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Updated: 14 Dec 2020

32 of the Best Salary Negotiation Tips

geeks earning more


Focuses the job negotiation lens on the 32 salary negotiation tips for business professionals. Includes exercises, a downloadable template, and questions to assist in your preparation.

by Calum Coburn

You’re good at what you do—maybe you’re even an ace. Are you being paid what you’re worth? How many of these 32 salary negotiation tips are you using to get paid what you’re worth?

Sales professionals are still rewarded with the biggest pay packets. Are sales professionals better qualified or smarter than other professions? No, there’s no such thing as a sales degree.

Do sales professionals work longer or harder? Not really. So why, then, are IT and other non-sales related fields not one of the best-paid professions?

There are two main reasons:

  1. Sales brings home the bacon. So, measuring a salesperson’s success is easy, and impact on profit is immediate. Technology’s profit impact is neither immediate nor easy to measure. Geeks can’t do much about this—sorry!
  2. Salespeople negotiate every day. So, the choice is to either negotiate well or have skinny kids and change career paths. Every year, 1 in 3 people leave the sales profession—a much higher churn than the IT industry. Geeks can’t afford not to play catchup, here. The great news is that learning to negotiate well is not nearly as difficult as mastering a programming language.

We’ve watched salespeople outmaneuver and out-negotiate technical pros in the opening hours of our sales negotiation training. In response, we’ve put together this comprehensive salary negotiation article to help geeks close the gap.

We start with 32 essentials. We suggest that you mark your diary to review this article when looking for your next position, raise, or annual review. For those interested in a bright long-term career trajectory (and the bigger checks career enhancement brings), answer the questions and complete the exercises outlined in “Four Foundation Steps” toward the end.

Finally, to assist you in your preparation, open our Salary Negotiation Checklist (M$ Excel). It’s time to put your starting salary, salary increment, or pay raise under the negotiation microscope.

32 Salary Negotiation Tips

Experienced negotiators have mastered the first six negotiation skills below in their salary negotiations. With a little preparation and practice, you can dramatically improve your job offers by using these skills.

1. Negotiate

Yes, even if you don’t attend one of our negotiation training seminars, just by choosing to negotiate, you’ll be raising yourself above most of your competition. How? A Society for Human Resource Management survey found that 8 out of 10 recruiters were willing to negotiate salary and benefits with job applicants. Yet only 33% of applicants surveyed said they felt comfortable negotiating.

In our experience, the remaining 2 out of 10 who weren’t prepared to negotiate with their recruits are either unattractive to work for, had unwisely started with their best offer, or will be forced to revise their thinking when they realize their true choice.

2. Trading

Use the “if / then” process of negotiation (otherwise known as “logrolling”). When an employer is insisting that you’re going to have to make a concession, why not ask for one in return? For example, “If I accept this salary now, then are you prepared to discuss awarding me a performance-related bonus plus a performance review in six months instead of 12 months?”

3. Don’t show me the money

So, when should you talk about the money if not at the outset? At the end? No, but nearer to the end. If you leave salary for last, you’re likely to have little to bolster your chances.

Keep a few cards up your sleeve. When salary comes up, you want to be able to trade in these cards in order to achieve your higher pay package.

So, if the employer wants you to start next month and to work longer hours, keep these cards close to your chest and say “yes” only when it means you’ll be earning more. Practice saying, “we can talk about that” and “that’s possible” rather than showing your tender underbelly by meekly saying “yes” to everything the employer asks of you.

4. Get all offers in writing

You don’t want to commit yourself or turn down other positions without first knowing exactly what is on offer. So, don’t make a decision before the offer is in writing. Also, remember that just because an offer is in writing, it doesn’t mean the offer is carved in stone. This is likely their opening offer—unless you’ve negotiated together at length before the written offer.

An offer in writing is often a starting point for negotiation. Compare the employer’s written offer with your meeting notes (you are taking detailed notes at the end of each meeting, aren’t you?).


Negotiations should not merely be the choice of a binary yes or no decision. Give yourself options. In negotiations, this is often referred to as your BATNA—a term first coined by Harvard’s Project on Negotiation.

The worst thing you can do is to interview for your dream job or that high-rate position—and no other positions. The more job offers on the table, the easier it is for you to say “no thanks” or to negotiate without being hijacked by your emotions.

So, if two options are too few, is a hexadecimal range of choices too many? Probably. Keep at least three attractive options. While having more offers is only going to strengthen your negotiating position, you will stretch your time researching each job and attending the interviews.

Having other potential options at the time of the interview is the greatest source of power at your disposal, and gives you room or latitude within which to negotiate. If the company really wants or needs you, the company isn’t likely going to let you waltz into the arms of their competitors.

6. Set your sights high

Are you aspiring high enough? Most geeks don’t ask for enough—a sad fact of today’s marketplace. Agencies and employers typically make an offer, waiting for the IT professional to argue for a higher salary, only to be surprised with a meek acceptance. This is usually the symptom of low aspirations.

Raise your own price and you’re highly likely to achieve a better result. At first reading, this statement may sound like a contradiction. However, think about this idea for a moment: One of the most significant ways in which employers judge your ability is through your confidence. If an employer is presented with three candidates with roughly similar CVs, and one says that he’s worth more, who is the employer going to trust the high-risk, all-important project responsibilities with?

A higher aspiration communicates confidence, and confidence inspires confidence—and higher salaries.

Walk a Mile in His Shoes

The old saying goes: “Before you judge a man, walk a mile in his shoes.” This isn’t because you’ll be a mile away and wearing his shoes when you’re judging him. No, the challenge is to gain his or her perspective. So we say: “Before you negotiate with a man, walk a mile in his shoes.” Most negotiators spend too little time in the other person’s shoes. On our New York City Sales Training courses we teach to:

7. Ask for More

Following on from 6 above, there’s another strange reason why it’s in your interest to ask for more: Executives hate to be wrong. So, when your boss has made a decision to take you on, your boss is making a personal bet on your potential.

If you perform well, you make your boss look impressive to their peers. If you don’t perform, your boss looks bad. Everyone wants to back a winner. The most obvious way to measure the weight of the bet your boss places on your potential is the figure they put on your head.

So, it’s in a boss’s interest to promote those that are rewarded the highest—as this proves themselves right. Are you following? This means that the more you are paid, the greater your chances of a promotion—and so continues your upward spiral. It’s not necessarily fair, but a subtle human principle of psychology. So, either make this one count in your favor or risk someone else in your organization leapfrogging your future progression.

8. Where does it hurt?

Put your finger on the employer’s pain. It’s perhaps the kindest thing you can do, and your salary prospects go up the more able you are to master this skill. Chances are that your role or project was created to reduce pain, not to increase pleasure.

It’s been proven that managers and executives are more motivated to act to solve problems rather than create opportunities. So, find out what problem you will solve and size up the risks you mitigate, and talk frankly with your employer or client about what may happen if your services aren’t used.

Better you invite the employer into an unsavory future than let the employer not foresee or underestimate the potential negative outcome and then find themselves adrift in a sea that you could have saved the employer from. The bigger the employer’s pain, the larger your gain.

9. Get on the inside track

Get to know people in your target organization, or better yet—in your target department. Inside information can be the gold dust you need to strike gold. Knowing the right people, winning trust, and asking the right questions can be key to gaining the upper hand. This process takes time, so start asking your friends who they know.

10. Do your homework

Visit the employer’s website, and learn all you can about their industry—past and present. Even if your role is a supporting type that’s safely tucked away from the coalface of the changing harsh market, employers want staff who are interested in making a difference.

Find areas that you’re passionate about, and remember these points just before your interview to fuel your passion for securing the role. This isn’t easy to achieve when you have many interviews to attend, so be selective about the roles you want to take seriously enough to research. It helps to stick to one industry, especially if you’re already familiar with the industry.

As always, write your questions down, and ask your interviewer or friends who have the inside track. Use the web and other resources to your advantage to know the real worth of your skills and role.

A word about your instincts: If you uncover some information that causes you concern and you can’t find a satisfactory answer, don’t be shy to ask your interviewer. If the interviewer doesn’t satisfy your concerns, don’t take the role. You don’t have to work for an industry or company whose ethics don’t sit comfortably with you—so trust your gut. The Negotiation Experts’ ethics prevent us from working with tobacco companies.

Play the Corporate Game

If you’re working for a corporation, then it’s wise to learn the rules of their hiring game.

11. Rules and policies

If the employer states that something is company policy, challenge it by asking the basis or reason for the policy. Ask what exceptions have been made, and the rationale behind these exceptions. Find a situation or context that would make you exempt from the policy.

For example, if the policy isn’t applied to contracting staff, then ask the employer to change the position to a contractual one rather than a full-time role. Almost every rule has exceptions.

12. Don’t play in the band

“We can’t pay you more than X, as this is the maximum allowed for your grade.” Heard this before? Insidiously effective if left unchallenged. Your employer is defining the rules to their own game, and straight-jacketing you into their mold.

Do you really want to conform? Of course not. So, what can you do? Rebel. That’s right, break free from the boundaries of their pay bands by creating a convincing argument as to why you are “different,” and exceptionally exceptional.

With large corporations, creating this argument isn’t easy. Start by writing out all the ways in which you stand out from the run-of-the-mill competition. These are your differentiators, setting you apart from the pack. Consider the other side’s perspective, as the employer may value you for reasons that you think are mundane. Be careful to examine the contextual factors:

  • Is the project or area you’re involved with time-sensitive? This fact will likely make it more difficult to replace you in a flash.
  • Is there anyone else in the company who can do your job? Who else boasts your unique combination of skills and experience? Is anyone else prepared to perform your job?
  • Does your role really fit neatly into a salary category and band? If you can make a good argument as to why your role is unique and different, then you’re more likely to persuade.

What is the difference between the grade the employer wants to cast you into, and the next grade or two higher? Make a case for your fitting into a higher grade with a more handsome pay scale.

13. Decisions, decisions!

It’s disheartening when you have been negotiating like an ace, only to discover late in the day that the final decision needs to be made by someone else. This often means negotiations start afresh, and after you’ve already played your best cards.

So, map out the employer’s decision-making process, paying particular attention to the person or people responsible for making the final decision. Either talk with decision-makers directly or at least get permission to talk once you’ve successfully negotiated with HR or lower-level staff.

Beware the Traps

Many employment agencies and companies alike use the following three tactics to get a better deal for the company.

14. Read the contract!

Generally speaking, the person who creates the game has the advantage. So, don’t negotiate a superb job offer verbally, only to push a lot of gold across the table by not reading the employer’s contract. It can take time and usually isn’t written in easily comprehensible language.

If you have a friend who’s an attorney or lawyer, or who knows about labor law or contracts, then have the friend read the contract. Don’t be afraid to ask your employer about anything you are unhappy with or that doesn’t make sense.

15. Stay out of range

Your future boss or HR may try to persuade you to state your salary range early on. Try to avoid giving a range if possible by asking what salary range the employer is offering instead, or say you will consider any reasonable offer. If you have a fairly good idea of what salary ranges are applicable to your situation and are pressed into a corner to be specific, go for the top end of the salary range. You can always negotiate down.

16. Do not fill in salary boxes

Seen the forms that ask you for your last position’s salary or contract rate? Leave this part blank. If an employer asks for your salary expectation, tell the employer that you’re “open” or are “negotiable.” Why? Once you state a salary, this rate will form the ceiling beneath which the negotiation game will be played. Similarly, if you provide a salary range, you can guess which end of your range you’ll be anchored to.

17. Don’t take “no” for an answer

“No” doesn’t necessarily mean no! You’re not the only one trying to get the best deal out of the negotiation. Just because the employer said they can’t meet your salary or compensation range, it doesn’t mean the employer won’t call back and up the offer later. Employers changing their minds happens all the time. Often, it’s no more than negotiation tactics.

After all, if the employer won’t meet your price, maybe it’s time to ask yourself whether this is the company you want to work for in the first place!

Your Interpersonal Skills

If you currently use even one of the following six interpersonal gems, you are already ahead of the pack. Most are oblivious to the leverage they can achieve, and of course, it costs you nothing but time in preparation. ssdsafadfa

18. Your 60 seconds

Studies show that on average, you have 60 to 90 seconds to make an impression. Some research even suggests that this process occurs in the first four seconds! So, make sure you dress well, appear confident, act friendly, and make eye contact.

19. The 70/30 rule

This rule means that you listen 70% of the time in the interview or review to learn the employer’s position, options, viewpoints, or presentation on what the company is prepared to offer. Don’t interrupt—ever. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Open-ended questions are generally better, as these questions encourage discussion and further exploration and can arm you with more detailed information.

20. Take your time

When an offer is made, don’t respond immediately. Take time to digest the salary offer. If necessary, say you will respond within one or two days in response to the offer. If the offer is less than what you were expecting, now is the time to bring up your own research to move them northwards. Again, be prepared to illustrate your research with the resources at your fingertips.

21. Tell a story

… or three. Most IT pros know their facts. However, knowing information isn’t enough. You need to be able to make your facts come alive and dance in the form of a convincing story. The company needs to buy into YOU, so you need to be memorable and persuasive.

One of the best ways to make a great impression is to rehearse your stories. Which stories? Your successful war stories. You know, the Mission Impossible projects you pulled through against all odds. Get skilled at painting scenarios vividly, gather the essential facts on just how challenging the project was, and how much money you saved your company.

You need to sing your own praises. Yes, it’s not as romantic as someone else singing your praises for you. However, unless you can wheel your ex-boss into the interview room, you need to blow your own trumpet. Modesty doesn’t put much money into your bank account. So, investing in your storytelling skills is likely to have a higher rate of return than another technical or degree qualification.

Write your stories out and take them to a friend in the marketing department for sharpening (marketing folk can be VERY useful to have as friends when it comes to salary negotiation time.)

22. Write down all your questions

Why? Questions get information, and information is power in any negotiation. The better the quality of your questions, the more powerfully you can negotiate. Practically speaking, there’s a risk you’ll forget if you don’t capture each question. You’ll find yourself upgrading your questions after seeing the questions in print—which will likely secure better answers in the interview.

We suggest you create a visual mind map of your questions and sequence each one in a logical order. This should keep you from forgetting to ask your most important questions without needing to pull a question cheat sheet from your pocket.

23. Show your passion and interest

Let the company know that you are interested. There’s a real danger that if you focus purely on negotiating effectively, the company may not know just how keen you are to join their organization.

So, tell the employer what you like about their organization and that the reason you’re negotiating is that you’re interested in joining them. This should increase the employer’s interest in you, and may cause the company to stop looking for others for the position—thereby increasing your negotiating power.

Create Value

Negotiation isn’t all about a fixed pie value-claiming exercise. To create a trusting long-term relationship and to enjoy a higher pay packet, you will do well to collaborate with the employer to jointly expand the pie.

24. The value of timing

As a general rule, don’t discuss salary until an employment or salary offer is made. You also need to establish value in your employer’s eyes before quoting your (deservedly!) high price tag. Until the employer sees value, any price is too high. So, find out if you really want the position before you plant your money stake in the ground.

There’s also a danger that if you shortsightedly focus on your sales price, you’ll be branded as greedy and not seen as interested in their company or industry. You are at your most powerful when responding to the offer. So take your time, and don’t rush. You may wish to pause the negotiation and consider the facts for a day or more.

You do need to know whether the employer is in the same ballpark, or is simply hitting above their own weight. So, find out before the interview what the expected salary range is, to avoid wasting both sides’ time. Usually, the job advert states a salary range, so the figure should hopefully not be a deal-breaker.

25. Your mental frame

“Too many people are thinking of security instead of opportunity” James F. Brynes. Think about your thinking; examine your mental frame. Are you viewing your salary negotiation and job as an opportunity or a safety net? Opportunity negotiators perform better, as these negotiators have given themselves the mental freedom to be courageously flexible.

Case Study: Steve is a Senior Developer and Team Leader. Although Steve found his work to be satisfying, he never really found the time he needed to take stock and see if he was being paid his true worth. Projects were never-ending and always somehow high priority and urgent.

So, after being badgered by his partner, Steve told his employer that he was going away for a long weekend, and used this time to search the net for positions offering comparative salaries in similar companies. At first, Steve felt uncomfortable about the thought of leaving his employer, and persuaded himself that he was “just gathering information.”

Steve’s job discoveries surprised him. Despite his annual salary reviews, Steve could get 15-35% more! Unsure of whether the jobs were really that similar, Steve decided to contact the companies and agencies responsible for placing the ads. Steve wrote his most important questions down, and then took notes from each confidential telephone conversation.

Some were ruled out for requiring relocation or unsociable hours. The three that remained were just too interesting to not take further. So, Steve interviewed for these positions, still just curious to know what he was really worth. After receiving attractive written offers from two companies, Steve had to talk with his manager.

It wasn’t easy to think seriously about leaving his company and teammates. In the meeting, Steve stressed how much he enjoyed his job, and how he believed in what the company was doing and how he would like to continue his career with the company. He shared that two recent more attractive offers were forcing him to reconsider his options, and asked what his manager could do to make it attractive enough for him to stay.

To Steve’s surprise, a week later his salary (including bonuses) was boosted by 30%, with most of his requests (which had been dismissed in the past) honored! Steve remarked: “It was all too easy to keep my head down and keep busy with my projects. If it wasn’t for my partner needling me to do a little homework, I don’t think anything would have changed. Yes, it did take many hours of investment, but the rewards are easily worth it. I feel a little more confident from the experience.”

26. Sell your value

Sell your value, and make your value visible. Stress what you have to offer the employer. Explain why you are the person for their job. Explain why you deserve a good raise or bonus by pointing out your accomplishments. State your sources from your prior research to underpin your facts. The interview chair is not time to become shy or timid.

27. Your true cost

How much do you really cost? Think of yourself as an asset to your company, and work out how much you really cost. If you don’t, you’ll risk spending too much time talking about salary and related bonuses only, and not enough time on your real cost. You’ll also run the risk of not discovering ways you can save your company money—money that can be shared with you.

So, if you have an office at home and are happy working from there some days per week, then what are the cost savings your employer will reap? Do you have your own laptop and accessories?

Did you go direct, or through an agency? If direct, then how much are you saving your employer in agency fees? If via an agency, then how much are the employer paying the agent? Could you negotiate your agency fee downward?

Do you really need all the fringe benefits? Would the employer be happy paying you the equivalent in money instead?

28. Is time on your side?

Calculate what you’re worth per hour or day, and multiply the number of hours you will be working to see if you’re being paid your full worth. Many consultancies expect that you work longer hours, including weekends, but don’t pay you for this overtime. So, the high salary may look less attractive when you weigh the real opportunity cost in lifestyle trade-offs.

Perhaps you should be negotiating a time-based pay model rather than a project or fixed rate. So would an hourly rate be better than a daily rate? Alternatively, if you’re confident of completing the project in good time or in fulfilling your responsibilities in, say, four days per week, then argue for the full salary on your reduced amount of time. Would flexitime suit you better?

29. Many goals to score

Flesh out your goals and interests before going into negotiations, in as much detail as possible. Make our Salary Negotiation Checklist your own by adding in extra columns. The more distinctions you make, the more material you have with which to negotiate.

If you walk into a negotiation with only one goal, you risk being stuck in a deadlock. With two goals, you risk a to-and-fro dilemma. With three or more goals and issues, your options begin to open up, and with some creative juices, you can build the perfect job offer. So, divide your goals and negotiation issues into sub-goals and sub-issues.

30. The Perfect Job Trinity

The Perfect Job can be yours, but only if you hit bulls-eye on the Perfect Job Trinity. Too many IT professionals start their job searching online, looking at ads. This only takes care of the most visible part of the trinity—”Job Offers.” Unconsciously, IT professionals scan roles with an eye out for tasks and responsibilities that they know they can do—”Your Skills.”

Assessing your skills should have structure, starting with your assessing and them mapping out fully ALL your skills to date—even the skills from previous careers you didn’t think you would end up using again.

Usually last on the list is the most important: “What you enjoy.” So, do you love your job? Yes, we don’t use the “L” word lightly. If you don’t love your job, then write down all the things you have enjoyed. Be sure to include hobbies and previous careers.

If you do love your job, then you’re lucky to be able to add to this list all the wonderful things you love about your current job. This makes sure that you won’t take a role that doesn’t give you full satisfaction. There’s a very real danger of your taking for granted all the things you love, and then missing these aspects when you later realize what they were.

So what does all this have to do with salary negotiation? Firstly, you’re only ready to negotiate a position when you know it’s right for you. Otherwise, you’ll likely be unhappy, not excelling, and unable to perform at your best. You’ll likely want to move on sooner.

Secondly, having a list or mind map of all the skills you possess and all the things you enjoy can focus your job searching lens.

Thirdly, you’ll be able to focus in on the skills that you possess that your employer needs—whether the employer realizes or not.

Fourthly, your role may be shaped into one that gives you real satisfaction. This makes everyone happier in the long run.

Ethics, Tactics, and Trust

Trust and credibility take a long time to build up but can be destroyed in seconds.

31. Don’t be evil

Just as Google’s corporate motto stated in the early days. Promise to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but… Geeks are famed for telling it like it is. Don’t trade on your hard-earned professional reputation for the sake of a possible benefit. Being honest does mean you can choose which facts you want to focus on, and which you wish to avoid.

This is an important part of “Framing.” Choose which part of the picture you wish to focus the frame on, but don’t distort the truth. It’s likely that you want a longer-term relationship with your employer. Industries are smaller than you may think, and people do talk. If you find the other side being economical with the truth, challenge them, and give the other side a chance to put the record straight.

32. Tactical Counters

Beware the tactics. Learning which tactics to avoid the hard way is too costly. So, should you be using tactics? We suggest not. Tactics are usually dishonest, and dishonestly costs you in the credibility stakes. When successful, tactics may win you money in the short term, but the other side will likely be gunning for you next time around. People often want to regain the dignity they see you having taken from them—otherwise known as revenge.

Negotiation credibility takes a long while to build up but can crumble in seconds. Negotiation tactics are a zero sum game that hurts trust and relationship irreparably. You still need to be aware of tactics in order to better be able to identify and neutralize tactics when someone inevitably tries to use tactics on you. We’ve named and shamed the more important tactics in several of the points above, and shared advice on how to counter them.

Do pick up a book on negotiation tactics to be on guard, and be armed to counter nasty tactics you will undoubtedly encounter.

The Way of the Future

33. Supply and demand

Taking feedback from readers, I agree that there is a valuable 33rd point that needs to be added. A general rule of thumb in business is that of supply and demand. Perhaps one of the reasons sales continues to hold sway as the best paying career path is exactly because you can’t take a degree in sales.

Remember what salaries were like in IT before certifications and degrees popped up all over the place? Standardization and regulation leave in their tidy wake more workers who can more easily be compared and traded off against each other, which of course pushes wages downward. Tertiary institutions are perfect for left-brain-focused IT, but woefully poor at the right-brain people and high concept skills that sales demands.

Another trend that goes hand in hand with this reality is outlined by Daniel Pink in his book “A Whole New Mind.” Daniel goes on to make the point that if it’s left-brained, logical, and process intensive, it can be boxed up and learned in the developing world. This pushes supply up still further. Now tell me, how easily can a graduate living in India or China sell a non-commodity product to your clients?

The advice here for techies? Go one of two ways: Become niche, specialize and target your services, and re-train regularly. Otherwise, combine your left-brain IT skills with right-brain people and conceptual skills to become an uncommon hybrid adding value and ideas with follow-through.

Preparation: Four foundation Steps

Now that you’re finished reading our best salary negotiation tips, it’s time to book a few hours in your diary to conduct some preparation. We suggest you set a few hours aside for you and your future career trajectory.

1. What makes YOU so special?

What are your USPs? (Unique Selling Points, nothing like a UPS…) Be affirmative when you take stock of everything you have to offer the company. Define all your qualifications. Base your points on:

  • Your education
  • Relevant IT certifications, courses, specialized or unique IT credentials
  • Prior work experience
  • Everything you have accomplished with your current and previous employers

Never undervalue yourself! This should be part of your core differentiating strength and power. Next, look back at yourself through the lens of your prospective employer. How are you uniquely positioned to give the employer what they’re looking for?

2. Research

Find out what your skills and level of experience are worth in the job market through objective market research. Understand your area of the IT market. You can get a fairly accurate idea of what salary range and compensation you should be making by knowing the market.

This information is available through many sources. You can easily Google professional IT associations, career centers, IT tech magazines, government sources, or check out what competitor IT roles are offering on a multitude of employment websites. You can also ask others in your field what expected wage and compensation packages are being offered.

Don’t just limit yourself to money. Be sure to look at the whole package on offer—part of which will inevitably be in hard currency. So, consider:

  • Sign-on bonuses
  • Other bonuses
  • Salary reviews
  • Stock options
  • Relocation expenses
  • Health/life/disability plans
  • Professional memberships
  • Certifications
  • Profit-sharing plans
  • Tuition reimbursement
  • Vacation and sick days
  • Termination contract
  • Overtime rates and policies
  • Flexitime working, etc.

These are all intangible factors that have worth to both you and your client or employer. Be sure to pull the levers that affect your job happiness the most, and ensure that what you value finds its way into your contract.

Anticipate what the employer is going to discuss, review, or what questions you might be asked. Write these questions out, along with your answers, and maybe even rehearse with a friend. If you look at the process through the eyes of the employer, you will be better prepared to seize the moment and dazzle the employer.

3. Know your niche

What is the outlook for your area or niche of the IT industry? Is it downsizing or in an economic upswing? How do your skill levels and experience relate to the profession? As far as IT professional demand goes, are you hot or cold? Even when times are tough for your industry, it doesn’t mean you can’t negotiate: it simply means you may need to be creative and choose your project or position more carefully.

If you can’t get the salary you want right now, negotiate the performance review instead. Think about it: if you can deliver value to a company in three to six months, why wait a year for a salary adjustment? If you’re being targeted on results for a particular project within six months, negotiate a bonus if you deliver ahead of schedule. Get the idea?

4. Dare to dream

Once you’ve completed your research, be clear and specific about what you want. So, what exactly is your objective? Work out your objective before shopping for potential compensation packages on offer in the open market. Give yourself some latitude when considering the various options you consider negotiable. This means deciding on the compensation range you consider acceptable and open to negotiation.

Our unconscious minds influence our everyday behavior far more than most of us realize. So, create your own inner movie to motivate yourself and get a clearer picture of where you want to be in 12 months or even five years’ time.

Start by picturing where you will be living, what you will be wearing, what you’ll be driving, and who you’ll be enjoying your life with when successful. Then work backward, and answer the question: “What events led to this future?” This is by far the best way to arrive at the compensation options you’re going to need to live the lifestyle you’re really after.

This may be part of the secret behind how sales professionals trump all others in the salary stakes to be the world’s highest earners, year after year. Top account managers and sales managers know how to harness their unconscious minds to reach the future of their dreams. Isn’t it time IT professionals caught up?


Most of our clients are sales professionals. By contrast, IT professionals typically attend our public courses for three main reasons:

  1. After being promoted to a directorate position and they don’t want to be pushed around the boardroom.
  2. Their large or high profile project demands that they persuade and influence to get things done.
  3. Their skinny kids force them to take up IT sales.

Salary or contract negotiation is seldom a binary decision.

If you’re still reading, you’re either skimming (and need to go back to read the rest…), or you’re serious about claiming the rewards you deserve. Of course, you do need to be worth the money. Salary negotiation skills are not a substitute for having the right qualifications and knowledge, or for doing a great job.

We strongly recommend booking a few hours into your diary to answer our questions and complete the exercises suggested above. You’ll undoubtedly get more out of the exercises if you tackle them with a friend—fresh perspectives can help. Speaking of friends, if you’ve learned a thing or two from reading this article, then share this article with your friends—but hide it from HR and your manager, at least until after your salary negotiation…

Clark K (1999 Nov) Gimme, gimme, gimme: Job seekers don’t realize they can ask for more – lots more. U.S. New s and World report, pp. 88-92. Cates K (1997) Tips for negotiating a job offer. Unpublished manuscript, Department of Psychology. University of Illinois. Thompson L (2001) The Mind and Heart of the Negotiator. Appendix 4: Negotiating a Job Offer. pp 327-335

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4.7 out of 5 from 23 responses
  • 3
    Heather on

    Leaving the previous salary box blank is definitely something that has helped me get a better pay rate. It’s more for the company’s benefit than yours, so this is a really good tip. Thanks for sharing!

  • 1
    mintly on

    Read this in-depth article to discover how you should be negotiating to be rewarded with the salary you deserve. Annual reviews and job offer interviews are covered. Relevant to all careers.

  • 11
    Ellen on

    I love how thorough this article is. The last part is one that I bet no one ever does: discuss future performance and raises. It's so much easier to do this upfront and set expectations around it for both parties than wait until the performance review and be disappointed when expectations for raises falls short. Here are some great lines to discuss the need for more money on the art of salary negotiation.

  • 11
    CK on

    Worth keeping as rererence for life

  • 11
    Jim on

    I am in a very specialized technical field, not IT. Even so, this article prompted me to write several very specific and very useful follow-up points for negotiation, even though I believe I currently have a strong hand. As such, I think it is applicable to and very valuable to anyone in any salary negotiation.

  • 6
    Kate on

    what a detailed turtorial!
    thanks a lot!
    it is increadibly useful especially for beginners.

  • 3
    Jason on

    I’m a “newbie” in the IT field and I think this is solid stuff for someone like me. I downloaded some information from talent capture the other day that may be of interest to some here as well. I’m just trying to make the right steps early in my career and every decent article I see I’m bookmarking. Hopefully all this reading helps, lol.

  • 7
    Tinles on

    Wow! One of the few long articles that captured and retained my attention throughout. Glad to have stumbled upon it even if a few years late! I’ll definitely use these tips to improve my negotiation skills and pass it on to my friends.

  • 6
    Annette Cohen on

    wow, this article has been really helpful, i’ll definitely be putting these tips into practice. Thanks so much for posting.

    Annette C.
    Sales Compensation

  • 4
    AKK on

    Very useful advices and tips…

  • 11
    Thomas Chacon on

    I followed this advice to the letter, really pulled out all the stops, and went from $105,000 to $168,000!

  • 12
    Dr. Chronos on

    Advice is good on negotiating a job offer and interviewing for that job in the first place. However, the advice clearly had more to offer in the years prior to the recession. The talk of having multiple job offers to consider and aiming high enough is a tad optimistic for the current dire environment.

  • 8
    E Srinivas Reddy on

    Its good information to have fair understanding in negotiating process

  • 4
    thickin on

    The last para is hilarious…the author is a psych. I did skim. So I went back…but it's still too long for me. should have a version for the more experienced, as some of the 37 tips are kinda obvious.

  • 14
    A Parmar on

    This is an excellent piece of advice!! I will certainly make use of this in my next negotiation. Thanks again.

  • 15
    Eric Rulofson on

    I was recuited in my last two positions and have little to no experience negotiating. I found your article to be very informitive. I am greatful it was available on line at no cost. I plan to develop my negotating strategy based on many of your recommendations.

  • 7
    Ramona on

    Following the IT boom in the 90s, there is a misled conception that programmers are “IT” geeks. Being a hard core IT person with two degrees in IT from a renowned University, I have corrected many people from the assumption they make that I am a programmer when I tell them my background is IT. It is like saying the bank tellers are accountants. The real IT people are all well paid based on skills. The non-real IT people who claims to be in IT are arrogant, and not so much among the real ones.

  • 12
    Marno Kulmala on

    Thanks for this excellent advice! I have a development meeting in a couple of weeks and I’ll be using the advice from this website for sure.

  • 10
    Shenco on

    Excellent article, it will be really helpful for my next interview!

  • 14
    John on

    I def. agree with everything in this article, but I don’t think that it is any sort of breaking news. The real issue, though, is if geeks are happy in the basement and aren’t so underpaid that they revolt, then so be it. Sales guys are happy with money and we are happy with gadgets and being left alone. Different beasts that eat different food.

  • 9
    Vlad Gurgov on

    Hello Calum! 🙂 Very good
    A few points:
    IT proffesionals may play in the global it marketplace as freelancers. In other countries their salary maybe not so low.
    An example in Russia according to offial reviews: average salary of top IT experts especially with ERP and other rare skills may be near those of business owners (something around $4-5000/month)
    Sales skills by contrast are rather “local” – you have to be very good in negotiations in your own language and culture to sell your products and services.

  • 22
    S.Senator on

    There was one key reason left out of this article, and it is probably the most critical. That is, IT job skills, as a purely knowledge-based practical skill, are some of the most portable in the world. Therefore, any applicant for a job is competing in the world-wide IT job market, knowingly or not. An increased supply of potential applicants means that any single individual has relatively little leverage, unless s/he can quickly sell themselves on their own truly unique advantages.

  • 14
    Paul on

    Many – I mean many sales professionals do not earn what a lot of IT people make and I beleive the animosity towards sales is based on a few high flyers. But to make a better case consider an engineer with 4 or 6 year degree from a demanding university, perhaps even a PE – may not make what a lot of 2 year associate degreed IT people make. I have met a number of EEs that can write code circles around ANY IT network jockey I have met and they still have trouble making what the IT guys can earn.

  • 34
    Ryan on

    Well, equating intelligence to a degree, or not recognizing that many sales professionals work 60+ hours per week might be a good clue. As a sales professional for a large IT firm, I can say that an arrogant attitude by our IT staff is very much one of the main roadblocks to them being taken more seriously. Yes, you make the system work. But that doesn’t mean you are more integral to the process than others, or deserve to be treated with any more respect. Respect is earned by giving respect.

  • 37
    Ted Franklin on

    If only I’d read this 15 years ago! Although I’ve earned a good whack over the years, I’ve remembered so many mistakes and missed opportunities whilst reading (yes, I read it all; and no, I’ve not yet completed the last section’s exercises). Definitely rereading before my next annual appraisal.

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