7 Expert Tips on How to Negotiate Salary Over the Phone

negotiate salary over phone

If you’re doing research on how to negotiate salary over the phone, chances are you’re preparing for an important discussion. And if you’ve made it to the topic of salary in your job offer negotiation, you might even have an offer table. 

If this is you, congratulations! Salary negotiation talks can be very exciting. But whether your negotiation is part of a new job offer or an ongoing employment deal, one thing remains the same: There are right and wrong ways to go about this.

Salary negotiation is a delicate topic. And while it might be stressful, fear not. Best practices exist to help you be as prepared as possible as you gear up to negotiate salary over the phone, or in person. Not to mention entire negotiation services exist for those who would rather just let someone conduct the negotiation on their behalf. 

In this post, we’ll cover 7 of our most important tips for getting the most out of your negotiation.

Is it Best to Negotiate Salary Over the Phone?

Before we dive into our 7 negotiation tips, we’d be remiss if we didn’t put this entire topic up for debate. If you’re looking for tips on how to negotiate salary over the phone, you’re probably expecting your negotiation to be held through that medium.

Let this be a reminder that as a valued candidate or employee, you don’t have to hold your discussion over the phone. Employers often call the shots in these situations, but if you prefer a different medium for conducting important discussions like this, you’re entirely warranted in making that known.

Lots of opinions exist on the “best” way to negotiate. Since everyone is different, there cannot possibly be an objective best. At 10x Ascend, we actually encourage our clients to take their salary negotiation discussions to email even in situations that start on the phone. This is for a number of reasons that can be read about in a recent post we wrote about salary negotiation emails.

Of course, for the sake of this post we are assuming your negotiation takes place over the phone, which works perfectly fine for many. So without further ado, enjoy the following expert tips on how to negotiate salary over the phone like a pro.

How to Negotiate Salary Over the Phone

Since we represent tech talent all across the country, many of our negotiations take place in phone or email contexts. Here are some of the most consistent tips we can offer – ones that likely apply to anyone preparing to negotiate their salary over the phone.

1. Don’t Lock Into a Number Before Seeing the Entire Deal

Any employer that jumps into a salary discussion before disclosing the details of the entire offer is doing the candidate a massive disservice. This is because as the candidate, the salary you eventually agree to accept should be influenced by what else is in your offer.

Think of your salary negotiation as one small part of a much larger deal. Value exists in many places outside of the salary. For example, PTO days have value, equity has value, bonuses have value. So too do lifestyle items like remote time, flex time, and office location.

Without knowing how much value exists in the various pockets of your deal, it’s near impossible to conduct a well-informed negotiation. If this ends up being you, end the phone call early and postpone until you have all sufficient details.

2. Prepare, Always

Tip #1 segues perfectly into the broader concept discussed here – of course, prepare. When negotiating in real time, the most important thing is to be prepared and leave nothing to chance. Before the call you should know exactly what you want. And as discussed above, you should know exactly what is at stake.

All things considered, ask yourself realistically what you consider to be the low end of your salary negotiation range (bonus tip! – the bottom of your range should actually be your goal salary and the top of your range should be your aspirational salary). If they come in at the bottom of your range, will you accept? Or will you try to keep the negotiation open to hopefully get to a higher number?

Another way to think about this – if everything else in the offer is great (other than salary), what is the lowest salary you would be willing to accept? Or on the other hand, if everything else is in the deal is horrible, how much would you need to be paid to still say yes?

3. Remain Grateful and Respectful

This goes for negotiating via any medium. With email, you have more time to make sure you thank all relevant people and articulate your gratitude appropriately. But of course, you can still achieve this over the phone.

It’s wise to express your gratitude before jumping into the negotiation. You’re sure to have been in talks with the employer over the past few days, so just the fact that you’ve reached this point is often worthy of thanks. It’s also a good way to keep things light and friendly before getting into the more serious topics of the call.

4. Minimize Emotional Reactions

An upside to negotiating salary over the phone is that you can conceal your visible emotions. If you’re offered a great deal in person and show your excitement, this reaction would suggest to the company that they can stop making concessions because you are visibly happy with the offer. On the flip side, over the phone you can better conceal disappointment if the offer comes in low.

Granted this works both ways, as you cannot see the employers’ reactions either. But in general, this best serves the candidate. Maintaining a poker face throughout the negotiation is a recommended best practice for those looking to hold on to as much leverage as possible. 

5. Never Reach a Decision on the Spot

Feeling pressured to make a decision is one of the biggest downsides to negotiating salary over the phone. And it can especially afflict those who are less prepared. When an offer is presented, you naturally will feel pressured to say yes or no in real time.

There really is no upside to immediately saying “yes” on the spot. We strongly recommend asking for some time to digest everything. Even if the offer sounds great, this allows you to get a little extra perspective without being under the gun.

If you are not sure, do not say yes! Any respectable HR department or hiring manager will give you a reasonable amount of time to collect your thoughts and draft a counteroffer. Even an exploding offer gives a candidate a day or two to decide how they’d like to proceed. So unless you are 100% satisfied with the offer being discussed over the phone, take time to think it over (and potentially send an email with a counteroffer).

6. Ask Questions

In some cases, this might be related to tip #1. If you don’t have all the details required to make your decision, you can either postpone the call, ask questions on the spot, or use the time you’ve given yourself in tip #5 to figure out what information you still want.

You are sure to have questions regarding some aspect of the offer if you’re just hearing it for the first time. Well-negotiated salaries often come with another form of compensation – signing bonuses or equity, for example. If you’re offered $200k base plus $50k signing, you’ll want to know a few things. How long do you have to stay to secure the bonus? Is there an annual bonus too? Can the bonus potentially be exchanged for other concessions if you’d rather receive something else (i.e. an annual bonus or higher base)?

Another classic example is inquiring about the company’s vacation policy. If it’s an unlimited policy, you’ll want to know how much time most employees take off. Does the lax policy impact the company culture? If it’s not unlimited, what happens to unused PTO days? The list of hypothetical questions goes on and on, but you get the idea.

7. Get Something in Writing

Even if you don’t reach an agreement, the progress made on the call should be documented in written form. This is both a precautionary measure and a way to jog your own memory. Precautionary because you can confirm all that was said and make sure nothing was misconstrued. 

If a verbal offer is being discussed, it is more than reasonable to request a formal written offer. However, it should be noted that some companies may balk at the request for fear that you will take their offer and use it to leverage an offer somewhere else.

This is also a good time to again show respect and thank those who were on the call. We encourage all of our clients to act with as much professionalism as possible. After all, you’re dealing with people who are (or will likely become) coworkers, bosses, and/or supervisors.

Final Thoughts on Negotiating Salary Over the Phone

When it comes to negotiation best practices, we need to again remember that everyone has different strengths and weaknesses. If you’re a people-person, maybe you know how to work a room to get the salary you want – and a face-to-face or phone negotiation will benefit you. If you’re more introverted and require time to process, email may be better for you.

Though we believe email is the best method to get the most out of a negotiation, we are keenly aware that negotiating salary over the phone or in-person is sometimes required. But whatever medium your negotiation is conducted through, we hope the tips in this post have helped shed some light on best practices. Good luck!