Skip to content

The Top 4 Tips for Negotiating a Better Salary

By |February 10, 2015

Every MBA class I lecture to, I tell them my first objective is to single-handedly raise the ranking of their school. One of the critical factors in business school rankings is how well their graduates are compensated. I want graduates where I teach to be ridiculously well compensated and worth every dime. Here are 4 tips for negotiating a better salary.

1. Be pleasantly persistent on non-salary terms

People are 6 times more likely to give you what you want if they like you.

One of my MBA students was delightfully and pleasantly persistent about wanting one more week of vacation than the company hiring her gave new-hires. Her only reason for wanting the additional week was because “I’m French!”. She would express this happily and unashamedly with a big smile on her face. She explained that though she was an American, she had grown up in France, considered herself French and the working culture she was used to simply had more vacation. She offered no other reasoning, no outside criteria, no logic, nothing. She just asked for it in delightful way.

The hiring company countered by increasing her salary offer. They were completely handcuffed on the vacation issue, but they had more give on the salary term so they raised it.

The more you talk about non-salary success terms, the more likely you are to hear the full range of their options on salary.

2. Salary terms without success terms is a form of Russian roulette

Many people feel that if they just get a good salary, their talent alone will carry them. Unfortunately, this is a hope based strategy and hope is not a strategy. You really don’t want to be six months into a job and not be sure you’re on the right track, do you? Salary is the “price” term in this deal and a price term without success terms is a form of Russian roulette. A hiring agreement is like any other negotiation except YOU are the commodity. Protect your commodity.

3. Spark their interest in your success to recruit them as un-official mentors

Asking one simple question can help you accomplish this and get success terms (tip 2) out in the open. That question is:

“What does it take to be successful here?”

There are a lot of “stock” questions that many MBA students are given from the career counselors that sound like this question but are not it exactly. I coached one of my MBA students to ask this question specifically. One of the people in her interview panel leaned forward and said “No one ever asked us that before.” He then went into specific detail as to what a path to success in that company would look like. Afterwards, another member of the interview panel told my student “That was the first time that guy ever said anything in an interview. Normally he just sits back and says nothing. That was amazing.”

The critical thing that happened is that executive is now invested in that employee’s success. He will always be interested in seeing how his guidance worked. He will also want to provide further guidance as it is needed to protect his “investment”. This gentleman had just become a de facto mentor.

[INFOGRAPHIC] Negotiate your best salary yet by following these 5 tips »

4. They are assessing you for how you will be their ambassador

This is actually the primary benefit from learning how to be pleasantly persistent. As you gently, but clearly advocate for yourself in a pleasant manner the secondary message you send is how you will conduct yourself as a representative of their company. As a colleague of theirs, you will be a representative of them in everything you do, especially if they recommend hiring you. They have a stake in your success. They will want to know that you can advocate well on their behalf without giving in easily and still maintain great business relationships.

The escalating use of the negotiation skills of mirrors, labels, and paraphrases—culminating in effective summaries—are the path to achieve this goal. A common label that many of my students and clients have used to great effect is “It seems like there is no give on this point.” Follow this by an effective pause and let them fill the silence while you pay attention to body language. You’ll know that you’ve done as well as you could have and because you also focused on success terms, one year from now you’ll be in an even better negotiation.

Try these in your next salary negotiation and make it rain! 

Tips to Negotiating Your Best Salary