Negotiation Know-How

7 tips for attaining top dollar at work

by Erin Urban

It takes courage and planning to successfully negotiate your salary or a salary increase. In fact, it might be even more nerve-racking to ask for a raise than it is to negotiate a new job offer. Not only is negotiation critically important, but often it is underused. Follow these seven tips the next time you negotiate your salary:

  1. Understand and articulate your value.

    I recommend that every professional develop an impact inventory. This is a list of specific examples of how you have added value to the organizations you have worked for. An impact inventory allows you to provide solid evidence of your contributions and be more persuasive in interviews or negotiation situations.

    While hard work and dedication are important, it’s challenging to ask for a certain salary “because I deserve it” or “because I work hard.” Having solid evidence will help you negotiate more effectively.

  2. Research and evaluate your salary range.

    Understanding where you fall in your expected salary range is important for negotiation. Research online to learn more about the pay scale for your career based on your geographical location. Also consider your years of experience and abilities. Assume you deserve the top pay for your experience range—then back that up with the “why” from your impact inventory.

  3. Know your exact number.

    It might sound trivial, but ask for an uncommon and specific salary figure. There is a good deal of psychology in the art of negotiation. For example: instead of asking for $65,000, ask for $65,475. When you ask for an uncommon exact figure, you are more likely to receive it. Your employer will assume that you have done research and will be less likely to use hard negotiation tactics.1

  4. Pick your time wisely.

    Don’t plan to meet with the decision makers right before they leave on vacation or wait until your next performance review. Start discussions well in advance of performance review time.

    “Start talking to your boss about getting a raise three to four months in advance,” explains writer and former HR professional Suzanne Lucas. “That’s when they decide the budget.”2

  5. Centered, calm and confident.

    Your body language is a huge factor in negotiating. Everything from how you walk into the room to your eye contact, hand shake and facial expressions will largely determine your outcome. Practice in front of a mirror or hone your handshake with friends. Much of our response to body language is hardwired into our psyche. Keep your vocal tone positive and practice a pleasantly neutral expression.

  6. Take out the emotion.

    If your first attempts at salary negotiation are rebuffed, don’t give up. Explain why you deserve better pay without being defensive or angry, even if you aren’t getting the response you’d like. Remain calm during the conversation, stick to the facts and don’t be afraid to reiterate your contributions to the organization.

  7. Don’t ignore the perks.

    There are some things worth more than money or that could give you the same monetary net result, such as bonuses. What about additional vacation time? You can negotiate a raise, but after you’re hired it’s almost impossible to negotiate more vacation time. Regardless of what additional perks you negotiate, review all the details in writing before agreeing.

Get what you deserve

Unfortunately, most professionals do not even bother to negotiate their salaries. However, it’s well worth the effort. Salary.com noted that most people who negotiate increase their salary by more than 7%.3 Don’t let fear stand between you and the salary you deserve.


  1. Malia F. Mason, Alice J. Lee, Elizabeth A. Wiley and Daniel R. Ames, “Precise Offers Are Potent Anchors: Conciliatory Counteroffers and Attributions of Knowledge in Negotiations,” Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, Vol. 49, No. 4, 2013, pp. 759-763.
  2. Suzanne Lucas, www.evilhrlady.org.
  3. “Negotiate Your Salary,” Salary.com, www.salary.com/articles/negotiate-your-salary.

Erin Urban is a lean Six Sigma Black Belt from Houston, certified career growth and leadership development coach, and a member of the Forbes Coaches Council. She is the founder of Urban Professional Performance Solutions in Houston. Urban has a bachelor of fine arts degree from Longwood University in Farmville, VA. She is a member of ASQ.

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