Procurement team preparing for negotiations using data

Taking the Emotion Out of Marketing Agency Negotiation

When stakes are high, emotions can run high. Agency negotiations can often challenge the stamina of both parties and ultimately test who can keep their cool.

Emotion, although natural, can ruin agency negotiations, and damage agency-brand relationships in the long run. Not only does emotion detract from the main purpose of the discussion, but it also marrs both parties’ direction and outcomes.

How emotions affect agency negotiations 

The relationship between brand and agency is a delicate one. Both parties have different agendas when it comes to bids and contract negotiations.

The agency is investing time, resources and sometimes money, which they will want to keep to a minimum before there is a commitment from the brand. From the brand’s side, they just want to see clear value and ROI from the beginning. This combination is therefore a breeding ground for tension and both parties are coming from different perspectives. Crucially, this emotion must be reconciled alongside agreeing specific terms of the contract between agency and brand.

Finding a balance can cause frustration and anxiety, and Wood Brooks and Schweitzer’s study on anxiety in agency negotiations notes how influential the emotion can be when agreeing terms. In their study, they asked a group of 136 participants to negotiate a phone contract that required agreeing different terms. With half the group listening to anxiety-inducing music, and the other listening to calm music, their research found that anxiety had a significant effect on how people negotiated. People experiencing anxiety made weaker first offers and would leave negotiations early.

This is just one example of how emotions can have a negative impact on business, and although one may say that anxiety is natural, brands must try their best to mitigate it.

Data, Data, Data for the best agency negotiations

Data is key to forming an objective argument in agency negotiations. Regardless if it’s a new pitch or a renegotiation of an existing contract, the power of data provides objectivity that can otherwise be lost.

Data removes the emotions, as the discussion turns to facts rather than feelings, thereby strengthening the case, demonstrating trends, and giving depth to conversations about time, money and deliverables.

Like a game of poker, it’s about addressing your hand and having strategic focus with the cards you’ve been dealt. From a brand’s perspective, this translates to knowing what services are worth, and being able to benchmark an offer and make a rational decision.

Data surrounding deliverables is also crucial to giving Marketing Procurement more confidence in their agency partners and providing both parties with clarity. Having an understanding of the data behind a scope of work means that when an agency is priced above benchmark, Marketing Procurement can request a justification, thereby shifting the pendulum of power.

You no longer need to play bad cop with aggressive requests because the data is providing levels of transparency based on facts. With the cards laid on the table, there is nothing to interrogate.

When it comes to agency negotiations – Appearances Matter 

Despite most meetings shifting to the virtual world, there are still some crucial physical indicators that show emotion during negotiation. Subtle mannerisms can make all the difference in business and by just smiling or nodding, you can immediately balance yourself in a negotiation. You are removing negative emotions, and enforcing a calmness.

As well as this, tone of voice can give a lot away. Ensure a low and steady tone to make sure your side of the agency negotiations are being delivered with conviction. These small behaviours are crucial in sustaining a long and productive communication.

The data provides a confidence that enables you to remain calm and collected as your conversations are based on facts. So whilst you may not be completely removing emotion, you are taking control and using it in an effective way.

The truth is, you can never completely remove emotion; it is all part of being human.

However, what you can do is make sure your emotions are channelled in a productive way and aren’t the driving factor in your agency negotiations. Leave that to the data.


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