Make a good case when you’re counteroffering a salary


Asking for what you want could mean tens of thousands of dollars. But you need to ask for it.

A beloved coaching client was looking to branch out to something new after 20 years in her field. And she wanted a shorter commute. “My commute’s an hour on a good day,” she told me.

“Also, I’m going to need help with negotiating the offer,” she said. “I’m really nervous about that.”

“Any updates?” I emailed her, checking in. (I worry if I don’t get updates.)

“Yes! I’m a finalist for a director role at X,” and she named a company located not far from her house. “It’s a new industry for me, and the people I met with seem to enjoy working together and are respectful — which are both incredibly important to me.”

A couple of days later, she told me she had an offer in hand.

“I won’t be happy with myself if I don’t counter because I tend to shy away from negotiating and then kick myself for it later when I find out that I’m making less than others,” she said. “Story of my career.”

“I think I should counter with $10,000 more,” she said tentatively.

“How could you make the case for more than $10,000?” I asked. I don’t like countering for the sake of countering. I like to have a good reason for a nice, fat number.

We came up with a solid business case for her ask based on comps, industry standards and her salary trajectory over the last several years.

And then we wrote out exactly how she would make the counteroffer. We wrote out word for word what she would say when she got on the phone with HR the next morning.

“How’d it go?” I emailed her the next morning. (Like I said, I worry.)

“I am so proud of myself! I did it!” she emailed me. Her new company agreed to pay her $20,000 more than the original offer.

Let me say that again: She had increased the offer by $20,000, just by making a good case for it.

“I started managing people (and a swimming pool and a swim team!) at the age of 19 and this is the first time I’ve really countered an offer,” she told me. “So, 30 years to get up the nerve. Crazy.”

That’s all well and good, but you know what I’m really happy about in this story?

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