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Negotiation Without Being a Jerk Vol. III

(Previously vol I, vol II)

A photographer friend got an unsolicited call from a major client, a hair care company. After a back and forth went into the info for the shoot, both parties agreed it sounded like a good fit. The photographer sent off the quote and waiting a few days.

The reply came back "We could only do it for 1/8th of what you quoted. Period."


After recovering from the shock, the friend weighed options.The friend knew that this would be an awesome, high-visibility client that would further their business. At the same time, the counter-offer was so low that death by discounting was a very real fear. Not only that, but if they accepted this offer to such a huge client, word would get out about their low photography rates among other large clients and this would permanently stunt the friend's business.

Is this deal already at an impasse?

Where would you go in this situation?


Having been reading me for a while, I'm sure you've already guessed no.

My photographer friend came back with their counter offer. "I'll do the gig for the low price plus five years of hair care products."

The company jumped on it.

They had a deal.


Negotiation is about total value, not just price. It's easy to get caught up on dollar figures since dollars are easy for anyone to understand, but money is only one of many sources of value. In this case, the hair care client didn't have the budget to pay the full amount but they did have endless amounts of shampoo and conditioner. Adding the hair care products didn't cost the company much since they produced them at cost, but for the photographer who would otherwise have to pay retail, it was a huge gain in value.

This is why we should be explicit about what we want; value is defined on a personal basis. Even with concrete items such as money, value is personal. A billionaire will value a hundred dollars much less than the musician would value a hundred dollars in the same way the billionaire would value a private concert more than the musician.

One of your goals when negotiating should be to figure out if the other side has anything that costs the other party nothing but has a huge value to you, and vice versa. Big wins like this are not only excellent bargaining chips but they allow you much more flexibility in your bargaining process.

Value is personal.

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