Crafting Wins in Executive Compensation Talks

A special thanks to our sponsors for making this newsletter free for our readers:

It’s tough out there. CMO Huddles helps B2B CMOs gain the confidence, colleagues, and coverage they need to succeed. Ask Drew Neisser for a guest pass.

Need to hire a CMO or VP of Marketing? Want the ‘make money’ variety, not the ‘make it pretty’ variety? I recommend Erica Seidel of The Connective Good. Join her newsletter.

I’ve led 100s of negotiations for clients. Many with a 7+ figure delta (thanks to FAANG leaders and C-suite clientele). It’s clear from all that back-n-forth that this is still a truism: money is the universal language of perceived value. Money talks (and gets clicks).

However, money is simply one negotiation factor.

Negotiating time off, flexible hours, severance, title, role, parental leave, promotions, equity, healthcare and others may be more important to you than straight skrilla.

Consider: You can always get more money, but you can’t get more time.

While you dissect this article, I strongly suggest that you assess what you value most and use your findings to structure the right negotiation strategy for you.

Let’s dive into the two core negotiation fundamentals, information and timing.

I hate to lecture, but we must start with a mutually understood definition of our topic today. Negotiation is a deliberate exchange of information between parties aimed at reaching an agreement.

You must understand what is most valued and why—for every factor involved. You do this by collecting information. Being likable and empathetic will help you create a relaxed negotiation environment—and encourage your counterpart to share additional information that you use to influence your ongoing dialogue.

You must ask pointed yet open questions that lead the conversation down a favorable path—and then listen to truly understand the reaction.

You can arm yourself with more information by preparing and conducting extensive research (whether you choose to use the knowledge you’ve gained or not).

Phew, that’s stuffy writing—hang in there for a moment.

Information is also collected in real time.

Information is given from your resume, social profiles, each email, text, phone conversation—but also from your network, your reputation, your brand, the perception of your work, and the perceived value of others that are considered as similar to you.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that gender, age, sex, race, attractiveness, and other characteristics will provide information—whether used for good or evil.

The information you choose to share with a recruiter (or anyone for that matter) that’s “just getting to know you” can and will be used against you—or at least affect the upcoming conversations that you have. Everything is connected.

Information may also be a leading factor in why people that stay at the same company for a long time tend to be paid less than those that transition careers. The company you work for already has the information that you will work for what you make now—so what’s in it for them to level the playing field?


Question: At what time does a negotiation begin? Bueller… Bueller?

Answer: You’re already negotiating.

Fully 100% of my clients that purchase negotiation consulting are late. Why? They entered the market for negotiation services when they got a job offer—and only wanted to work with me to know if it’s fair, if they should counter, or how to get more.

They don’t realize that much of their negotiation has already happened at an earlier time. I’m then tasked with a salvage mission rather than building a strategic narrative for the greatest meaningful outcome from the onset.

The conversation usually goes like this:

“Jacob, I’ve received an offer and I need your help getting more of ‘X.’ Is my offer competitive? What does the market look like? Should I counter?”

My response is a slew of follow-up questions that more-or-less equate to, “What information have you already told them?”

Novice negotiators make early mistakes and overshare information.

This leads to dead end scenarios, trapped from dripping the wrong information out at the wrong time and limiting their chances of getting what they really want. This can also lead to fabricating information or being manipulative, insincere, or deceitful in order to create a new path to get what they want.

You must be intentional with the information you share, and when you share it—whether that be during the first recruiter call or with any careless writing you post on LinkedIn.

For example, I’ll pick on myself. In my LinkedIn about section, I share the following line:

☞ Previously… CEO of Discover Podium (7+ figure career consulting firm; 20+ employees)

Sounds harmless. But let’s go deeper. How does this information help me? How does it hurt?

Positive: Some people could be impressed. Building a million-dollar-plus business and leading 20+ employees doesn’t happen by accident.

Negative: Some could care less. Who is this kid? So what? I was considering Jacob for a role leading a team of 50, but that’s over double what he’s done before. I’ll pass. I need someone that can manage 10 million and grow it to 50—Jacob is not that guy.

Damn. Shot down before anyone took the time for a conversation. Why? I gave them too much information at the wrong time.

When negotiating you need to see all angles—how can your information be perceived well? What’s the worst way your information can be perceived? How can you address the worst perception on your terms to ensure that a negative perception isn’t the reality.

The problem with oversharing in public on LinkedIn or in writing is—you’re not there to assess the reaction or defend yourself if necessary. You can’t read the audience and cater to the right negotiation. You need to plan ahead.

It’s not just what you write either.

Those that say “title doesn’t matter” are wrong. Would you rather talk to an Associate or a VP? Would you consider a Sr Manager for a VP role? Would you expect to compensate a Sr Manager at a VP level? What if that Sr. Manager was at Apple instead of a small company? Title matters.

It works in reverse too.

Premature timing when sharing information eliminates opportunities before they ever blossom into a conversation. This often happens to executives, founders, and CEOs trying to do less (at least the perception of less).

For example, why hire a tenured CEO for a VP role? They’re used to being the boss, they obviously won’t consider a VP role. People work upward, not backward. Pass.

CEOs make a lot, obviously. So they probably make too much for me. Pass.

I’m not suggesting that you don’t publicly share your work. Rather, I ask that you consider how the information you share and when you share it impacts your negotiation. The same holds true for every conversation and information transfer through an interview process. And, it’s true for every interaction with a colleague, boss, customer, or partner when negotiating for a raise.

There’s a lot to consider. It’s enough to drive you mental.

So, How Much Money Do You Want?
Let’s test your new principles of information and timing to knock this question out of the park and give yourself better negotiation footing.

I polled my LinkedIn audience on Tuesday to learn more about how others answer, “What compensation are you looking for?” Over 75% got it wrong. (If their intention was to maximize compensation.)

Okay, okay. There wasn’t any wiggle room to explain the details so I’m not going to give anyone too hard of a time. But as a general rule of thumb: Thou who speaketh first, loses.

Why? Because you give away too much information at the wrong time. And that information will be used against you.

You set your terms and now must negotiate within that box.

Sure, you may be happy with the terms you set—and if your terms are a non-starter with the person asking, you may have even saved yourself a bunch of bullshit. Which may be why 47% of voters opted to share a range.

My problem is—77% didn’t even provide a chance for anything else to happen. You could have been surprised. What if I was prepared to offer you $100,000 more per year to do exactly what you’re doing right now. No strings. Would you say, “No thank you, I’m happy with the terms I shared.”

To reference Chris Voss, “You should never be so sure of what you’re worth that you wouldn’t accept more.”

Sharing a compensation range, what you make now, or some arbitrary number that you think you want serves you ZERO purpose if the timing isn’t right or your strategy isn’t concrete.

Think for a moment. What can you gain by sharing that information?

What if you ask for too much? Are you disqualified? Will you save time from a meaningless recruitment cycle? Does this rob you of the opportunity to learn more and negotiate a perfect opportunity? What if you’re actually worth more than you think? What if you’re worth more than the market tells you?

What if you ask for too little? Are you laughable or not as senior as the company had hoped? Do you really not know your value? What if they planned on budgeting more, but can now get more… for less? Not a great impression.

What if you hit the nail right on the head? You were so prepared and well researched that you knew the offer down to the very last stock option. Was it smart to share that you knew everything up front? Are you now constrained?

A range it is then! Maybe too little, maybe too much. A variety of options to avoid clarity and get the recruiter off my back.

No. That’s not it either. A range isn’t specific and it doesn’t necessarily match the duties of the role. Hell, you may not even know the details of what range you’re committing to because you haven’t gotten enough information yet!

Okay—so deflect. Uncomfortable, but you can live with that.

Take Charge Of Your Negotiation
When presented with, “How much money do you want?” you must step up and control the direction of the conversation with relaxed confidence and assurance. Don’t be afraid to say no.

Let’s roleplay an obnoxious back-and-forth.

RECRUITER (Inflates your ego to lower your guard)
“We love your experience and think you’d make a great addition to our team. They’re going to love you too. Before I schedule the next steps, I want to make sure we’re aligned. How much money do you want?”

YOU (Fonzie cool)
“I’d like to learn more about the role, team culture, and vision for the team before discussing compensation.”

RECRUITER (“Sigh, I was hoping this would be easy”)
“I need to tell the hiring manager a number to move you forward.”

YOU (Fonzie cool)
“Unfortunately, I cannot commit to a number without understanding more details about my role and the impact I’ll have working with the team. It sounds like we’ll work well next quarter and I have some questions for the hiring manager. I’m also confident that your team will present a competitive offer once we reach an agreement.”

RECRUITER (“Dude, give me a break. I’ll blow smoke, turn up the heat with competition, and add a dash of FOMO”)
“I can’t move you forward without a ballpark. Although I loved our conversation and think you’re a rockstar, I’ll have to present the other candidates to the hiring manager.”

YOU (Fonzie cool)
“I respect that you need compensation information, you may want to make sure that you’re not wasting anyone’s time. I’m not comfortable discussing compensation without more information; however, I also don’t want to waste your time either. Can you share the range that you’re working with and I could give the greenlight?”

RECRUITER (“Maybe they do get it”)
“We had a base compensation of $225-$275k in mind for the right candidate.”

YOU (Fonzie cool)

Option 1 – proceed, close the next steps: “I’m interested in having more conversations. I am available next Tuesday or Thursday to connect with X.”

Option 2 – proceed, plant seed of information, close the next steps: “I’m presently at the highest end of that range, but I’m interested in having more conversations. I am available next Tuesday or Thursday to connect with X.”

Option 3 – decline, plant seed of information: “Unfortunately I’m compensated notably higher for my expertise. I may be interested in additional conversations if you think there is room to raise the bar—regardless I’m grateful for the opportunity to speak with you.”

These conversations often feel awkward during your first several dozen go-rounds, but they are necessary for you to raise the bar.

I’d like to note that I broke the rules in the last response of the roleplay (I said this was practical, not flawless). I chose to share compensation information to plant a seed with the recruiter and protect myself from wasting time with low-ball opportunities.

Recruiters often move around a lot.

If you had a direct, meaningful, and memorable conversation with the recruiter and chose to share information that you’re leveled at a much higher comp range, they may remember you for bigger roles in the future. And if they reach out to you again in the future you can raise those expectations again.

I know this has been a marathon to get through, so thanks for sticking to the end.

Honestly, we barely scratched the surface. However, information + timing can carry the brunt of most negotiation needs. Until I get around to writing even deeper articles or go all-in on a book, message me on LinkedIn for specific details.

Remember: You don’t get what you’re worth, you get what you negotiate.

PS — I would be doing you a disservice if I didn’t reference Chris Voss and his negotiation work again. I’ve studied dozens of negotiation resources, but his work is the most pertinent.

I blend many of his principles with real life examples from my clients for a practical approach that you can use today. For a deeper dive, start with this hour+ conversation between Chris Voss and Lewis Howes (two entrepreneurs I highly admire) on negotiation philosophy.

When you're ready, there are 4 ways I can help you.

Elevate Your Executive Game Join my exclusive coaching program and strategize with the top 1% of leaders. Outmaneuver competitors, secure coveted roles, and shatter compensation benchmarks.

Boost Your Brand to 10,000+ Executives Sponsor Execs and the City for unrivaled exposure to 10,000+ engaged executives and 32,000+ LinkedIn followers. Amplify your message and grow your influence today.

Captivate Your Audience Book me for keynotes and workshops that motivate. From influence and persuasion to negotiation and sales, I’ll deliver lasting impact. Inspire your team now.

Win High-Stakes Negotiations Founders, CEOs, celebrities, and athletes: gain a master negotiator’s edge in turnarounds, M&As, and major contracts. Secure optimal outcomes in any challenge.

Gain a competitive edge.
Join 10,000+ global readers receiving an original take on career strategy every week.


Share this Article