insi-ded: Customer horror stories

3 Min Read

Customer horror stories: The renewal negotiation from hell

Our inSi-DED series is back! This week, Cognite’s VP of Customer Success, Alex Farmer shares a story of the scariest negotiation of his life. Hold on to your pumpkins.

If you want to submit your own CS or community horror story, do so here. (You can be completely anonymous!)

It was that time of the year: renewals.

And ahead of me, I had what turned out to be the toughest negotiation I’ve ever had in my entire life.

Now, the majority of the time, our renewals would be with the direct budget holder. But sometimes they would involve procurement, especially if it was a larger customer with a larger contract.

This time, I was responsible for renewing a large contract. We were trying to get them onto a multi-year contract and two years was on the table when procurement stepped in. 

The contract was due to expire in 24 hours, and at this point, the customer was driving a really, really hard bargain. As we’re negotiating this renewal, all of a sudden, two days before the contract is due to end, they email me saying, “Hey, by the way, in a day, I’m going to be in Thailand on vacation. We need to wrap this up in the next 24 hours or I’m going on vacation and the contract will expire.” For me, it seemed like the classic sales tactic of putting time pressure on the vendor by creating a false deadline.

So we budged. But I decided to very strategically wait for 12 hours into those 24 hours to budge a little bit and get a little bit closer to their counter offer.

Next, this person emails me back and says, “Oh, my flight to Thailand has been delayed by eight hours, so I can keep negotiating with you.”

Pretty convenient, wouldn’t you say?

That, to me, confirmed my suspicion that this procurement guy had been not so forthcoming with his true location. He was just trying to put pressure on us. But it was the scariest moment I’ve had when negotiating a renewal because I had no idea if this person was being genuine or just trying every tactic in the book to get a better deal for their company.

The scariest part was that this was one of our largest contracts and I had to make a very game-time decision. Do I trust and go along and take them at their word that they’ll walk away? Or do I evaluate this as a total bluff and we can just stick to our guns and say, “No, this is the price?”

Thankfully, they renewed for two years and there was actually a slight price increase, although they got more licenses as well. In the end, they got a deal and we got a deal. We found a win-win, but that was a very scary negotiation I’ll never forget.