It doesn’t matter whether you’re just starting out your career in finance, or already a CFO, we all dread any conversation even touching on the subject of salary.
Why? Because it’s not like any other deal you make in your life – it’s intrinsically related to your self worth. In short, you’re not just negotiating a pay rate, you’re negotiating how much you as a person and professional, are ‘valued’ at.
Try, as much as possible to remove emotion from your pitch: Acknowledging the above statement highlights why so many of these conversations can become emotional, or even be avoided altogether. The reality is that we don’t want to have these conversations because they are deeply uncomfortable, and moreover, we all fear rejection. Recognising this and trying to look at the situation objectively, in terms of rational measures is imperative to securing a good outcome. Make sure you reflect on the situation from multiple perspectives before honing your business case.
Speak in facts, and quantify where possible: There is only one way to succeed, and this is through preparation – and lots of it. Construct your case based on facts and figures that support your claims. Ground your argument in quantifiable data and / or testimonials to clearly demonstrate what you have achieved, rather than what you ‘feel’. Just like you wouldn’t go into a supplier negotiation with an argument to reduce prices because you ‘feel’ you deserve it – don’t do it here.
Be careful of your tone and demeanour: One of the most important steps to a successful salary conversation is to resist becoming defensive (or even teary!), by maintaining a cool head. Don’t rush to fill pauses in the discussion, let your manager speak, listen and consider their point of view. If you feel that rush of emotion that comes with an answer you don’t like, pause and consider your response. Above all, be open and honest – show humility. Self-entitlement in salary negotiations is not a good look!
Be sure you root it in your company’s process: It helps if your salary review and appraisal processes are linked, but they aren’t always. If you are negotiating a salary increase without an appraisal structure, you need to present your case by measuring and assessing your performance in a similar way. What objectives have you exceeded? How can you demonstrate a proven track record of high performance? Put yourself in your manager’s shoes, what would make him or her give you a salary rise?
Strive for a win:win solution: You can’t negotiate for something that isn’t possible. Critically, before presenting your case, you must have done your research into what your employer can afford to pay. An employer is not going to give you an increase that pushes you beyond the limits of your level of employment in the interests of fairness and equality, so you will hit a brick wall in any conversation if what you want is not feasible, or reasonable. Consider variables, such as additional holidays or an increase in pension, or think about what else you could take on in return for a raise.
Above all, you must maintain a collaborative approach at every stage of the negotiation process. Negotiating salary increases in employment, as opposed to when job seeking, differ in the fact that you can’t just define a walk away point and compete to get it. Think about presenting a case to your employer that shows them what’s in it for them too, how you plan to keep improving and how dedicated you are to maximising return on their investment in you.