So you want more money...

Type ‘asking for a pay rise’ into your chosen search engine or social media platform and a plethora of hints and tips are thrown up. All will be well intentioned, some based on personal experience, and many, unfortunately, speculative in nature.

Wouldn’t it be great if, rather than relying on intuition and gut feeling, there was a more informed source of advice? Well it turns out there is. For years persuasion researchers have been studying the most effective ways to get others to say ‘yes’ and the results provide practical and effective approaches to, among other things, asking for a pay rise. Here are three tips to help you take the next step…

Go first

The first few minutes of negotiations are often like the first minutes of a boxing match. Each party dancing around, reluctant to throw the first punch. But when it comes to negotiations the research is pretty compelling: those who table the first offer generally end up better off.

The reason is that first offers typically act as an anchor subtly influencing the salary discussions that follow. In fact, persuasion science would advocate a ‘be first and be precise’ strategy for tackling this.

One recent study found managers negotiating a complex business transaction received offers that were 24% closer to their asking price when they made the opening offer and that offer came in the form of a precise, rather than round, number.

Be specific and be precise

Avoid the trap of stating a range. Doing so can signal that the lower end of that range is acceptable to you. Instead, use a single specific number and make it precise. 

Research shows that people who make precise requests – let’s say 4.7% – generally fair better than those that demand a less precise but larger number such as 5%. One reason is because people think that, unlike a round number that could have been plucked from thin air, there must be a reason why a precise number is being used.

That said, you need to make sure your request is not so precise as to border on the ridiculous. Asking for £63,450 might get you closer to £63,000 than asking for £65,000. But asking for £63.658.24 is plain silly.

Take steps to remove emotion

Salary discussions can be emotionally laden, especially if you feel your current pay is unjust and not reflective of your input. However, research shows that bringing emotions to the meeting could impact detrimentally.

In one study, participants were asked to think about an emotionally arousing experience before making buying and selling decisions. The researchers found they were less sensitive to price and number differences than those who were emotionally neutral because the less emotional were able to deal on factual, pertinent information. As a result, writing down your pay request and the reason why you are worth it on paper and keeping it handy during the meeting is a good idea. 

But timing your request to profit from a manager’s vulnerability immediately after they have received bad news probably isn’t…

Yes! 60 Secrets from the Science of Persuasion by Steve Martin is available now for £7.49 from