Salary negotiation isn’t easy in any profession, but it can be particularly tricky in product management. Whether it’s because some companies don’t have an established product management culture or because the role can differ significantly from place to place, product management candidates have a tough time knowing what the suitable pay range should be for the job they’re interested in.
Here’s How to Effectively Negotiate Your Product Management Salary
This is further complicated because product managers can’t be successful independently; the job relies on many other people and groups to get the final product out the door. It can be tricky to assign an actual dollar value to what they do. And since product managers have such a varied skillset and background, it’s tough to find a “going rate” for the industry.
But that doesn’t mean product managers should take what they’re offered and be happy to get it. Like anyone else in the organization, they provide value and deserve fair compensation reflecting their responsibilities, expertise, and track record. But product managers must do their homework before entering into a salary negotiation to hammer out a deal both sides can feel good about.
What is a Typical Product Management Salary?
There are two great ways to find out what a reasonable product management salary looks like for the job you want: current salary info and job postings. Luckily there are lots of ways to get this information and use it to inform your negotiating position.
Glassdoor is an excellent source of salary information. A lot can be gleaned from the site. But before you see a number and establish that as your touchstone, be sure to drill down a bit and make it more specific to your location and experience level.
For example, according to Glassdoor’s “Product Manager,” salaries in San Francisco average $140K per year. But drop your experience level to 0-1 years, and the average dips to $120K. Assume that job is at a smaller company (0-50 employees), and it’s down to $100K.
Titles make difference
The title also makes a difference. For example, for Associate Product Managers in San Francisco, the average is $105K. For a Senior Product Manager, it’s $167K; and for a Director, it’s $194K.
And, of course, location is a massive factor in compensation. Move those jobs to Dallas, and now a Product Manager averages $105K, and the average Director pulls in $151K. An average Product Manager is getting $89K in Pittsburgh, and a Director makes $129K.
And Glassdoor isn’t your only source for this info. Indeed, the average product manager makes $87K in Tampa and $91K in St. Louis.
Not surprisingly, you can infer that more prominent companies pay more. Companies in more expensive markets pay more and more senior positions, obviously command a higher rate. Therefore make sure your benchmarking is as specific as possible to your experience along with the job, company, and location you’re negotiating about. And remember that any metric you find is going to be part of a range of salaries. Some people are at the high end and others on the lower side, so expecting the “average” amount may be a stretch depending on your experience and the company’s finances.
Beyond salary info
Beyond current salary info, you can also look at Indeed and LinkedIn to see what’s being advertised in posted job listings. While not every job posting includes a salary range, many do. Although the range is just that, a spread of the minimum and maximum they’re willing to pay (and nothing is stopping a hiring company from going above or below those numbers), it gives a great snapshot of what people are saying they’re willing to pay right now.
Because the market for talent is so dynamic, these current listings are just as valuable as the Glassdoor-style info. It doesn’t include “legacy” salaries that might be in place from better or worse economic climates. It also gives you a little more leverage because these salaries aren’t theoretical—it’s what companies are willing to pay for a similar job this very moment.
3 Tips for Negotiating Your Product Management Salary
Not blown away by that initial offer? Here are three tips to strengthen your position when you go back for more:
1. Lean on the data
Any product manager worth their salt would never make a case without data to back it up. Impress your potential future employer with your analytical skills and make a strong argument leveraging the data sources mentioned above. You know your experience, the company’s size, and location, so you can quickly develop an expected range based on what’s being paid in similar situations.
The company may counter with caveats about their funding level, the applicability of your experience, or the specifics of their industry. Still, those things are irrelevant to you—those are their problems. You are a product manager with X years of experience living in City Z, and you should expect to make market rate at a minimum.
2. Back up your negotiations with tangible results
Your resume should speak for itself, but salary negotiations are an excellent time to revisit your previous accomplishments, successes, and expertise. Sure, they could hire a product manager for $90K. But will they have shipped four products before, worked in the ad-tech industry for years, and generated hockey stick growth rates for two companies?
Tap into your inner LeBron and boast about your achievements, toot your own horn and make them realize missing out on you is a mistake they don’t want to makeover relatively minor dollars. Their ROI in hiring you will far outweigh a little larger salary than they were willing to offer.
3. Speak to your demonstrated soft skills
Successful product managers have a proven record of displaying soft skills, bringing specific examples to the negotiating table. Explain how you will not only check the boxes in the job description but elevate yourself and the role to add even more value, particularly if you’re pursuing a management position.
There are plenty of people who can write a user story and talk tech with the developers. But coming to the job with a more extensive toolbox justifies a higher salary since you’ll be delivering more than the typical PM has to offer.
What are Key Things to Keep in Mind When Negotiating Salary?
For anyone entering into a product management salary negotiation, it’s critical to keep a few concepts top of mind:
You have value.
You wouldn’t be this far along in the process if they don’t think you’re going to be an asset to the company and are willing to invest in you. So act like it during negotiations.
Don’t count on a raise.
Accepting a lower salary with the expectation that you’ll be so impressive once you start working that they’ll increase your compensation down the line is usually a bad move. Promotions and raises—even cost of living increases—are no longer a sure thing, so you should be prepared to make your initial salary for several years.
Know your floor and stick to it.
Figure out the absolute minimum you’re willing to take, and don’t let the attractiveness of the role or company deter you from demanding it. If you can’t cover your expenses, save for retirement, or afford a vacation, you’ll quickly start resenting the company for low-balling you (and yourself for taking it).
Understand the details.
Stock options and equity are great perks in an offer, but make sure you understand the details. The number of options a startup promise means nothing without knowing the total shares outstanding and their overall prospects. The same goes for free food and on-site massages.
Start on a positive note.
Settling for a lower number than your ideal salary is OK, but you want to start your job feeling good about the move and not offended or remorseful about your package.
Less can be more.
Taking a pay cut or accepting the lower of two offers for the right reasons is OK. Working on something you’re passionate about, having coworkers and managers that you love and respect, or even a shorter commute and flexible hours that let you spend more time with your family are all perfectly acceptable reasons to settle on a slightly lower number than you’d prefer.