The Exact Words You Should Use to Negotiate a Higher Salary

So you’ve decided to approach your boss about a pay rise. Or perhaps you’ve scored a new job, and the wage you’ve been offered is lower than you’d hoped.

It’s time for the oft-dreaded salary negotiation talk with your supervisor or hiring manager. It’s a conversation that can feel awkward—but for thousands of dollars’ worth of payoff, it’s one of the most important conversations you’ll ever master.

I asked women’s success coaching expert Bonnie Marcus, who is also author of  the exact words women should say to nab the best possible compensation at work.

Here’s what she recommends.

Work out what your boss wants.

Before you approach your manager, you need to clearly understand what he or she values.

“You need to do your homework,” Marcus says. “What does your boss need or want to be successful and how is your work, your contribution, helping him/her reach their goals? You need to understand your value proposition and how you are helping the business reach its objectives, and how will your work help the business in the future.”

Nope, “I just feel like I want more” is not a valid reason for a raise. Nor is “I’ve been here a long time,” if your performance hasn’t demonstrably improved in that period.

Give specific examples.

There’s no one-size-fits-all script when it comes for asking for a more generous salary, Marcus says. That’s because the “magic words” always depend on your particular circumstances.

“Perhaps you’re asking for a raise because of your performance; maybe because you’re doing more work than your job description or you’ve done special projects that require your extra time and expertise,” she explains.

Give specific examples of your progress that illustrate why you’re deserving of more money. Be sure to frame your request in terms of your contribution to the company, highlighting how your progress has translated into profits or a reputation boost for your employer.

“If you state your request this way, it’s about the business and not about you, and it puts you in a much more powerful position to get the raise,” Marcus says.

Practice with a partner.

Before raising the matter with your boss, practice like mad to make sure your tone is respectful, your examples are solid, and your “ask” is clear.

The key is conveying that you are enthusiastic about working for the company, but also confident that you can bring great value to the team.

Rebecca Healy, writing for U.S. News, recommends practicing a personalized script like the following if you’re negotiating salary after a new job offer:

"I'm really excited to work here, and I know that I will bring a lot of value. I appreciate the offer at $58,000, but was really expecting to be in the $65,000 range based on my experience, drive and performance. Can we look at a salary of $65,000 for this position?"

If you’re negotiating a pay rise within your current company, you’ll need to tweak accordingly. Try something like:

“I’ve taken on a number of new responsibilities over the last year, such as [give three examples where you’ve taken the initiative or improved business.] My skill level has improved, so I’d like to discuss increasing my salary to a level that reflects my progress.”

Have a bottom line in mind.

Be sure to have an exact “ask” in mind before you broach the salary issue. “Know before negotiating what is the salary you will take and feel comfortable with,” Marcus urges.

It can’t hurt to ask for slightly more than your actual desired figure, to build in a buffer for being “bargained down.”

Know how to push back.

There’s a good chance your manager will baulk at your request, at least initially. He or she is responsible for keeping an eye on the bottom line, after all.

But if the offer is reasonable given what you know about comparable salaries, you shouldn’t back down straight away.

“The key here is to continue to show your enthusiasm and stay confident in your abilities,” Healy says. She suggests pushing back with something like:

"I understand where you're coming from, and I just want to reiterate my enthusiasm for the position and working with you and the team. I think my skills are perfectly suited for this position and are worth $65,000."

If it becomes clear your salary is non-negotiable, you could also try negotiating benefits or perks.

“What is the total compensation package? Often you can negotiate the benefits rather than the salary per se, if the offer is not reasonable for the salary this might be another approach,” Marcus says.

And if all else fails? “Another tactic might be to take the salary and ask for a six-month review and if you meet the mutually agreed upon terms, you will get an increase,” Marcus says.