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What outcome are you negotiating for?

I remember working with a software vendor a few years ago to negotiate a license agreement. I don’t think I am a push-over, but I know what I want and I do my best to make sure I get it. I was at the end of this negotiation, when the vendor salesman suddenly decided to go over my head and negotiate with my boss on some sticking point we had. My boss quickly caved and the salesman, I am sure, gloated privately that he had beaten me. But what outcome was he negotiating for?


Sometimes I think that competitive fire is misused, because we have our eyes on the wrong outcome. This salesman was looking at this deal as the outcome—he wanted to ensure that he got the most he could out of this contract. I, on the other hand, wanted to get the most out of the relationship, one that it turned out could have been much bigger than that one contract.
So, after the contract was signed, I took the salesman aside and made sure that he understood what he had done:

  • He permanently made my boss the negotiator. We had struggled over one sticking point. He found in the future that my boss made everything a sticking point. Ouch.
  • He had broken my trust. From then on, I made sure that I was always ready for him. My boss was prepared for a call from him at any time and I never laid even a few of my cards on the table.
  • He had made me realize I needed a second source. And I went out and got one. Holy profit margins, Batman!

I “won” every negotiation from then on. But I never felt good about it. I had always hoped to have a close relationship with this company—I think it would have been better for both if us.
That wasn’t possible, because we weren’t both negotiating for the same outcome. In your marketing, are you trying to win a sale or a customer?
I’ll be on a blog-free vacation until February 26, so look for a new post when I get back.

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Mike Moran

Mike Moran is an expert in digital marketing, search technology, social media, text analytics, web personalization, and web metrics, who, as a Certified Speaking Professional, regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide. Mike serves as a senior strategist for Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website, ibm.com, most recently as the Manager of ibm.com Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He is a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research. Mike worked at ibm.com from 1998 through 2006, pioneering IBM’s successful search marketing program. IBM’s website of over two million pages was a classic “big company” website that has traditionally been difficult to optimize for search marketing. Mike, working with Bill Hunt, developed a strategy for search engine marketing that works for any business, large or small. Moran and Hunt spearheaded IBM’s content improvement that has resulted in dramatic gains in traffic from Google and other internet portals.

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