I’m one of those crazy ones who loves negotiating – be it for my clients, out with friends or just in conversation with strangers. I’m always flexing that muscle but more importantly, having fun with it.
As a talent agent, I get daily practice at negotiating. I will tell you thought that just because I do it often, doesn’t make it always easy. I still get nervous some times. Sometimes that little teeny, tiny voice in my head gets the better of me and I don’t want to ask for the big number.
Luckily I’ve had enough practice to know that when that happens, I don’t respond to the email or hop on the phone to negotiate that opportunity. I know better and usually sleep on it, go for a run or something that gets me into a better headspace.
If you’re someone who needs to get better at negotiating, I’ve pulled together my top 5 favorite ways to get better at negotiating without really negotiating.
[Okay, so a couple examples do involve negotiating, but bear with me and you’ll see where I’m going with them.]
5 tips for negotiating better as an Influencer
Tip #1 : Practice negotiating outside of work, in a scenario that doesn’t make you as nervous.
Or one that is so bizarre, you’ve got nothing to lose. Maybe it’s even entertainment and fun!
A couple years ago I moved from a one bedroom to a two bedroom & needed a second mattress. I trotted on down to the mattress warehouse, and proceeded to lay down on a bunch of mattresses (as one does!) to test their firmness.
Took a peek at the price tag & thought, let me have fun with this. The sales rep starts spouting off all the particulars and I said, “Would you give it to me for $150?” (totally lowballing him.) He LOL’ed & countered (which told me there was room for negotiation.)
I continued laying on the mattress, arms above my head, facing away from him & countered back. And then kept my mouth shut!
This went on a for a couple minutes & when we came to a number that he wouldn’t budge from, I rolled off the mattress & shook his hand, saving ~$300 (almost got free delivery too, but the timing didn’t work out on that)
It all started because I thought I’d practice and see what was possible.
Next time you’re at a bar and chatting with the bartender, tell them you had a great day, are celebrating with your friend (who is clearly sitting with you) and would they give you a free round of champagne? Or a free drink if you post a photo on Instagram right now?
This is just to get you used to flexing that negotiating muscle (that’s probably old, dry and all shriveled up.)
Tip #2 : Get really good at asking questions.
Imagine this scenario :
Amiga numero uno > Hey Johanna, what do you want to do for dinner tonight?
Yours truly > Hmm….what are you craving tonight?
Or this one?
Amiga numero uno > Hey Johanna, do you have that spreadsheet done for the big boss?
Yours truly > When are they anticipating having it completed? Or when are they anticipating receiving it from me?
Or how about this situation?
Lover boy numero uno > Hey Johanna, what do you want to do for our anniversary on Saturday?
Yours truly > What do you feel like doing that would make us laugh really hard?
Ya feel me? Just whip a question back at them. Be like Serena Williams and slam the ball back over the proverbial tennis net into their court. Conversely, another good follow up is, “…tell me more about that…..”
This is a great thing to practice because in negotiations, asking questions buys you time AND gets you more information.
Tip #3 : Start saying big numbers out loud. Really. Big. Numbers.
Next time you’re at the grocery store wonder out loud by saying, “How much will my bill be today? $56,723? Oh..only $67.42? Great!”
Big numbers can be a tongue twister.
Fifty six thousand seven hundred and twenty three vs sixty seven? Trust me on this one. When you’re saying those big numbers when you’re nervous, they become even more of a tongue twister.
When you are asking for the big bucks for your next raise or project, give your tongue the benefit of muscle memory by having said those huge numbers out loud. A lot.
Tip #4 : Wear the things more often that make you feel powerful and strong.
Be it your – your best underwear, favorite necklace, power bra, Spanx, heels, whatever, don’t save your “I feel special and amazing” bits of clothing or jewelry for “special days” only. Every day’s a special day!
Don’t make it so that when you put on whatever the article of clothing is, it seems so out of character that you just don’t know what to do with yourself.
Wear those clothes so that when they become your suit of armor or confidence, it’s a familiar feeling. Channel your Sascha Fierce side more often. Get familiar with her.
Tip #5 : Practice the art of slowing down, of not rushing.
Next time someone asks you a question or wants your input, on whatever – could be a work thang, could be something personal, don’t respond right away.
Better yet, ask for a minute. Or be bold and ask for 24 hours to respond. Or by the end of the day. Or until the close of business. Whatever level of boldness you are feeling, ask for it.
You’re letting time & distance emotionally untangle yourself from the conversation. This way (down the road when negotiating for realz), you’ll have some time and space to get clear on what’s on the table (and not on the table) for your options.
THEN and only then, you can make up your mind about how to move forward.
As a skilled negotiator who is really good at closing, I do these 5 things often. You can bet on seeing Megan Rapinoe dribbling the ball around her front yard in her spare time or Serena Williams volleying against a wall just because. This is my version of being Megan Rapinoe and Serena.
Tips for negotiating better as an influencer FAQs
What are the 5 negotiation strategies?
I’ll be honest — I had to look this one up! I’d never heard of “the 5 negotiation strategies” (and I’ve done thousands of negotiations as a talent manager), so I was curious and reached out to our mutual friend, the Google. According to everyone’s favorite search engine, the 5 negotiation strategies are: competing, collaborating, compromising, accommodating, avoiding. Huh. You don’t say!
This gets me thinking because I can only relate to one of those strategies — collaborating. And in fact, I was reading in horror about some of the other strategies mentioned, namely competing, compromising, and avoiding. That doesn’t sound fun, does it? And now I’m curious, how does one negotiate and avoid at the same time??
When a brand reaches out to partner with you, it’s for a collaboration, a partnership. They want you as a brand ambassador for their company. All the successful negotiations that I’ve done on behalf of my clients have been successful because they are collaborations.
The brand reaches out with a certain set of desired deliverables, which we refer to as the scope of work (SOW). Usually they ask me how much my client will charge for that SOW and then our negotiations begin. We’re off to the races!
Whenever I receive that initial outreach email from a brand, which I refer to as an “inbound inquiry,” I go into the conversation with an open mind. I don’t make any assumptions about what they want, when they want it, nor what their budget is. Keep in mind using the words “small” or “big” when referring to a budget are all relative. Sure, it may be Pepsi reaching out, but I have absolutely NO IDEA what sort of budget this particular marketing agency has for this project.
What you don’t know as an influencer is that just because it’s a big (or huge) global company, it doesn’t automatically mean that the project they want you for has a lot of money. I’ve worked with multiple agencies at the same time on different projects for the same company. My point here is, don’t assume and make sure you keep that open mind when you’re sitting at the virtual negotiation table, okay?
So, you’re going into this negotiation with an open mind and a list of open-ended questions that will help you learn more about the project. In other words, make sure the questions you’re asking can’t be answered with a simple “yes” or “no” but instead ones that require a longer reply.
For example, instead of saying “Can you pay me $15k for this project?” when they’re offering $10k, ask them “what budget flexibility do you have as my rate for this SOW is higher than what you’re offering?” Or, be direct and say your number of $15k instead of “higher than what you’re offering.”
Remember, you’re collaborating on a project together. It will take some solid negotiation skills and practice over time to feel comfortable asking these questions. Successful negotiators aren’t born, they’re developed over time. It takes practice, flexing the negotiation muscle frequently, and learning what negotiation mistakes to avoid.
Remember, the key here is being open to all the possible outcomes of your negotiation, and using a perspective of collaborative conversation with the brand as an influencer. This means using your active listening skills (gosh, I feel like a kindergarten teacher writing that but it’s true!).
When you ask open-ended questions and use your listening skills, you learn a lot of helpful information! The information that you glean from these conversations (such as what their expectations are for the project i.e. building brand awareness or converting new members; the timing of the project and whether it fits in your schedule; their creative vision; etc) can be incredibly helpful in finding common ground and determining your negotiation strategy. For example, if you know one particular deliverable is super duper important to them and for you to do it, you’d have to bring in your professional video team, keep that in mind when negotiating for your pay.
What is the best negotiating style?
The best negotiating style for influencers is one that’s collaborative and cooperative. Let’s agree to always work towards that win-win situation, okay? It’s absolutely doable to have both parties in a win-win scenario so that everyone is happy.
In the influencer marketing world, people change agencies often. Always remember to play the long game, meaning, don’t burn bridges. Be nice and easy to work with. Make them want to find reasons to work with you again.
FWIW, it often happens that someone works with a certain talent at one agency. Then, when they switch jobs, they bring that talent over to the new agency. Be one of the people they bring along, not the ones they leave behind.
What are the steps of a successful negotiation?
Negotiating is like watching a game of tennis, or high-intensity pickleball if you will. It’s a volley. A back and forth (not *quite* as long as this), but it could be lengthy. Get comfy.
- The offer (or initial inquiry, as I always think of them), comes in, usually in the form of an email to me or my client. It has at minimum a very high level outline of an upcoming brand ambassador campaign and either shares a budget or asks me to give rates based on what I know.
- Next up, I have questions that would impact my talent’s rate such as usage, exclusivity and timing. So I ask them.
- The agency replies. Best case scenario they answer 100% of my questions, or answer what they can and we can move on to step # 4. If not, I bounce back to step #2 until I’m satisfied with their answers.
- After reaching an agreement on the scope and budget, I confirm it all in my email and then ask for their timing on getting me an agreement.
- I receive the agreement and 100% of the time, I redline it. This means I make edits using tracked changes in the word document.
- I send it back to my contact who in turns sends it over to their legal or team to approve my edits. This part continues until we’re all satisfied with the final agreement.
- I get a clean version and it goes out to my client for signature.
- We celebrate!
What are the 4 C’s of negotiation?
I can’t stress this enough. If you’ve gotten this far in my article I’m probably sounding like a broken record. The 4’s C’s of negotiation are communication (shocking, right?), clarity, confirmation, and confidence.
Communication is everything, I tell you! You’ve got to have open lines of communication between you and the brand/agency that wants to work with you/your talent. “Open lines of communication” means being responsive and replying to questions with answers. It means being respectful and knowing that the negotiation table is a safe space to talk while remembering that it’s never personal. Leave emotions out of your negotiations.
Clarity. Make sure you’re super duper crystal clear on what the project is. When the agreement reads 60 days of exclusivity does that 60 days begin the day your content goes live or the day the term ends? Don’t be afraid to ask follow-up questions and even put them in writing to make sure you’re aligned.
Confirmation. I always, always confirm both in the conversation and in my follow-up email. “Great to chat with you today about this project. To confirm, (fill in talent name) will do XYZ deliverables for XYZ amount of money by this time etc etc.” It might feel like you’re overcommunicating. I say there’s no such thing.
Finally, Confidence. Whether you’re the talent or a talent manager negotiating with a brand, you absolutely have to be confident and believe in what you’re saying. If you’re asking for a big number — or a number that seems big to you —you have to say it with confidence. When I’m quoting a rate for a project, I have to be 110% confident that my client will deliver that value or more.