We all know that negotiating salary can be a daunting task, regardless of your level of seniority and position. It is also no secret that salary negotiation is also the key to a higher lifetime earnings. However, some employees are less confrontational than others and tend not to challenge the status quo.

As a senior executive, salary negotiations are typically more complicated than when you were a junior staff. Receiving an executive salary in China will also mean that you’re a seasoned and valuable member of the workforce. It might be difficult for you to attempt a salary or compensation negotiation when you’re already drawing a relatively high salary.

While negotiating for the highest possible salary may be your main objective, you should also remain open to discussing other benefits and perks. The value of the whole compensation package could help close the gap between your expectations and what your employer can realistically offer.

We all aim to achieve a higher salary as we progress in our careers, but we must also be realistic when it comes to salary negotiation. It will be a good idea to look into your own development over the years and brush up on negotiation skills. Most importantly, you should be prepared on what to bring up when negotiating salary.

Here are some tips on how to negotiate senior executive salary in China, to help you achieve what you rightfully deserve. While it applies to those who have just been offered a new role, it’s also useful for negotiating C-level positions as well as executive compensation packages.

5 tips on how to negotiate a higher salary or remuneration package

1. initiate a discussion and ask for it

It sounds obvious but to win the lottery you need to buy a ticket. And if you want a higher salary, the first important step is to ask for it.

Attempting a salary negotiation requires a lot of confidence. It’s never comfortable to initiate a discussion about your salary and you could even argue that there’s never a good time to talk about your salary. However, that doesn’t mean you should just avoid the topic altogether.

The easiest way to get a salary increment is to speak with a new employer. If they are willing to invest in you, they will consider making an offer that meets your salary expectation. However, your expectations need to be realistic and valid too.

It may be difficult for your existing employer to increase your salary prior to the next budgeting period. Nonetheless, leave it too late and you may just lose your chance.

In fact, some people dare not attempt to negotiate salary in fear of upsetting or offending their bosses. But just by asking shows that you’re open to negotiation and that you’re committed to the company. It takes courage and confidence to do it, and a good boss should recognise this.

If your discussion with your boss turned out unsuccessful, do not be too disheartened. It will be a good learning experience to learn about the existing impression your boss has on you and you'll know where you need to work towards to improve your skills. Your boss may even begin to pay more attention to you, and that's going to be a good thing for you too.

Tim Castle, author of one of the best-selling books “The Art of Negotiation” says, “Above all else, focus on believing in yourself and the value you bring, don’t count yourself out before the race has even begun. The best way to be persuasive and influence the outcome of the negotiation is to get people on your side by having them like you.”

2. don’t oversell yourself, but commit to exceeding expectations

When it comes to negotiating a higher salary, it’s always a good idea to have the upper hand. In the case of a senior executive, your track records and exceptional performance should be presented and serve as justification to prove that you’re deserving of a salary increment.

Remind your boss why you were hired, how far you’ve progressed, as well as highlight your notable contributions and achievements, and the impact you’ve made to the organisation. Explain how you’ve not only met their expectations of you but have very well exceeded them.

If you’re interviewing for a new role with another company, discuss how you can bring some unique skills and experiences to the table. Let them know how much value you could potentially bring to their organisation. Employers are always looking for problem solvers and people who can think outside the box to increase their bottom line. They may see value in your ability to bring new perspectives and fresh ideas to the business challenges they face.

However, you should refrain from overselling your capabilities. Failure to meet those high expectations can cost you your job and reputation.

3. be creative with your remuneration package and benefits

With more and more CEOs joining the $1 salary club, a sky-high salary can come under intense scrutiny, especially when top-level executives lead a flamboyant lifestyle despite poor business performance.

Besides the base salary, there are many other perquisites to explore and discuss a competitive remuneration package for senior executive level. Sometimes, it’s not just about getting a higher pay. We could be better off with other types of benefits that may be more useful to us. If you hit a roadblock on salary discussions, move on to negotiate other benefits such as equity bonus, retirement planning or sabbatical leave. If you are interviewing for a decision-making role with a start-up, ask for a share of equity.

Profit sharing, stock options and bonuses can make up 40% of an overall senior executive salary package. A cash-heavy package (bigger salary) might be better if you need higher short-term cash flow. However, if you can afford to be patient then long-term incentives such as stock options, retirement bonus or performance shares can really pay off. Just make sure you understand the exact terms for exercising stock options and the accessibility of long-term incentives.

There are a host of other benefits to consider as well, such as car and travel allowances, club memberships, guaranteed severance package and relocation compensation packages. You could even ask about an education fund (such as an online MBA programme) and explain how it would help you become a better leader.

Although it has no exact monetary value, you may consider negotiating for a better job title to make sure you have the most senior-sounding one available. Individuals with senior titles are perceived to hold more important positions in the company, especially in the Asian context. A more senior title would also enable you to better connect with your peers, command meetings and influence key stakeholders. If you’re being hired at the director level, request for your title to be an executive director or senior director instead.

4. understand who you are negotiating with

Your bosses managed to get to their current positions probably because they are very good at negotiating. They know how to make good deals, manage stakeholders and employees, and budget for rainy days.

So you’ll need to put your negotiation skills out on the table, bring your ‘A’ game to sell yourself and prove you deserve the compensation package you are asking for. If they feel that you deserve it and that you have the potential to offer more, your bosses will be willing to fight tooth and nail for you.

If you’re interviewing with a new employer, try to find out from your network how to best approach the salary negotiation. Take a look at their Wechat post or media coverage to gain a better understanding about their passions, values and aspirations.

Employers have a wide range of approaches when it comes to executive compensation packages and you need to know where your boss sits on that spectrum.

5. be prepared and confident

Generally, the key to a successful negotiation strategy is to be prepared. Feeling confident can boost your chances of getting that pay raise. Even though it's never comfortable when it comes to negotiating salary, we've all got to make the first move in order to make a change.

A recruitment specialist has a broad professional network that consists of senior-level executives as well. They will know what the real requirements of the job are and the reasons why your predecessor left the company along with the salary range that you would likely receive if you accept the opportunity. These exclusive information about the job responsibilities and culture can help you make a well-informed decision on your career.

Tim Castle adds, “Put in the time, do your research and have the conversation. And enjoy it. You are giving them a fair portion of your life to expand their business so make sure you get what you deserve’’.

are you ready to negotiate now?

Truth is, no matter how prepared you are, you’ll still feel nervous when you’re on the topic to negotiate salary. This is because you’ve set an expectation for yourself and you don’t want to feel disappointed.

We hope that this article has helped prepare you on how you can negotiate senior executive salary or compensation packages.

If you’re unable to come to an amicable agreement with your boss on your remuneration package and wonder what your other options are, you can always reach out to us.

At Randstad, we provide a range of specialised recruitment and career consulting services. We share a common goal of finding you a fulfilling job that best matches your interests, goals and skills. In the process of doing so, our recruitment consultants may sometimes enter the salary negotiation on your behalf. Looking for a new employer who can offer you a higher pay? Check out our latest jobs listings and apply for jobs.

Alternatively, if you are looking to hire C-suite executives, connect with our recruitment specialists to provide you with an end-to-end executive search services in key industries.