3 Techniques for Successful Salary Negotiations

by Salary.com Staff - Original publish date: May 27, 2015

Think Ahead

While there are no ways to guarantee that a negotiation will succeed, there’s one way that will pretty much ensure that a negotiation will fail, and that’s to go in without any kind of plan.

Common errors include entering a negotiation without doing research of your value on the market, not role-playing the conversation in advance to make sure your selling points are on target (and preparing for pushback on those selling points), and the least effective technique: barging into your boss’ office randomly and deciding to demand a raise or promotion.

I recently came across a very interesting book called “The Cartography of Negotiation” by Scott Wayne with Jason Allen Ashlock. A quick, interesting business book with a textured element of design, it had several unique takeaways.

Within the chapter delving into the interests on both sides of a discussion, they present three core techniques for approaching a successful negotiation.

3. Priming

In the book, Wayne defines priming as such: “When I tell you what to see, you’ll see it. When I tell you what you’ll feel like, you’re more likely to feel that way.” He then gives a great example from the medical world. Compare these two scenarios:

“Dr. Gupta is your attending physician today. She’s tremendous. Great person and terrific physician.”

“Dr. Gupta is your attending physician today. She’ll likely be awhile as she has a huge workload today.”

Do you see how this might play out? In the first scenario, you’re primed to look at how much the doctor is going to help you. In the second, you’re on the lookout for evidence that the doctor is overworked and distracted.

You can see how this might affect you in your career. For example, it’s probably a key reason why so many jobs are found through networking.

If you apply for a position online, you’re counting on your resume to rise above hundreds of others. But if you come into an interview via a recommendation from your previous manager, who told HR “you really need to speak with my former assistant… she’s incredibly intelligent, hard-working, and creative,” then they’re primed to look for those qualities and your change at being hired is that much greater.

2. Anchoring

The second point Wayne makes is around anchoring, asking, “Is a train traveling at an average of 90 miles per hour a fast train?” The key question is, relative to what? It might be fast for an Amtrak train traveling between New York City and Washington, DC, but slow for a high-speed train in Paris.

In a salary negotiation, an example of anchoring might be when a job seeker throws out a high number first. Let’s say there’s a brand new position open, and the company was budgeting between $75,000 and $85,000, while the candidate was hoping for $80,000 to $90,000. If the candidate goes first and says, “I’ve done my research and I was hoping for a salary of $90,000,” then they’ve anchored the initial discussion around that top figure.

Both parties might then work downward from that number, eventually settling on $85,000, which is within the desired range for the employee, and at the maximum compensation for the company. There was wiggle room of $5,000, and by anchoring high, the employee made sure he received the salary at the top of their range.

Conversely, if the company goes first and puts out an initial salary of $75,000, then the employee must negotiate upward from that initial, anchored salary. Working within that same $5,000 of wiggle room, they might eventually settle on $80,000.

1. Framing

The last concept Wayne discusses is framing, or as he puts it, “The negotiators are negotiating about the negotiations.” Lots of things can be framed in advance around a discussion. In the example of asking for a raise, that could be the timing, what will be discussed, who will be present, where it will take place, etc.

The book uses a fantastic example of an analyst that had planned a vacation, which was now being threatened by a last-minute emergency in the office. The author shows how framing the discussion carefully can work to her advantage:

“To have the conversation she wants to have, she’ll use words she can win with: “balance” and “family” and “recharge.” She’ll avoid words that will distract: “Brazil” and “beach” and “no WiFi.”

Once again, there’s no set way to guarantee you’ll get that promotion or land that huge new offer, but if you approach it with a plan and utilize priming, anchoring, and framing, there’s a better chance your gameplan will succeed and you’ll soon end up on a beach in Brazil.

Negotiating is Crucial!

No matter how you do it or which techniques you use, negotiating your salary is an absolute must.

The first thing you should do is research, so you're able to come to the table armed with the knowledge of what your job is worth. Use our free Salary Wizard below to find out what's a fair salary for your position. You can enter your location, education level, years of experience and more to find out an appropriate salary range before you negotiate.

Good luck.