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The Salary Counter-Offer: How To Use It To Your Advantage

So you’ve applied, prepared, endured multiple interviews and finally made it to the offer stage of a medical sales job. And all you need to do now is to ask, “Where do I sign?” Right?

Wrong. If you do, you could leave precious money on the table. Remember, what you’re about to negotiate may be the most considerable salary increase you’ll ever receive at this or any other employer. Therefore, don’t leave your livelihood to chance. 

Instead, you can start your medical sales career in a way that benefits you for years to come – with a successful counter-offer.

Why Make a Salary Counter-Offer

With all the highs and lows of the interview process, it’s easy for hopeful medical reps to feel lost. But then, when a job offer finally comes, it can feel like a beacon in the night telling you, “Come this way!”

And that’s precisely where medical reps, new to the industry and even experienced ones, can set themselves up for disappointment. Instead of being pragmatic, they jump at the first number given so they can get the painful job search process over. 

However, that salary bump you feel so lucky to receive will, over time, lose its newness and your expenses will rise to meet it. Then, there may come a day you find out what one of your colleagues (performing the same job) makes in their base salary and it’s significantly more than yours. At that point, your only hope for a raise is by delivering outstanding performance and hope for a raise of only a few percentage points.

That’s why you need to negotiate now while you have maximum leverage.

Before You Do Anything, Ask for Time and All the Details

Need we say you’re about to make a critical, life-altering decision? Even if you don’t plan to negotiate at all, it’s still important to give yourself time to consider the offer. Some employers may give you a deadline. If they don’t, ask for a few days to think it over. Although you may use this time to research industry pay or talk to friends in the industry, they don’t need to know this. 

Also, it’s very important to see the offer and corresponding benefits spelled out in writing. This way, there are no misunderstandings and you can evaluate with a clear mind.

Before You Evaluate the Counter-Offer, Take Stock In Yourself

Evaluating a salary offer involves considering your skills and experience against the money offered and comparing it to industry averages. However, you must adopt the right mindset. There is no governing body that dictates what a medical rep should make, so you don’t have to feel guilty for asking for more. There are no rules, only people: you and your prospective employer. 

Regarding you, consider first that your potential employer has taken the time to review your qualifications, talked to you at length and chosen you over hundreds of candidates. Don’t underestimate what this means. Hiring managers don’t like being wrong, so they don’t hire a candidate until they feel very strongly. So, you can pat yourself on the back!

You are also in the unique position of having a maximum amount of goodwill because you have no track record within the company to question. In short, your survival of the interview process and a squeaky clean record give you something vital: negotiating leverage.

Considering the First Counter-Offer

And at the same time, hiring managers are human, so they’re always looking for a good deal. In your case, it’s the ideal employee at the lowest possible salary. Therefore, never assume the offer you’ve received is the best they can do. Instead, check MedReps’ latest salary report for the type of medical sales job you’ve been offered. Keep in mind the average years’ experience of the reps surveyed when comparing. 

If the Counter-Offer is Low

If, after evaluation, your first offer seems low, consider the company and its place in the industry and the candidates they frequently hire. A quick LinkedIn search should reveal several people the company brought on board. If most of them have less experience than you, your offer will probably be lower than the industry average. On the other hand, if they have more experience than you, they probably make more than you. Either way, there’s no harm in asking for more. You already know they want you, so the worst thing they can tell you is ‘no.’

If the Counter-Offer is Higher Than Expected

This scenario means you don’t negotiate, right? Wrong. First, consider why the offer seems high to you. Are you basing your opinion on what you’re making now? Or perhaps on what a friend in the industry makes? You may need to adjust your expectations based on objective data like the MedReps salary survey. Also, remember that hiring managers rarely make an offer without allowing themselves some room for negotiation. In some cases, they may even be expecting you to negotiate because you are a salesperson!

Making the Counter-Offer

So you’ve made the brave (and wise) decision to counter their salary offer. Here are some important considerations:

  • The difference between what they’ve offered and what you think you’re worth. A small gap could mean either that you and your future employer are on the same page or that you haven’t done your homework as to what you should expect. A large gap, on the other hand, could mean that either you’ve encountered an exceptionally frugal employer or, again, you haven’t done your homework as far as salary expectations go.
  • What you need to make. Sometimes it’s not about what you want but what you need. Even if you think you’ll love the job, you may need to ask for more to cover expenses. 
  • The employer’s urgency. If you know they need someone hired in time to make the next sales training meeting, they might be willing to make a higher offer to win you quickly and take you off the market.
  • Your urgency. Almost nobody loves job hunting. If you want to get on with things, consider making a counter-offer only slightly above what they offered. Still, keep in mind, that you could be leaving money on the table and are at risk of regretting it. 
  • What’s realistic. Even though we said above that there are no rules, you still need to be reasonable. Don’t counter-offer 30%, 50% or 100% higher than what they’ve offered. You’re wasting your time and risking insulting the manager. Conversely, if their offer is drastically below what you expected, they may not be the right fit for you. 

The Counter-Offer Itself

Counter-offers can again be any amount you want. Still, realistically speaking, you’re more likely to get it accepted if it’s 5% to 15% higher than the original salary. Ask any less and the employer may not take the offer seriously. Ask any more and the employer may not take YOU seriously. Either way, you’re wasting your time. 

Of course, no job is entirely about money. Instead of a higher salary, you can ask for a flexible schedule, tuition reimbursement or additional days off. Don’t assume these policies can’t be modified, even if you’ve seen them in writing. 

In Summary, Use Your Leverage

When it comes down to negotiating salary, you have three main points of power. 

  • What you offer – your skills, experience and personality
  • Their need – the role they need to fill and the urgency around it
  • Your ability to refuse

Ultimately, negotiating anything comes down to the ability to walk away empty-handed. You’ll have the most power if you can say ‘no’ and move on to the next opportunity. Before you negotiate, you need to be honest about whether or not you can turn down the job.

If you can decline the job, you then have the leverage to ask for (within reason) anything and everything you want. If you can’t (which is ok), be honest with yourself and don’t fret if your counter-offer is turned down. 

Either way, you should take pride in making it to the end of a lengthy interview process. Now’s the time to know your worth and do your best to get it. So here’s to a strong, reasonable and accepted counter offer!