How to Spark a Bidding War

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Alert the media. The market has officially shifted. And thank goodness. 

Gone are the days of the job seeker’s paradise—where anyone with a pulse and a templated script could land an overpaid FAANG job without a lick of understanding on what to do next. No offense, Google.

Now, big-time employers get to piss right back in your face—force thousands to return to the office—and laugh at the endless bickering that staff will revolt and refuse to come back. 

Really Karen, really Chad? 

With inflation still blistering our lives into oblivion, consider the life you’ve built. Executives are often responsible for a spouse, expensive mortgage or vehicle, exhausting utility bills, and a costly (but necessary) nanny to raise the spoiling of their children. Are you willing to put your 80% overpaid Silicon Valley wage on the chopping block to stay remote?

For what? Sweatpants and limited growth behind the shelter of a webcam?

I know you’ll have to move away from the quaint mountain town you’ve been ruining for two years—but nobody ever liked it when you snapped your fingers for service in a struggling shoulder season restaurant that is 40% understaffed because the workers can’t afford to live in their town anymore. 

Anyway—you will get to rush back to the beautiful termite colony city you helped build, the furious traffic, and the pervasive scent of Tenderloin urine. Ahhh, the smell of real American privilege! 

I’m not bitter. You’re bitter. But I digress. Let’s talk about what it takes to make some real money these days. 

And before you give me a hard time, I’ve used this strategy with multiple clients to create dream negotiation states, with some clients grabbing over seven figures more than they anticipated. 

Setting The Record Straight

I want to state that creating the conditions for a bidding war is not difficult. 

You don’t need to be the most qualified. You don’t need to work at a sexy, well-known company. And honestly, you don’t even need to be good at your job to pull it off. Lots of bozos get executive work, titles, and prestige that they don’t deserve because they created the opportunity to ask for it. Why not you? 

*Flirtatiously winks at self in the mirror. You got this, Jacob; they don’t suspect a thing.* 

A bidding war is a simple microeconomics recipe. 

An ample helping of supply and demand, a sprinkle of FOMO, and a lot of “it’s gonna be easier (and cheaper) to pay this one more than to find another one.”  

Create The Conditions For Multiple Buyers 

For the sake of scrupulous integrity, my concentration on creating a bidding war aims at fair play. Therefore, it centers on being honest and communicating meticulously. 

For those without said scruples, you can create a fake bidding war by fabricating information and bluff your way to higher earnings. However, winning via manipulation vs. real market validation is far less rewarding. 

No judgment here. People have done far worse for far less. 

Market The Supply

Let’s break down the supply and demand for your career.

The supply is straightforward. It’s simply you. And how much time you’re willing to exchange for some amount of monetary value. It’s one of the many reasons people like Warren Buffett consider developing yourself as the best investment anyone can make. 

Marketing the supply (yourself) while working toward your next negotiation helps create interest and demand.  

Marketing starts as early as your resume and LinkedIn or how you present yourself during company or leadership events—but people commonly begin to pay attention at the Tell Me About Yourself stage. 

Next, it’s about how you crush job interviews, how your network talks about you, how you assert yourself, how you balance negotiation leverage, and how you master the negotiation

Come to think of it, I’ve written a lot on marketing yourself, so there is no need to rehash here. You get the gist. 

You must create distance between yourself and your competition to stand out as the most desirable candidate. 

In addition, you need to win multiple concurrent interview processes. 

Side note—sometimes sharing that you’re getting offers from others during interviews will stimulate new offers simply because other employers already want you, too. 

It’s like how people can be more attractive when others admire them— or something like that.

Build Hellacious Demand

I use the word hellacious with purpose. 

Sure, let’s say you’re a software engineer that learned the correct coding language and hit a good track record of company wins. You don’t need to work as hard to create demand for yourself. Recruiters are shelling your DMs like flies on sh… Well, you get it. 

Demand for software engineers is spicy.

For the rest of the world, you need to create demand with a dedicated system and habits that keep hurling opportunities into your hopper. Or create your sales funnel if you want to get buzzwordy and cute.

You must work hellaciously to create sequential opportunities, interview processes, and negotiations. The more opportunities you have, the more data you can consider, the more options you have, and the more validation and confidence you can bring into your negotiations.

Building hellacious demand does not mean dedicating a lazy Saturday afternoon to apply for 20 jobs and then stop. Sprints do not work. 

Instead, you must work diligently to keep the flow of opportunities flooding your attention and feeding you intel on how to negotiate your final decision.

Even when you’re actively in final negotiations with other companies, sustained prospecting and opportunity building are necessary to spark and maximize a bidding war. 

In short: more options, more demand, more leverage. 

Own Time, Spark The War 

I get a lot of pushback on this strategy. 

I hear, “Jacob, hiring processes are all unique. Some take three weeks. Others take three months. Seriously, what are the odds the stars align and I have multiple offers simultaneously?” 

My answer? You tell me. 

If you are being led through the hiring process by multiple opportunities, that is YOUR fault. And to be honest, it’s not very attractive. 

You should know when your opportunities will come to fruition—or at least guide them to a period of a decision within a ten-day window. 

You are at least 50% responsible for choosing to be passively led through a hiring process vs. telling the employer the cadence that works best for you. 

It can be as simple as saying, “I’m entertaining several opportunities and will have a decision by Thursday, next week, or the end of the quarter, etc.” You can control time and urgency. 

Waiting for the employer to choose your interview fate is equivalent to you being led through their process. Which is annoyingly inconvenient for your life and hopes for a bidding war. Also, it indicates that you’ll happily take whatever interview we give you because you ain’t got nothin’ better lined up. 

However, you create more perceived demand for yourself when you exercise more assertiveness and confidence in navigating the hiring process. 

For example, “I’m grateful for the opportunity to discuss this VP of Product role at XYZ; it’s the team I’ve been most excited about. However, I need to share that I am roughly two weeks out from an offer for an SVP role and another that, to be honest, I’m less interested in from a larger firm. (Consider name-dropping others if it boosts your rep). I want to respect your hiring process, but I have concerns that the timing may clash. What do you think?” 

Rinse and repeat for other opportunities. 

Create The Executive Job You Want

I wrote about how the best executives can create their dream jobs a few weeks ago by applying for lesser roles and working into them. 

You can also scope a better executive role during negotiations through a bidding war by alluding to what others are willing to do for you.

It all circles back to information and timing. What you choose to share with a prospective employer and when you choose to share.

During a bidding war, it may go something like this. 

“I want to be clear. I’m grateful for the opportunity to work with you, but I need a few days to consider the best path with my family. I’ll make my decision Thursday.” 

Many stop there. But you can often work through the challenge with the hiring manager or HR, depending on the circumstances. Leverage their insight for your negotiation or to get a better offer aligned with what you really want. 

For example, after expressing gratitude, you can add: 

“If I’m being honest, I like that the other role is an SVP of Revenue position vs. the Marketing only scope in this role. I want to be responsible for more of the revenue engine. The notable compensation increase is also a deciding factor. Still, I think I’ll make the most impact here. Is there anything we can do to address the scope of the role and compensation?” 

Moreover, you can drive it home by being even more assertive. For example: 

“If you change the title to SVP, Revenue, and help me align my role to support the revenue stack and increase the comp 50k, I’ll sign today and get started on Monday. That’s a no-brainer for me. Is that unreasonable?” 

There are countless other nuances to consider—but we’re over 1500 words, and you’re already a real trooper for getting this far. So if you’re preparing to spark a bidding war, shoot me a text. 

The code phrase is mo money mo problems—and the number is five three zero – five seven five – five nine eight nine. 

Happy hunting.  

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