LinkedIn and First Impressions

Steve Gutzman

By Steve Gutzman, ICN

If you’re a Millennial, you’ve no doubt had the parental talk about being careful with what you put on your Facebook page. After all, colleges and companies routinely include this as part of their admission screening, and one odd entry may give the wrong impression. And with online fraud costing banks and insurance companies a fortune, they too are analyzing people’s online behavior. If you post an entry for public consumption that says you’re on your way to Barbados for a much-needed two-week vacation and are burglarized the next day, do you have a claim?

On the business side of the fence there’s LinkedIn – the de facto social media page for business. Any “parental advice” needed here? Surely this group is meticulously prudent about what they post. Unfortunately, despite plenty of articles written about “social selling,” most dismiss it as a passing fad — for what else could explain why a “star” salesperson for an elite enterprise software vendor would feature a margarita in their profile picture?

The VP of sales of a software company recently shared with his sales team one of those mysterious “industry statistics,” claiming that 70 percent of their customers/prospects look at their profiles on LinkedIn. The only thing surprising about this comment is that the number is not closer to 100 percent. Why wouldn’t a buyer want to know as much as possible about the person hovering over them with a contract and pen? A little bit of research could serve up a welcoming icebreaker like this: “It appears that you have been with five software companies in the last eight years – tell me again why I should make a five-year commitment to you.”

Which begs the question: “What does your profile say about you if you are in sales?” Does it say you love your company, or does it say you’re looking for your next job? Does it say you’ve helped your clients achieve their goals, or does it say you’re a great closer? Does it say you’re a good listener and never presume to know all the answers, or does it say you’ve attended 10 straight 100-percent clubs?

The sales law of first impressions of the face-to-face kind states that you are probably not going to close a six-figure sale in under 90 seconds — but you can sure lose one. First impressions of the online kind can be just as discriminating.

Steve Gutzman is a senior advisor at ICN and a 32-year veteran of the high-tech industry. You may contact him at


The Power of No

By Steve Gutzman

It is important to be comfortable saying “no” in a negotiation. Not all terms need to be agreed with, not all best and final prices are best and final, and not all deals need to be done. Unfortunately, many inexperienced negotiators think they must hang on at all costs until a deal is done. For them, saying no to a deal is like saying no to a free lottery ticket … it just might be the winner, and they can’t afford to pass up the jackpot.

From the buying side, preparing for a negotiation requires an understanding of the best “no deal.” The value put on the best no-deal option sets a limit that any agreement must not exceed in order for the buyer to agree. It becomes the point that the buyer will not go above. From the selling side, the best no deal becomes the level that the seller will not go below.

William Ury, in his best-selling book Getting to Yes, calls this the BATNA, or best alternative to a negotiated agreement. According to Ury, “The BATNA is the only standard which can protect you from both accepting terms that are too unfavorable and from rejecting terms it would be in your interest to accept.” In its simplest form, this concept means that if the proposed agreement is better than the BATNA, accept it. If the agreement is not better than the BATNA, continue negotiating. If the agreement cannot be improved, consider withdrawing from the negotiations and pursuing an alternative proposal or walking away from the negotiations altogether. Each side typically knows its own limits, which must continually be assessed and reassessed as new information unfolds. The problem is that many negotiators have only a hazy sense of their own no-deal options or how to value them. At a very basic level, buyers are taught that unless they hear no at least once, they are leaving money on the table. It’s part of the process and can be an important tactic. But let’s explore the use of no from a strategic standpoint as well.

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Steve Gutzman is a senior advisor at ICN and a 33-year veteran of the high-tech

Fair Deal Philosophy

ICN’s Fair Deal Philosophy was developed in 2001 in response to many client requests for a statement of negotiating philosophy that they could give their vendors at the outset of a negotiation.  Of key interest these days is the our view on partnerships.  While many suppliers claim to be “partners,” how many actually share the risks?

There are inherent risks in developing, implementing and using high technology solutions.  These risks are compounded by today’s rapidly changing and highly competitive environment.

Because of the uncertainty of the marketplace, the increasing complexity of the solutions, and the increased investment required to develop, deliver and implement these solutions, we will pursue relationships with a few select suppliers.

A partnership must be mutually beneficial and share the risks the alliance encompasses.  Such a relationship would embrace the following axioms:

  • Our relationship will contribute to our mutual profit and growth.
  • The risk of implementing and using technology solutions shall be shared.
    • The relationship will promote continuous and measurable improvement in the people, products and services of both organizations.
    • Our supplier partner shall share our dedication to customer satisfaction and quality.  
    • Both parties will always maintain the highest degree of integrity and ethics in their dealings with each other, their employees and the public.
    • Both parties will always strive to eliminate ambiguities and omissions from the spoken and written terms of the relationship by communicating with clarity of purpose and expectations. 

A Unique Opportunity

            One of my favorite events each year is the IT Procurement Summit produced by Caucus – the Association of Technology Procurement Professionals

            What sets the IT Procurement Summit (ITPS) apart from other conferences, seminars and workshops is that its intimate size creates an environment charged with enthusiasm for the profession. 

            Thanks to the efforts of the Caucus Executive Advisory Committee – a dozen dedicated volunteers from some of the nation’s leading enterprises – hundreds of topic suggestions and dozens of speaker applications are distilled into an information-packed two day, multi-track event. ITPS speakers are actual practitioners of the trade, bringing their practical experience and insight into every session. 

            The ITPS isn’t “pay to play;” that is, speakers don’t pay for the privilege, and they don’t attend with the purpose of hawking their wares. (In fact, supplier participation and access is carefully restricted.) 

            Speakers are carefully selected based on their professional experience and the topic of their presentation.  The result: a more compelling presentation and a more compelling conference. 

            And because of its intimate size, networking opportunities abound. So it’s a great chance to meet others in the profession, problem solve, and share ideas, information and experience.

            The 2011 IT Procurement Summit will be held on October 27 & 28 in Orlando, FL.

            There are two unique opportunities in connection with the ITPS will disappear on December 31.

            First, the Caucus Executive Advisory Committee issued its Call for Speakers earlier this fall.  If you’re a dynamic speaker with experience in the technology acquisition field, then you can contribute to the profession by submitting a speaking proposal by December 31.  More information may be found here. 

            Second, the Caucus Executive Advisory Committee has authorized steep discounts for those people who register by December 31 and pay by January 31.  Caucus members can register for $895 per person and non-members can register for $1,295 per person.  Email Caucus Members Services or phone (407) 740-5600 for more information.

            I hope you’ll consider taking advantage of these opportunities, so you can see why I think it’s such a great event.

Do You Care about the Long-Term?

            A few weeks ago, I wrote about the Senior Manager who bought in to the “We’re Your Partners” supplier ploy hook-line-and-sinker.  Later, I had a conversation with an IT procurement practitioner (our hero) at a major NYSE-listed company. 

            It seems that an executive with his company was hell-bent on signing an agreement with a particular vendor despite the fact that the agreement was not in the best interests of the company.  Our hero explained all his objections and refused to sign off.  Despite internal procedures that require our hero’s signing off on all such agreements before they’re executed, the executive went ahead and executed the contract anyway.  (I can’t wait to see how this works out.)

            These two events got me thinking.  Nowadays, do we care more about short term results than the long-term ramifications of our decisions?  Are our decisions being driven by a “git ‘er done” mentality rather than what’s best for the company?  Are bad decisions being made because people know that it’s unlikely they’ll be around when things start to come undone?

            How are decisions botched in your organization?  How are successful decisions made? Feel free to comment – anonymously of course!

Our guest blogger is Dan Wallace, a staff member at ICN and Caucus-The Association of Technology Acquisition Professionals. For information on the time-tested, best-practice methodology called the Managed Acquisition ProcessTM, contact ICN.  If you have a story worth sharing, please contact 

They’re Your Vendor Not Your Partner ~ Revisited!

            You know it’s a recurring theme of this column to take pot shots at companies that insist that their suppliers are their partners.  Well, here’s a true story – the names have been changed to protect the guilty.

            A few years ago, our organization was called in to make a presentation to senior executives of a well-known communications company.  Our Executive Briefing focuses on the role of effective technology procurement in achieving overall business objectives and includes a segment called “The Ten Truths in Technology Negotiations.”  Naturally, one of the truths is your vendor is not your partner.

            The senior-most executive in the room took great exception to that fact and went off on a rant about how all their suppliers are their partners and how contentious and negative we were to even imply that suppliers should be treated as anything but partners…

            Needless to say, we weren’t invited back.  But the story gets better.

            Two years later, we received a RFP from the company inviting us to bid on renegotiating their maintenance agreements.  It seems that they discovered that nearly fifty of their “partners” were overcharging them for maintenance.

            Mr. Senior-most Executive is no longer with the company. 

Our guest blogger is Dan Wallace, a staff member at ICN and Caucus-The Association of Technology Acquisition Professionals. For advice on how to renegotiate your maintenance contracts, contact ICN.  If you have a story worth sharing, please contact