There are lots of books, articles, and resources if you want to learn to negotiate. But not all of them apply when working with agencies. So, we thought it would be useful to provide additional insight into negotiations with agencies, more explicitly when negotiating with the CEO.
There comes a time in every marketers’ life when they must finalize a contract. Whether it’s a new business need or a renewal of an old agreement, it’s negotiated all the same. And what it comes down to is the potential leverage you hold. Being on the client-side, you have the freedom of choice, which can give you an edge. Conversely, when you are a top tier agency and have reached capacity, you also have leverage.
That’s why, as a Marketer, you need to leverage all the resources you have to be able to get a fair deal. And there are two essential items you need to be successful. One is the right data or benchmark; the second is the right people.
So let’s start by discussing how having accurate benchmark data can make a difference. At the core of any negotiation is knowing your position and what is a relatively fair price. Therefore, having a benchmark provides you with both of these things. It’s not to say you will always hit those numbers (results could be higher/lower) but they at least provide the framework or a stake in the ground for the broader discussion.
And that’s why prep work is essential for any negotiation. Otherwise, how can you know what a fair price is and what you should pay? It’s similar to driving around without a GPS and finding your way in a new city. You’re blind and in the dark and have little chance of finding the right spot.
The second step for your negotiation plan is to ensure the involvement of the right people. You must make sure you involve any sourcing or procurement function. They can give you an edge given their expertise in the area (or consultant if need be). They also can provide you with a negotiation template to keep track of all the essential business terms. Needless to say, it doesn’t hurt to have another person in your corner when it comes to negotiations, especially a CEO.
Once you’ve properly prepped with your internal team, the next step is to request a meeting directly with the CEO. Why? Typically if you are going to get a discount or business term that isn’t standard, it will need to be agreed to and signed off by the CEO. It’s a time-saving technique that can save you months worth of frustration and negotiations.
So, it’s not to say you can’t negotiate with someone else in the company, it’s just a best practice to expedite the process. By not having the CEO or a decision-maker on the phone, you can rest assured that the process will take longer than getting home through rush hour traffic on a Friday afternoon.
Second, if you request an in-person meeting with the CEO, you surely will be set for success. For some, the idea of negotiating in person may be nerve-wracking. But it will be to your advantage to do so. You see, it is much harder to say ‘no’ when you are face to face with someone. So whenever you are negotiating on the phone, it leaves you with a distinct disadvantage. Not to mention, it’s not as easy to stare them down for added effect.
The last point for negotiating with the CEO is to have confidence. If you’ve done your homework and included or escalated internally to the right people, you should stay firm with your position. Negotiations can be a war of the wills. So never feel like you are rushed into a decision or pressured to make a choice at that moment. Time can also be a great negotiation tactic if you use it properly.
Still not confident enough? Here are a couple of other options for you:
- Escalate and bring your boss/Executive/CEO to the table
- Hire an outside advisor/consultant to do it on your behalf
- Discuss via email, but you must stay firm!
- And just remember, even CEOs put their pants on one leg at a time in the mornings!