Preparation is Everything - The 6 Best Tips for Your Salary Negotiation

April 20, 2022

Making salary negotiations a piece of cake

It is very exciting to read books by the great negotiation gurus Roger Fisher & William Ury (founders of the Harvard concept), Chris Voss, former FBI negotiator and Matthias Schranner, also a former negotiator with hostage-takers – and you learn everything to successfully master any negotiation situation you might encounter during the rest of your life. Yet, for many, the next salary negotiation in the company feels like they must go to the dentist. And they wonder which of these great pieces of advice to use – and how exactly.

A woman and a man, lying at the table with business documents, shake hands
Salary negotiations don't have to be uncomfortable. Preparation takes a lot of the pressure off and contributes to success. Photo © shutterstock - Pra Chid

Preparation is 90% of success

1. Timing

Many companies lay the foundations for the following year's budget in August and September and consequently plan costs that might arise for possible salary rounds in the following spring. This means that autumn is a good time to fix a date with your supervisor and talk about the common goals for the company.

2. We Are Not as Rational as We Think

Anyone who acknowledges that the boss is as much a human being as oneself has an easier time during the appointments with the superior. What we humans have in common is the desire to be loved and respected as a person. We are all much less rational beings than we think. This means that before you talk about the actual topic, you should build a positive trusting relationship with your interlocutor, ideally not only during the appointment, but from the moment of cooperation. So, why not ask the boss proactively to go to lunch with you and your colleagues, possibly ask about holiday destinations, hobbies, or children and, above all, actively participate during the business meetings.

3. Follow the 7/38/55 Rule

Two studies conducted by Professor Albert Mehrabian, UCLA, prove that only 7% of the message is conveyed by words, 38% by the voice, and 55% by facial expression and body language. What does this mean for your salary negotiation: breathe out, stay as calm as possible, because nervousness quickly spreads through the whole body. And, honestly, there is no reason for being stressed, because if you want to support the company meaningfully through your work – who should not agree?

What might help to stay calm is the fact that it is not about you as a person, but about the job you do.

Martina Ernst portrait

Martina Ernst

  • Personnel professional and salary expert

Also important: Pause, allow for silence, and listen rather than talk yourself – this gives you time to exhale and calm the autonomous nervous system. At the same time, you get the information essential for the job.

4. Whoever Asks, Leads

The most important thing in this appointment is to ask the right questions and to listen actively. The more open questions you ask, the more you learn what is important to your superior and what helps the company to succeed.  Open questions begin, for example, with: “Which of my tasks have particularly contributed to the success of the department?”, “In which points do you need my increased support in the coming months?”, “By which parameters do I recognize that my contribution has provided added value for the company?”

In a salary negotiation or any other career appointment, you should check to what extent your own ideas or suggestions are desired or even helpful for the department. It is not advisable to invest a lot of time and effort in topics that may not be considered significant by the company. However, those who score points with good suggestions get positive attention and automatically increase in importance for the company.

A group of business people listen to a lady in front of a whiteboard
Those who stand out with good ideas increase their value in the company and increase their opportunities. Photo © shutterstock - G Stock Studio

5. The art of summarizing

Asking questions is an art but summing up what we have heard in such a meaningful way that our counterpart not only feels heard, but also understood, is an incredibly important technique (which can certainly save many relationships). According to Chris Voss, it even shows its effect in negotiations with hostage-takers. You should practice this technique several times before you go into the decisive salary negotiation.

What does this mean:

  • Mirroring what has been heard, i.e., repeating it literally – and suppressing the urge to contradict, add arguments or elaborate further.
  • Maybe put a label on what you have heard: I now understand better how important it is for you that this and that is done...'
  • ... and summarize the facts in your own words
  • Have the summary confirmed - at least by a nod of your interlocutor’s head – otherwise continue asking and correcting, because ideally your wrap up ends, when you hear a 'That's right': that is, your negotiation partner feels heard and understood

6. Enlarge the Cake

If you follow the above tips, you will understand very well to what extent you are focusing on the right tasks and how you may be able to create benefit for the department and ultimately the company beyond your normal job. It is precisely this added value that not only increases one's own influence in the company but also the probability of a future salary increase. Because it is much easier to get a bonus or a higher salary if the employer does not have to give up a piece of its cake, but if the company shares a part of the cake that you yourself have increased through your contribution. For example, reducing the waste in production beyond the previous standard results in lower costs involved. The salary increase or premium of the person responsible will most likely only make up a fraction of that cost savings!

If you want to learn more about Martina Ernst, click here. Read more in our "Salary Insights - Let's Talk About Money" series and here.

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