Avoid saying these things

All of these are real examples of what's been said in negotiations. Most are simply good intentions that put people at a major disadvantage. Let’s examine them up-close.

Avoid saying these things when negotiating:

“Is there room to go higher on comp…?”

This implies that you are at least one of the following:
  1. Doubtful of your own value
  2. Happy enough to sign
  3. Unclear about what you want

It also makes it super easy for someone to say: “Ehh, probably not. This is a strong offer.” If you ever feel the urge to say this, find an alternative in Winning Scripts — better to put a stake in the ground.

“… I’m hoping we can make some movements in that direction.”
Similar to the above, “hoping” and “some movements” implies that you’re not certain about what you want, and tips your hand that you’re ok with signing. If you're going to negotiate, commit to being firm and clear.

“… is there anything that can be improved upon…”
Same point as above. If you plan to negotiate, commit to being firm and clear.

“I am still excited to join and ready to sign the docs today. I was wondering though if there is still the possibility to…”
Once you say you’re excited to join / sign, you’ve already signaled that the offer is good enough as is. Do not distract from the ask. If you want to share that you're ready to sign today, make it contingent on them fulfilling your final ask. 

“My current offer / competing offer is $X base with Y% bonus”
It’s ok to anchor them higher once you have an initial offer, but it benefits you to frame your options in the best possible light. In this case, combine the base + bonus, and share the total cash component, which ends up being a more impressive number. If they ask about base vs. bonus breakout, you can always tell them: "The majority of it is guaranteed." 

“Given the markets, this valuation would not hold, so…”
Are private startups overvalued? Yes, all of them are, to varying degrees. Private market multipliers have always been higher than public markets because investors are betting on hyper-growth. By joining, you are betting on the long-term horizon, not the next funding round. Any near-term fluctuations is not a valid argument.

If you want to get more base or more equity to account for discounts in valuation, that’s ok. Just frame it in a positive light (e.g., believe in long-term upside, extra base will cover the cost of early exercise, etc.). 

“What about a sign-on bonus? Learning budget?…”
Prioritize what you want most. Sign-on bonuses are heavily taxed, one-time, contingent on staying for a certain amount of time. Learning budgets are table stakes, plus wouldn’t you rather have more cash? These are low-hanging fruits. Bring them in only at the very end if they didn’t give you everything you asked for.

“I’d like some more time to compare offers…”
If you need more time, say that you’d like to use the extra time to make a more informed decision. When you say “compare offers” it makes companies think that you’re not that interested in what they do, and will only take the highest bidder — ok if that’s true, but no need to broadcast

“In the spirit of being transparent, I’ll be walking away if X doesn’t happen…”
It’s never a good idea to use (thinly veiled) threats during negotiations. You get much better results when you win people over. So if you’re going to walk away, refer to some of the disappointed lines in Winning Scripts.

We're not done yet! See more scripts to avoid in the next section ->