Would You Like to Seal the Deal and Put 20% More in Your Pocket?

Putting it in Writing – Part II

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Putting Your Offer in Writing

Last time I talked about the value of getting any agreement in writing, even if you only confirm it in a simple email.  This time, let’s look at the value of putting your offer in writing and giving it to the other side.

In the legal world it is common to open negotiations with some kind of offer in writing that typically declares a client’s position or demand. Sometimes the negotiations continue in writing until the parties reach an agreement; other times negotiations break down and the parties and/or their counsel take their case to a third party mediator or a judge to bring them to an agreement or a final decision.

Consider where else you can find value in putting your offer in writing, when you may influence or persuade another more effectively in writing.

I was recently the guest expert on an Ask the Expert call for Women’s Financial Learning Center, where the Q&A session focused on salary negotiations, as a follow-up to a tele seminar on the 7 Mistakes in Salary Negotiation.  One listener asked whether it is wise to submit your request for a higher salary in writing.  I recommended – among other things – considering the level of formality expected in the organization, and the level of position in question.

Does your situation call for a written offer?

For example, a senior executive – especially those in the C-suite – would likely want the various offers dealt with in writing, in particular as the compensation packages at that level can be quite complex and structured in a variety of complicated ways.

In contrast, if your dream job is at a more casual “jeans and t-shirt” style company where any negotiations take place in conversation over coffee or lunch, making a written offer may be less effective, even over the top.  However, test your assumptions on this one; that casual dress style may belie the seriousness of the management style.

Why it’s valuable to document your offer

Either way, it can prove quite valuable to lay out in a document all the reasons why you are asking for something, whether that is a raise or higher salary, a flexible work week, or an extra monitor for your desk computer.

Here’s a great example that one of the Ask the Expert participants gave that illustrates the value of putting your request or offer in writing:

A young woman approached her manager (our participant) to ask for a substantial raise – 20% — at a time when the organization had been experiencing economic difficulty. She gave a very clear and persuasive verbal presentation detailing all the reasons why she was worth a 20% raise, including the extra work she had taken on and all the other things that created value added for the organization.  She backed up her presentation with a written document outlining all her reasons, and gave her manager a copy.  Her manager was quite persuaded the young woman had a good point, and took the written document to her superiors, who would ultimately make the decision.  Now, impressed as they were, the young woman did not ultimately get her full 20% — BUT just about all of it!

Why did she do so well, despite poor economic conditions?

Let’s break it down.

She did her homework.  She was prepared.

  • Business woman shaking handsShe decided WHAT she wanted, and WHAT she would ask for (note: these can often be different amounts.  We’ll save that for another post).
  • She crafted reasons why what she requested would matter to her employer; she laid out WHY she was asking.
  • She understood that she first needed to influence her manager that what she asked for was reasonable and of value to the organization.
  • She made it easy for her manager to say “yes” through her verbal and written presentation.  When we make things easy for others to say “yes”, they are more likely to do so.
  • She also made it easy for her manager to then present her “case” with the back-up document to the powers that be – the decision-makers.
  • Finally, she also then made it easy for the decision-makers to say yes – her manager supported her request, and her back-up documentation laid it all out in front of them.


The lesson here is to consider how putting your request or offer in writing will help you in your negotiations, and how you can best use that document.  A primary benefit will be to help you clarify your thinking; clarify what you want and why that will matter to the other side.  This helps you to prepare for the negotiation conversation.  Even if you don’t show it to the other side, this value alone will improve your satisfaction with your outcome.

If you are going to give your document to the other side, consider HOW you will share it – as a follow-up to your verbal request in the conversation, or later by email; or the reverse, will you begin the conversation by sending them your document and offer to discuss?

There are myriad ways you can support your negotiations with a written document.  If you’ve done your preparation homework, you’ll have a good sense of whether to share it, when the optimum moment is to share it, and how to present it to them.

Even if you never share that document, it’s greatest value may be to YOU, to clarify your thoughts and organize your message.

And that’s WORTH a lot!