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You might think getting a raise is all about some secret tactic you use in “negotiations” with your boss. It’s not. Earning more money is a thinking person’s sport. It takes a bit of strategy for you to both get the raise and have your employer be happy to pay it. Getting a little peek behind the curtain will help you have the ammunition you need to get the income you want.
There are two basic approaches to asking for a raise. One is typical, and on the surface may seem like it makes a lot of sense, but we’ve seen it (and experienced it) completely blow up in your face, and the solid relationship you had with your employer hits the skids and you have no idea really why. We call this the Piker Approach. We’ll shine a big light on this so you see why it doesn’t work!
The second way is nearly never used, yet works brilliantly. It’s how pro athletes get paid so much.
Everyone knows those websites where you enter your job title and you find out what others who do the “same job” are being paid. You can look at what you’re earning, see what others are paid, exclaim, “WTF?! The average in the country is paid x and I get y, I should get more!” and march right up to your boss with your lips pursed, point at the hard evidence, and strongly suggest that you should be paid more.
Of course, I know you wouldn’t use that strategy, but some people do. Or, after they’ve checked that website, they let the information fester, have a few too many drinks to wash away their irritation, and in that state fire off a not-so-strategic email to their boss at 2 a.m. Yeah… well that was one way to do it.
You can, though, take a bit more strategic approach with that evidence, and in a more friendly manner point out that perhaps it would make better sense to pay you a salary more commensurate with the market.
But there’s a problem with this entire approach.
The problem is that it complete excludes all the nuances of your specific job, your situation, your exact role…the list goes on. Your boss realizes where you found this information, points out that it’s not really a good apples-to-apples comparison, and may even think it’s so far off-base that you’re trying to play them. They won’t like that.
Your boss may even begin to wonder, “Is this employee a complete idiot, or do they think I am?”
Neither opinion is good for you, and that explosion you just heard (or didn’t) was this whole thing blowing up in your face.
You may leave with a little something extra just to shut you up, but you may have also cause a shroud to settle over you that could be the beginning of your end at that company.
You probably didn’t want that. There’s a better way.
It starts with a little recon. What’s recon?
Reconnaissance. As in…a little investigation, thinking, planning. It’s understanding what the other guy wants, or, as we say, “Understanding your target’s motivations.” When you put your desire and performance together with the other guy’s motivation, magic happens.
That’s what pros do. It’s how pro athletes make so much money.
It works like this…
In pro sports there are stats being kept on everything: all players in similar positions are constantly being compared and valued. In other words, it’s a pretty good free market system. The players know that if they can perform at a certain level their pay will match. It’s clear.
The problem in business is that it’s not clear. We’re not all playing the same game, so it usually doesn’t make much sense to compare the same position-title in two different companies. The other aspect of business that doesn’t make sense is that we don’t measure everyone’s position like they do in sports. In business, maybe we do a quarterly or an annual review and usually we get small raises that are supposed to reflect the cost of living, and just maybe the raise is based on performance. This makes it difficult for the mover and shaker to get anywhere without shifting their position to something that is more easily measured (i.e. sales, production, company profit).
We strive to understand out target’s (employer’s) motivation.
Imagine that you have a business. Does it make sense to pay people more just because the cost of living has gone up? Does it make sense to have to pay them more just because they’ve been employed longer, especially when longevity is not a guarantee of increased performance (or R.O.I.)? What if your business has actually been getting more competitive and your profit has been declining, yet your players keep wanting more?
This can, and often is, a real challenge for businesses.
You may say, “Hey, that’s not my problem, that’s the business’ problem.” Perhaps.
You do have choices. You can shop yourself around and if someone gives you a better offer you are free to go. But at some point you’re going to run out of that kind of wiggle room and you’ll need to shift gears to a different strategy, one where you can get significantly more whether you stay or leave.
Think about your job, think about all the jobs and how yours fits in. What is the business objective? What are the pieces along the way that can be measured and valued?
Won’t my boss be pissed when I do this?
If your boss is the owner, they’ll probably appreciate someone taking the time to think through this. Employers want to compensate as best they can, but sometimes they just have so much on their plates they find it hard to figure out the best way to do this. Sometimes the boss thinks an employee will go a certain distance, but they don’t use this strategy to figure it out because they don’t think it’s their job or their concern. When you make it your business you will be able to negotiate better. You make it clear you truly care about the organization (and it will show!) rather than making your demands without understanding where the business is headed. This is a big deal.
When you make it your business, you will be able to negotiate better.
Some positions are easier to measure. For example, sales is easy while marketing is a bit more challenging; PR and graphic design are even more so. Customer service can be a trick unless you can measure clients saved… Time invested for x result can be measured.
You’ll start piecing it all together and that’s important. You don’t need to get it all figured out, but you’ll start to understand how the pieces fit and what your piece might really be worth.
Most positions in a company have never really been measured. When you put a measurement to it, you can then determine value.
You can also start thinking like a pro athlete; what if I score more, block more, how much might that be worth? What might that look like? How might we structure it?
Experiment with things you can influence to see if you can get the measurement scores to get better. If you can, then you’ll have massive leverage and be able to ask for more money from a perspective that your employer will understand and appreciate.
Based on your experiment, prepare for your meeting.
If you want a little raise, don’t prepare. if you want a big raise, prepare fanatically and give a big reason for them to be so thankful that you’re on the team and happy to figure out a significant raise.
Also be thinking of what kind of compensation you’re looking for. Some of us want money, some want flexibility (time), some want a promotion and or title… Think through it and come up with two (2) clear options, both of which are good for the business and you.
Now set up a meeting.
I’ve only had two salaried jobs in all my adult life; one night job at a factory as I was building my business by day and the other for a sales company, they wanted me to kick off a music division. I asked one of the owners one day, “Hey, what would I need to do you make $100,000?” I was completely unprepared and he was wildly busy. He huffed, sighed in exasperation, laughed and said, “I have no idea.” That was a terrible response from him because, the way I took it, there was no way I’d ever get to that salary level. But it was also naïve on my part; I could have thought it through a bit better, set it up better, and asked a better question.
I could have taken the burden off the boss, not added to it.
I could have penciled out the business flow, looked at each piece, then asked which generated income, which didn’t. I could have asked for a sit-down with the owners and laid out option A and B, or asked how they thought we might make it work.
You will be much more prepared than I was!
Be the hero. Take the burden off the boss.
I’d suggest setting up a time to chat and simply say, “Hey, I’ve been playing with some ideas that I think can help our business grow faster and maybe even take less effort (or whatever your conclusion from thinking, measuring and testing tells you to say).
Be sure to phrase this as a benefit to them, not you.
If you’re nervous about this, please realize that if you’ve done your prep then really you’re operating like a (free) consultant. Remember, most employees never go this far. And when it comes to the bottom line, the worst they can say is no, right? But you’ve just proven yourself and shown that you’re an incredibly different-thinking person. This also gives you an opportunity to size up your employer. If they appreciate your input after all that work, cool, you’re on the right team; if they don’t, then perhaps it’s time to take your talent elsewhere.
You’ve already come up with the measures of your performance. Now…what sort of test(s) can you set up to see if you get the predicted results, so your boss can see?
Take on the work. Tell them that you’ll do all the work to set up the tests and measures and report back to them how progress is going. See if they’d like to set up times to discuss what’s going on, to make sure you’re on track, and to make sure your initiative is not causing an unintended or unanticipated negaives.
Tell them that you’re “doing this for two reasons:”
a)”I love this company, etc., etc. and I really want to see it grow and become [mention their vision if you’ve heard them say it] and I think we can.” Notice from time to time you say “we?” That shows that you’re taking a vested interest in the business success, not just punching the clock and collecting a check.
- b) “Frankly I’d like to earn more money.” (Notice the word “earn.”) “I don’t think it’s right to come to you asking for more money without first providing more value. I have interesting data, I’ve been doing some testing, and have a proposal that…”
If this person owns the company, you are going to look and sound like a savior. “Nobody” ever says this stuff.
Ask them. “If this works, here’s what I propose..”[Lay it out……]. “Does that make sense?” That last phrase is an ancient negotiating technique called a “tie-down” and it works. Please use it.
Right here you need to be absolutely quiet. Do not be the first to speak. It’s an ancient negotiating technique that is killer. The first one who speaks is at a disadvantage. You want the advantage; be quiet. Let them mull over your proposal. The answer is either going to be “yes,” “no,” or “it depends.” They’re all ok. You’re ready.
Again, worst case is a straight up no and they fire you on the spot. But that’s probably not going to happen. If they do say “no,” it’s going to be a lot more PC in the way they say it. Chances are that they’ll be appreciative but have some things they’ll want to understand more. Again, you’re ready. Now is discussion time. Let it be open and free – your position here is like a consultant really trying to help this business soar.
What tests could you propose that mean no risk to the employer?
“What if we did [the test]. If it works, then the company gets x and I get y. If it try it and it doesn’t work, I stay where I am.
Another way to ask is like this, “How about I do [whatever] for 90 days with no increase. If at the end I’m worth [the higher wage], then we increase my wage and make it retroactive to today. If I haven’t proven myself and done [x], then my wage stays as is?”
You want them to have no risk. (They’ve probably been down this road before and been screwed by paying more and not getting more.) You must provide more value first, and then ask for more money.
And that’s that.
The big deal is, you need to understand what’s important for them, solve it first and ask for money only after, based on positive results.
Provide so much value that they can’t afford to lose you.
Nope. In fact quite the contrary. I am one of the world’s biggest proponents of earning more and working less. So, when you go into your deep dive and figure out how to make a lot more money, I want you also to be thinking of how your company can cut down the time needed to make it happen. And I want you to specifically think about how that can work for you. I want you earning more and working less. I want you to be getting more life back in this process, not just money.
[For more on that specifically, see the class: My Own Money, $1k On the Side. Good info there.]
With what you just learned, you ‘re already seeing things others don’t. You’re going to save time, save steps, increase speed, make better connections…and you’re definitely getting more life back.
Send your comments and picture of you and your accomplishment(s). We’ll post your success story, and then you can be a hero to your friends.
Hey, maybe this becomes a whole new gig for you: “Raise Consultant”