You deserve so much better than you’re getting. They are taking advantage of you whether they know it or not, and it’s your own fault because you’re letting them.” (See what I mean about not pulling any punches?)
And he was right. I had spent so much time inside my own little miserable shell, blaming them, but in reality, it was my fault because I hadn’t told them that I had too much on my plate or that I wasn’t being appropriately compensated. Like the saying goes, the squeaky wheel gets the grease, right? Well, this mouse hadn’t been squeaking!
So I decided to speak up. After getting some very valuable advice from Chris and my dear friend Cheryl (also from Philly), I gathered my courage, channeled my inner bad-ass, took a few deep breaths and called my boss up.
Prepare Ahead of Time
Before approaching your boss, spend some time doing some research and planning. This can take some time but it’s important not to skip this step.
The first thing you need to do is make a list of all of the things you are responsible for on a regular or semi-regular basis. Compare this to the responsibilities from when you were hired. How have your job duties increased? Sometimes additional responsibilities go unnoticed by us because they happen gradually, so it’s easy to forget just how much more work we’re doing compared to before. Making a list helps sort it all out and gives you more information to use in your case.
Once you have a list of all of the things you’re doing for the company, and the tasks that you’re assigned to, you’ll want to go to Payscale.com and get a free salary report. First, you’ll want to see what the median salary is for your specific job title that your company has assigned to you. Then, you’ll want to look at your list and see if there are other job titles that might be more in line with what your responsibilities are within the company.
My former job title was Customer Service Specialist, which was, on paper, just a glorified customer service rep, and the pay was more than a regular CSR, but wasn’t adequate for the actual work I was doing.
When I looked at my list, I realized that not only was I training new hires, I was also making other decisions that coincided with a more managerial role. When I researched salaries for Customer Service Manager, the difference was quite significant, simply because of that specific title and the job duties I was already doing. I made several notes on average salaries of various managerial roles within the industry I was in based on my job duties.
What Have You Done for Them Lately?
Next, you want to make a list of ways that you’ve helped the company achieve their goals, or how you’ve solved a problem of theirs. This is actually the hardest part of asking for a raise because most of us don’t want to sound like we’re bragging, but this is business – it’s not personal.
You’re not boasting about the awesome, expensive pair of shoes you just bought or how much wine you can drink while still being able to hold an intelligent conversation or remain upright on the dance floor. You’re telling your boss how you’ve helped make them money. Bosses love to hear about how something is making them money.
Did you do something to save an account? Do you have any suggestions on ways they can increase efficiency or productivity (because time is money), or ways that they can save money? Do you have data or numbers that you can present to them showing them specific examples of how you’ve made them money?
You’ll want to spend a lot of time on this exercise because this is what is going to be your bread and butter. Go back through old emails, run reports, do what you can to get precise numbers. When it comes to asking for a raise, the more hard data you have, the better.
What To Say During a Salary Negotiation
The key to salary negotiation is to focus on benefits and results for the company. This is not about you. I repeat… this is not about you. If you go in all defensive, whining about how you feel you deserve this or that, you’re going to sound a 2-year old, and not only are you going to be less likely to get a raise, you’ll probably have inadvertently planted a seed in your boss’ mind that tells them perhaps they should find someone more grateful (and more adult).
This is all about business. You may very well deserve to be mad and resentful, and they could very well be taking advantage of you, but there is an art to negotiation, and professionalism and respect for both yourself and the company is imperative if you want to get good results.
You also want to use psychological hacks that present your case to your boss in a way that he/she can’t say no. If you go to them and show that you’ve implemented a strategy that is consistently saving them $1000 a month, when you come at them with your request for a raise, how could they say no?
Another tip is while presenting your case, follow up each point with a question that they can only answer yes to.
For example, in my role, because of my excellent relationships with our vendors (of which we had hundreds), I became the sole person tasked with problem resolution with our vendors, even on accounts that weren’t mine, because I was able to approach them from a place of mutual respect, rather than making it a battle. I was able to get results because I was professional and polite, yet firm. Our vendors liked me, and therefore, were willing to work with me to make things right when things went wrong.
So as I was stating my case, I would say things like, “I have a very good relationship with our vendors, which is a huge asset to our company when it comes to problem orders – wouldn’t you agree?” (See, there’s a question there that they absolutely can’t say no to).
Asking several “yes” questions like this in a row gets them nodding their heads, which psychologically puts them in an affirmative frame of mind, right up to the time you ask them for more money.
Stating Your Salary Request
Once you’ve presented all of your well-thought-out examples of why you’re such an incredible asset to the company, it’s time to go in for the kill. This is where you pull out your salary research and state your desired salary. Note that I say “state your desired salary”, not “ask for a raise”. We’re not asking at this point. At this point, the answer should already be a yes (or leaning in that direction), so it’s time to be bold.
Say something along the lines of, “I’ve done some research, and although I was hired as [XYZ Job Title], my current duties and role within the company align more with a [Better Job Title] position. I researched the salary range for said new position and given my contributions and work ethic, I’m up for the challenge and I’d like to request that we formally change my job title, with a salary increase to $xx,xxx.”
When It’s Best to Shut Up
My friend Cheryl was a genius when she gave me one small – but huge piece of advice. She advised me to take out a piece of paper and write two words on it and tape it up to my laptop in front of me to look at during my phone call. What did the paper say?
I totally get that the fact that I was conducting my salary negotiation over the phone from my boat-office gave me a distinct advantage, since I could make notes, and even make faces. But if you’re doing the whole “asking for a raise” thing in person, make a mental note to stop talking, and for God’s sake, please don’t make any faces at your boss in person. (But if you do, please come here and let me know how well it went over.)
Once you give your pitch and plead your case on why you deserve an increase in salary, we (especially women) tend to keep talking and we might even inadvertently backtrack without realizing it, simply because we’re nervous or uncomfortable. In our heads, we often make it personal and we start rambling to try to justify ourselves (even though we already presented a kick-ass case), and it can backfire very quickly.
Don’t let that happen!
Shut up, and even if it’s uncomfortable, once you get them nodding their heads to all of the awesome, valid “yes questions” you’ve crafted, and once you’ve hit them with the proof of ways that your contributions help maximize efficiency and increase revenue, and once you’ve finally delivered the 1-2-punch by stating that you’d like to request an increase of $10k (or whatever figure you’ve come up with in your research), stop talking. Let them make the next move.
What to Do if Your Boss Says No
First, at this point, if you’ve done everything I’ve said, and you’ve done your research, and assuming you’re actually a good employee, then you shouldn’t have to encounter a straight up no. It may turn into a negotiation, but employers like initiative, and it takes a lot of initiative to do the kind of research you’ve done and to get this far.
However, if your boss does say no, they will most likely use the “It’s just not in the budget right now” response, or the “We’re not giving raises this year,” or “We only give raises during the annual reviews, so we’ll definitely talk about it then.”
It’s easy at this point to just say, “okay,” and walk out of there defeated and deflated. But you’re not one who takes the easy way out – easy is for suckers. Easy is for losers. Easy doesn’t get you what’s worth getting.
So how do you respond? You simply say something like, “I certainly understand that budget is an issue, but as I’ve shown, I have significantly decreased our losses and increased our client retention rate over the past 18 months, and I feel that alone warrants a second look to see how we can work this into the budget. Given the additional responsibility, I would like to begin developing systems that will help maximize efficiency within each department which will allow us to focus more on sales and less on administrative tasks, therefore increasing revenue overall.”
Notice how I use the word “our” and “we”? This makes it a team effort and psychologically it positions you as not only a team-player, but also as less of a subordinate. It makes it sound as though everyone is working together for the greater good of the company – and you are! And as such, you should be compensated fairly for the value you provide.
Usually at this point, your boss may come in at a lower offer. If that happens, or if they still say no, then you can still come out ahead by negotiating in the form of bonuses, 401k match, profit-sharing, etc.
Your Boss: “I’m sorry, but I can’t pay you $xx,xxx – we really don’t have the budget, but I’m willing to work with you and offer you [$lower amount].”
You: “That’s a great start and I really appreciate you working with me on this. I know back when you made some budget cuts 2 years ago, one of the things that got cut was the 401k match. In light of your lesser offer, perhaps you’d be able to find a way to allocate part of the budget to reinstate a 401k match for the position, or an annual bonus of some sort.”
Your Boss: “Well, I don’t know that we can reinstate the 401k match for just one employee, but I can offer an annual bonus of $xxxx at the end of the fiscal year. I’ll have our payroll administrator draw up a new salary contract and will have it for you by the end of the day.”
The takeaway from this is that even if your boss initially says no, or if they give you a lowball offer that you’re not really satisfied with, you don’t have to back down.
You have to think like a CEO. Businesses usually have a pre-set budget for each year – a certain amount is allocated for salaries, insurange, losses, etc. When they say they don’t have it in the budget to increase your salary, it rarely means they don’t have the money – they just don’t have it allocated in the salary portion of the budget – but if you help minimize their losses, they would have the extra money at the end of each year in their loss budget. Kind of like robbing Peter to pay Paul. Got it?
When I asked my former employer for a salary negotiation, I admit was a total ball of nerves. But once I started talking it became easier. In fact, the hardest part was initiating the conversation in the first place.
The results? I was able to get my title changed to Manager, resulting in a 14% increase in salary and, had I stayed, most likely an end-of-year bonus as well.
The surprising thing was, my boss commended me afterwards for having the courage to request a salary negotiation, and for opening their eyes to the fact that my department was overworked and understaffed. I walked away kicking myself for not coming to them sooner, but you know what they say about hindsight.
I gained respect (from my employer as well as more respect for myself), and more money. And perhaps even more importantly, the knowledge that things are rarely as scary as we make them out to be in our heads. It wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t hard, either.
I also got a peek into the mind of a CEO because I had to put myself in their shoes to imagine what kind of thing I would want to hear in order to justify giving someone more money. So instead of focusing on what I wanted, I focused on what was in it for them.
So what are you waiting for? If you’ve been at a job for awhile, and you’ve not seen an increase in pay in a year or more, I challenge you to take a week or two to prepare and research, and then ask your employer for a salary negotiation.
If you have questions or want tips on how you can specifically craft your pitch for your industry, drop a comment below and I’ll answer every one. This will help others learn and maybe spark some ideas. And if your salary negotiation is successful, you better let me know that, too!