man talking near computer

Jul 23, 2018

In 1969, The Rolling Stones released a song that would go on to be named one of the 100 greatest songs of all time; "You Can’t Always Get What You Want”. And while Keith Richards and Mick Jagger are world-renowned lyricists, they are wrong when it comes to your client / agency relationship. By understanding different styles of negotiations, you can practice skills that will not only improve your business relationships but your personal ones too.

Negotiations are everywhere. Whether you are debating where to go to lunch with colleagues or working through a scope of work with an agency, you are harnessing negotiation skills on a daily basis. A saying in the advertising + marketing field is: “however much you think negotiation is a part of your life, you’re underestimating it.” Make yourself more aware of certain negotiation patterns and you will start to recognize these behaviors everyday.


Preparation is key. In formal negotiation practice, you learn about Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement, a.k.a. your BATNA. Let’s say you are working with an agency on a new concept. Although easier said than done, it’s extremely important to not fall in love with only one idea. If unforeseen budget or timeline risks arise, you must be willing to walk away and go another direction. Always remember to do your homework, and know what other options exist before entering into a negotiation-like setting.

Focus on interests versus positions. Sometimes it seems impossible to find an agreement, however understanding the difference between interests and positions can alleviate a ton of conflict. A classic example: there are two employees and only one orange left in the lunchroom. Both people want the orange -- this is their position. Without too much deliberation, they cut the orange in half and split it, but neither employee is happy. Why? The first employee wanted to make orange juice and the other employee only needed the outside to make candied orange peels -- these are their interests. Keep this story in mind. Negotiations are not fixed. It’s important to ask questions that will uncover everyone’s underlying desires.

How to close. Always try to end on a positive note. Maybe not the dad joke, but something that demonstrates appreciation. There is a concept known as “recency bias” in which people most prominently recall observations from the near past. Even if you’ve had a difficult conversation with your agency team, always try to emphasize positive accomplishments at the end of a meeting. And, lastly, once the deal is done or the project is complete, remember to have some kind of ceremonial function. Take time to celebrate!


These are just a few key pointers for a successful negotiation. I encourage you to read and practice these skills on a daily basis so you can get some “Satisfaction.” Good luck!