Notes on Negotiation: When to Hire an Agent

When to Hire an Agent
Submitted by Marty Latz, Latz Negotiation Institute  

The seasonal college football head coaching carousel is in full swing.  These coaches, like coaches and players at the professional level, are typically represented by agents.

Why?  And when should you hire an agent to represent you in a negotiation?  Here are four key considerations:

1.  Your ability to objectively negotiate for yourself, factoring in the value of your future relationship with the other side.

Head coaches and high-level competitive athletes often have big egos and tend to wear their emotions on their sleeves. It’s thus particularly difficult for them – especially in addressing their compensation – to take a step back and view the negotiation process objectively. Hiring an agent helps them do this and minimize the potentially negative impact of their ego and emotions. Agents help them make better decisions, not unduly influenced by their ego and emotions.

2.  Your and your potential agent’s substantive issue-related expertise.

The less knowledge you have on the relevant issues, the more likely you should hire an agent.  Many sports agents bring a wealth of experience and substantive expertise in their specialized field which can’t be matched by their clients.

3.  Your own negotiation ability vis-à-vis your potential agent’s.

Many sports and other agents – in addition to their substantive knowledge on the issues – also bring a process-oriented negotiation expertise to the table. And some have extensively studied the negotiation research in this area and know if and when and how to make the right moves in various situations, many of which they have experienced before. While experience does not necessarily equal expertise in this area – combining experience and expertise can be a very powerful force on behalf of their clients.

4.  The strategic and structural advantages and disadvantages of the principal-agent relationship.

The structural principal-agent dynamic also brings advantages and disadvantages. For example, agents can often float trial balloons to test the market on behalf of their principals without making a commitment or causing a scandal. This can be very helpful, especially for coaches.

Of course, hiring an agent comes with potential disadvantages as well, including the possibility of miscommunication between the principal and agent.

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Marty Latz is the founder of Latz Negotiation Institute, a national negotiation training and consulting company, and ExpertNegotiator, a Web-based software company that helps managers and negotiators more effectively negotiate and implement best practices based on the experts’ proven research.  He is also the author of Gain the Edge! Negotiating to Get What You Want (St. Martin’s Press 2004). He can be reached at 480-951-3222 or Latz@ExpertNegotiator.com

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