You know the broadway show Hamilton that everyone loves and it’s won 11 Tony awards and people who are insane pay $10,000 for a $300 ticket? My girlfriend is obsessed with it, so when they recently announced it was coming to Chicago she was definitely getting tickets.
The day tickets go on sale she’s going to be somewhere on the Inca Trail with her mom. She texts me, “Can you get them for me pretty please???” I don’t really want to because I know Ticketmaster is going to be slammed by a gazillion people all trying to buy tickets at the same exact time.
I need a strategy, so I decide to do 80% of the work upfront.
First, I look into the theater by reading reviews on Tripadvisor and Yelp. I learn that this is the worst theater in Chicago. The consensus seems to be that the best seats are orchestra or first few rows of the mezzanine.
Second, ticket prices. An orchestra seat is going to cost $500. I can’t justify that, so I decide to target the first row of the mezzanine.
And because I know all the scalpers will be trying to buy the Friday and Saturday night tickets, I pick a random Wednesday matinee show.
Then I write all this down in my notebook so I don’t forget it (I use these).
The day tickets go on sale finally comes. A few minutes beforehand, I pull up Ticketmaster and navigate over to the sales page for the specific matinee I’ve targeted. I watch the countdown clock.
The page refreshes. Some random error message comes up. Hmm. I hit refresh and I get another, weirder error message. Really, Ticketmaster? I hit refresh again, and I’m surprised that the seat map comes up. And every single seat in the mezzanine is open. I add the two best tickets to my cart (front row center), and check out.
Later that day, I read that thousands of people wasted hours of their life trying to buy tickets. Maybe I got lucky. Or maybe I did 80% of the work upfront, and then when the time came all I had to do was execute.
This reminded me of getting a raise. It’s the same principle you can use when you want one. You see, if you do 80% of the work upfront you make it really easy for your manager to say yes.
I’m going to show you step-by-step how to do this. And I learned this the hard way. Only after I was rejected and spent months studying tactics from people like Penelope Trunk and Ramit Sethi did I become successful at this.
(If you want to go deeper on this topic read Robert Cialdini’s excellent book Influence.)
1. DEFINE THE 3-5 METRICS THAT MAKE YOU A TOP PERFORMER
A few years ago I decided to ask my manager for a raise because I thought I deserved one. Hey, I’m smart, I work hard, I create value.
It was stressful, because what if they say no? Or they think I’m just being greedy? Or they fire me just for asking?
We were wrapping up my annual review.
“Yeah, one more thing. I think I deserve a raise.”
“Well, you know, my review was good, and I think I work really hard, and yeah…”
“Oh, okay. But there’s no money right now because the budgets are tight. The economy is bad. And you’re in the middle of the range for this position.”
I had no clue what I was doing. And because I was turned down I was mad at my manager when I should’ve been mad at myself for not knowing what the hell I was doing.
Here’s what you do instead.
Set up a special meeting with your manager 6 months before you even bring up a raise. You want to leave this meeting with two things: First, their definition of a top performer, and second, the 3-5 metrics that make you one.
You can use this script to kick off the meeting:
“You know, I love working here, and I want to be a top performer. I’d love your help with this. Can you tell me what I need to do to become a top performer, both in responsibility and compensation?”
They’ll probably tell you manager-y things like you need to be a leader, increase your sales, take on more responsibility, get more clients, and so on. You don’t want this. You want things that you can measure.
“That’s really helpful. I want to make sure I’m working towards those things, so can you help me quantify 3-5 of them?”
It’s your responsibility to work with them until you’ve got 3-5 quantifiable metrics written down. Here are some examples of this:
- Present at staff meetings once a month
- Increase sales by 10%
- Take ownership of 1 additional project per month
- Get 5 additional clients
- And so on…
2. DELIVER ON THE METRICS
Now that you have your metrics, you have to do the work. Every Monday at the office ask yourself, “What 3-5 tasks am I going to accomplish this week that will help me deliver on those metrics?”
Write them down (I used a sheet of paper). Do them.
Provide updates to your manager on your progress. If you meet with them regularly, you can do this face-to-face. Or you can send them an email every Friday with what you accomplished that week.
The point of this is to show them your work. Tell them what you’ve done. Tell them what you’re planning to do next. And then meet or exceed on the metrics.
3. GET THE RAISE YOU DESERVE
It’s 6 months later. You’ve been communicating your progress. You’ve delivered on the metrics. Now it’s time to set up another special meeting.
You can open the meeting with this script:
“So I’m really excited to talk to you today. Six months ago we had a discussion about me becoming a top performer, and changing responsibilities and compensation.”
Spend a few minutes talking about what you accomplished in order to deliver on the metrics, and then tell them about a couple things you’re planning on doing next.
“Here are two more things I’m planning on doing. First, …”
This shows them you’re going to keep adding value.
And now it’s time to ask for a raise.
Then wait for them to respond. Don’t keep babbling on. They might agree to it right then and there. Otherwise they’ll push back.
“There’s no money right now because the budgets are tight. The economy is bad. And you’re in the middle of the range for this position.”
Instead of saying, “Okay. Thanks.” you now have everything you need to push back on this.
“Yes, but falling in the middle of the range is for an average employee. Based on my performance over the last six months I’m not the average employee. And as you know I’m planning on continuing this performance.”
Your manager can’t disagree with this, so if you’ve done the work of becoming a top performer, they’ll give you the raise (and if not, it might be time to move on).
They’ll even give you the raise if all the reasons why they couldn’t are actually true. Why? Because an extra $10,000 or $15,000 is nothing to them, especially to keep a top performer, and it costs them less to give you the raise you deserve then to lose you.