You made your decision and kicked it up the food chain – now the fun begins. Well, fun for some people, anyway. For the first half of this discussion we will assume you have decided to move to a new platform and offer tactics for negotiating for a replacement platform. But some people decide not to move, using the possible switch for negotiating leverage. It is no bad thing to stay with your existing platform, so long as you have done the work to know it can meet your requirements. We are writing this paper for the people who keep telling us about their unhappiness, and how their evolving requirements have not been met. So after asking all the right questions, if the best answer is to stay put, that’s a less disruptive path anyway.

Replacement tactics

For now, though, let’s assume your current platform won’t get you there. Now your job is to get the best price for the new offering. Here are a few tips to leverage for the best deal:

  • Time the buy: Yes, this is Negotiation 101. Wait until the end of the quarter and squeeze your sales rep for the best deal to get the PO in by the last day of the month. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. But it’s worth trying. The rep may ask for your commitment that the deal will, in fact, get done that quarter. Make sure you can get it done if you pull this card.
  • Tell the incumbent they lost the deal: Next get the incumbent involved. Once you put in a call letting them know you are going in a different direction, they will usually respond. Not always, but generally the incumbent will try to save the deal. And then you can go back to the challenger and tell them they need to do a bit better because you got this great offer from their entrenched competition. Just like when buying a car, to use this tactic you must be willing to walk away from the challenger and stay with the incumbent.
  • Look at non-cash add-ons: Sometimes the challenger can’t discount any more. But you can ask for additional professional services, modules, boxes, licenses, whatever. With new data analytics, maybe your team lacks some in-house skills for a successful transition – the vendor can help. Remember, the incremental cost of software is zero, zilch, nada – so vendors can often bundle in a little more to get the deal when pushed to the wall.
  • Revisit service levels: Another non-cash sweetener could be an enhanced level of service. Maybe it’s a dedicated project manager to get your migration done. Maybe it’s the Platinum level of support, even if you pay for Bronze. Given the amount of care and feeding required to keep any security management platform tuned and optimized, a deeper service relationship could come in handy.
  • Dealing with your boss’s boss: One last thing: be prepared for your recommendation to be challenged, especially if the incumbent sells a lot of other gear to your company. This entire process has prepared you for that call, so just work through the logic of your decision once more, making clear that your recommendation is best for the organization. But expect the incumbent to go over your head – especially if they sell a lot of storage or servers to your company.

Negotiating with the incumbent

Customers also need to consider that maybe staying is the best option for their organization, so knowing how to leverage both sides helps you make a better deal. Dealing with an incumbent who doesn’t want to lose business adds a layer of complexity to the decision, so customers need to be prepared for incumbent vendors trying to save the business; fortunately there are ways to leverage that behavior as the decision process comes to a conclusion. It would be naive to not prepare in case the decision goes the other way – due to pricing, politics, or any other reason beyond your control. So if you have to make the status quo work and keep the incumbent, here are some ideas for making lemonade from the proverbial lemon:

  • Tell the incumbent they are losing the deal: We know it is not totally above-board – but all’s fair in love, war, and sales. If the incumbent didn’t already know they were at risk, it can’t hurt to tell them. Some vendors (especially the big ones) don’t care, which is probably one reason you were looking at new stuff anyway. Others will get the wake-up call and try to make you happy. That’s the time to revisit your platform evaluation and figure out what needs fixing.
  • Get services: If you have to make do with what you have, at least force the vendor’s hand to make your systems work better. Asking a vendor for feature enhancement commitments will only add to your disappointment, but there are many options at your disposal. If your issue is not getting proper value from the system, push to have the incumbent provide some professional services to improve the implementation. Maybe send your folks to training. Have their team set up a new set of rules and do knowledge transfer. We have seen organizations literally start over, which may make sense if your initial implementation is sufficiently screwed up.
  • Scale up (at lower prices): If scalability is the issue, confront that directly with the incumbent and request additional hardware and/or licenses to address the issue. Of course this may not be enough but every little bit helps, and if moving to a new platform isn’t an option, at least you can ease the problem a bit. Especially when the incumbent knows you were looking at new gear because of a scaling problem.
  • Add use cases: Another way to get additional value is to request additional modules thrown into a renewal or expansion deal. Maybe add the identity module or look at configuration auditing. Or work with the team to add database and/or application monitoring. Again, the more you use the tool, the more value you will get, so figure out what the incumbent will do to make you happy.

Honestly, if you must stick with the existing system, you don’t have much flexibility. The incumbent doesn’t need to know that, though, so try to use the specter of migration as leverage. But at the end of the day it is what it is. Throughout this process you have figured out what you need the tool to do, so now do your best to get there within your constraints.

Once the deal is done, it’s time to move to the new platform, and you will be knee-deep in the migration. We will wrap up this paper with the migration, and planning to get onto the new kit. It will be hard – it always is – but you can leverage everything you learned through your first go-round with the incumbent, as well as this process, to build a very clear map of where you need to go and how to get there.