As an IT company, it’s easy to fall into the trap of seeking technological solutions to everything. When it comes to MSP marketing though, being able to negotiate well can help you just as much as a detailed knowledge of online ad platforms.
Most marketing efforts require some form of negotiation. Joint ventures with complementary businesses and advertising buys, for instance, mean working out deals with human partners (automated platforms like Adwords excluded).
Win-Win vs. Win-Lose Negotiation
Many people instinctively cringe away from the idea of negotiating, turned off by the brash take-it-or-leave-it style portrayed by businessmen in TV shows and movies. While that sort of hardball makes for tense and exciting TV, most professional negotiators prefer to look for mutually beneficial arrangements.
“The best negotiators are invariably pleasant people,” writes business guru Brian Tracy. “They are likeable and agreeable…They are not aggressive and pushy and demanding. They do not coerce their negotiating partners into unsatisfactory agreements.”
With that sort of win-lose approach, each side starts with a position they couldn’t possibly hope to achieve. Then they make a series of small compromises to try and get a deal as close as possible to their starting point. There are a few problems with this strategy though:
- It forces each side to take a firm position, which they then feel they need to defend.
- Negotiations are more likely break down.
- Even when you “win,” you often create hard feelings towards you. This means that other parties are often less cooperative in fulfilling the arrangement. More importantly, the “loser” often chooses not to work with you again in the future.
This last point is probably the most important. While you might not care about future deals when you negotiate the price of your new sofa, a profitable ongoing business arrangement is another matter. A good long-term marketing partnership can be just as valuable to your MSP as landing a large, long-term client.
In win-win negotiation, you try to work out a deal that’s beneficial to both parties. It might not be the deal that either of you were originally seeking, but neither side feels they taken advantage of. This maintains a working relationship.
Tips for Negotiating Win-Win Arrangements
A few minutes of small talk or an introductory phone call can make all the difference, according to Harvard Law School’s Program on Negotiation. It can stop your negotiation from feeling like it’s just a transaction and make it feel more like collaboration.
Focus on Interests
Instead of focusing on each side’s negotiating position, figure out what everyone’s underlying interests are.
For example, your position might be that you want to buy a full-page ad in the magazine of a local business association for $350. The magazine’s position might be $500. If neither side is able to budge, then focusing on position alone will make you walk away. Your interest is in promoting yourself to local businesses though, not in the full-page ad specifically. There may be other ways to do that through the local business association. You could sponsor an award at their annual award night, for example.
This is an ideal MSP marketing opportunity which you could easily have missed. Notice that it also serves the association’s interest, because they need to find sponsors each year.
Present Multiple Win-Win Options
Come up with multiple win-win offers and present them to your partner at once. This can shift the focus from haggling onto finding a scenario that works for both parties.
Really take on board what the other party says and pay attention to any frustrations that they betray. Taking the time to understand their position will win you goodwill and help you achieve a deal they can agree to.
Taking the time to figure out interests and options in advance means you’re less likely to miss anything important. Also, by knowing this information going into the meeting, you’ be able to work efficiently to broker a deal.
Building good, ongoing relationships can boost your MSP marketing efforts, but you have to treat potential partners as partners, not as obstacles.