Tuesday, September 19, 2017

It’s scary to ask for a raise. How to nail it!

Illustration of three people talking
Read Time: 6 minutes

It’s hard to ask for a raise. It’s downright scary to ask for a significant increase. Why? Because money in our society is the measure of our self worth and they might say no.

If you search “what to say when asking for a raise” you will find good advice but not actual things you can say in this critically difficult conversation. That’s why I wrote this article. I hope to inspire you to make up your own words.

When I’m coaching clients about this, they often ask:

“How do I ask for what I need? What should I say?”

“What should I say to get fairly paid?”

“The guy who held my position before me was paid significantly more than I’m paid. How do I get what he got?”

Unless you’re completely confident discussing your compensation –– and most of us aren’t –– you can find yourself not knowing what to say when you get challenged. You can find yourself tongue-tied. That’s why, when I coach clients who are preparing for a salary negotiation, I ask them to prepare by writing down things they could say.

Set the Stage

Before asking for the money, start the discussion by reminding them of your accomplishments. Remind them of how your skills and expertise have helped them in the past and will continue to help in them the future. Knowing and recounting your accomplishments will significantly reduce the fear that naturally comes with asking for a raise. You could start with something like:

“As you know, over the last year I’ve revamped our social media program and we’ve not only seen our follows grow but also new sales that resulted solely from our online presence. I know that you’ve been happy with the progress and the sales.

“I also took over the management of our site and the vendor team. I appreciate the compliments that you’ve given me as we’ve streamlined the process and gotten our site vendor’s billing to align with our budget.

“Given these accomplishments I’d like a significant increase in my pay. Also, I’ve done my homework and taken a look at current compensation levels for roles like mine in companies like this.

“But, before I get to that I want to describe how I believe I can help going forward and get your feedback. Is that okay with you?”

With their permission continue with…

“The online sales that come from our social media followers represent a huge opportunity for us. Over the next few months I’ll develop a series of content options that, with A-B testing, I’ll refine into an interactive conversation with our followers designed to help them find and use our best solutions. This, I believe, will lead to happier clients because we’re helping them grow their businesses which in turn will lead to growth in our sales.

“As you know less than 5% of our sales are online. That is so low it should be easy to increase given a chance to focus on it. How does that sound?”

Wait for their reply and be prepared to discuss. Then…

“As you can tell I’m really excited about what we can do with this. And as I said earlier I’ve done some research and given my responsibilities I’ve found that I should be receiving $X thousands.”

Now it’s time to wait for their response. Silence is golden in a moment like this. And after a moment. They may say:

“Yes, that amount is completely appropriate. And I want you to know that the whole management team really appreciates what you’ve accomplished so far.”

Congratulations! You win!

Or they could say:

“Fantastic, great ideas and great work this year. And yes you are asking for a huge increase and I’m inclined to just say yes, but we’re a bit tight right now. So with that in mind would you be willing to accept part of the increase as a raise and the rest as a performance based bonus in six months?”

Now you know that they have accepted your expertise as a valuable asset and backed it with a partial offer. You can think about it overnight –– I always recommend thinking about any deal overnight –– or negotiate the split between salary and bonus in the moment. In any case, you have the leverage you need to make a great deal.

Or this could turn into your worst nightmare with…

“Yes, we really appreciate what you’ve accomplished. But that’s beyond our budget. Our budget for increases this year is half what you are asking. Could you take a little less?”

Don’t freak! Now’s the time to get them to talk a little bit more. We want them to be confortable in the discussion and to feel good about the back and forth you’re having. So ask a non-confrontational question like, “Help me understand how you determined your budget?”

They might say: “We always use salary surveys to determine what we pay.”

Now, if you’ve done your homework and know that your ask isn’t out of line, ask to see the surveys, “I’d like to see those surveys. Could you pass them along? As I said earlier, I did do my homework and looked at the surveys myself, so I’m surprised at your findings.”

Often you’ll find that they’ll back away from their quoted surveys because they probably don’t exist. If not, you’ll have to begin to question whether it’s an opportunity that you still want because this survey business is not a good sign.

Maybe they don’t quote surveys. They could say something about how they determined their budget: “We went through a company wide planning session and determined our budgets based on the plan.” This is corporate talk designed to dodge the question.

Stick to your guns with, “To be successful for you I need to feel respected for my accomplishments and responsibilities in this role. Which means, given my experience, that I need to be paid at the top of the range. Which is what I’m asking for.”

Then hold your tongue and wait for their reply.

No is a Powerful Word

You’ve just said no. No forces them realize that you are willing to go to bat for yourself just as you have gone the extra mile for them. This is a valuable asset to an employer. And if they recognize it as such, they will likely soften their resistance and you will do well there. If not, you need to consider other options.

Yes it’s hard to ask for a raise. It’s scary to ask for a significant increase because they might say no. But if you don’t ask you won’t get anything. And always remember that your leverage comes from your expertise and what they believe that you can do for them.

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