Brilliantly Negotiating Services Giveaways
A Win-Win Approach
by James "Alex" Alexander
A common struggle among leaders of services organizations in product-centered companies is the constant tug between achieving the services mission (contributing profitable revenue) and the ongoing pull of supporting the good of the company (fixing customers’ train wrecks or helping Sales land the big deal).

Being the good soldier can help the company but do significant damage to your key metrics, such as billability and margin. It isn’t funny when all your noble deeds are forgotten at your quarterly review.
You Can't Just Say No!
Saying no to requests to give away services can create ill will with your fellow executives and get you branded as “not a team player.” Furthermore, the fact is that you’ll lose some of these battles anyway, with the CEO saying, “I understand your situation, but just do it.”
You Can't Always Say Yes!
However, if every time you get a request for free help, you just smile and roll over, you run the very real risk of not being seen as a good guy but as an easy mark. Your only guarantee is that you’ll get more and more requests.
But What Are You to Do?
Yet, there is a way to “have your cake and eat it, too.” By planning ahead for the inevitable and involving Sales in the planning process, you can maintain your relationship with Sales and keep control of the budget. This approach keeps you from being viewed as a pushover or a hard-butt, but as a strategic executive--one who demonstrates foresight and logic so that everyone can win.
The Strategy
All of you know that there will be times during the year when you are called upon to give away services, so why fight it? Build “rescues” right into your budget and negotiate with Sales as to the number of rescues and the time being allotted. This lets you be a proactive good corporate citizen as well as giving you better control over factors that used to be beyond your control.

The interesting thing is that by involving Sales in the discussion, they will take ownership over the number of rescues and they will use it wisely. My experience is that Sales execs that accept this approach will never use up all the time that has been allotted, so this strategy really doesn’t hurt your P&L.

There you have it: A great example of taking an ongoing hassle and turning it into an opportunity. Use this approach in your services organization, and have your cake and eat it, too.
James "Alex" Alexander is founder of Alexander Consulting, a management consultancy that helps product companies build brilliant service businesses. Contact him at 239-671-0740 or
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