Closing The Gap

This NFL agent secures multimillion-dollar contracts for athletes—here's her best negotiating advice

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Roc Nation Sports NFL agent Kim Miale.
Photo credit: Roc Nation

Breaking into the NFL space as a sports agent is competitive. And if you're a woman, it's easy to feel the pressure of being one of very few in the room.

Last year, women accounted for less than 5% of NFL Players Association-certified agents, and less than 3% of agents with clients who are active in the league, according to Sports Business Journal. Kim Miale, general counsel and NFL agent at Roc Nation Sports, a division of Jay-Z's entertainment agency, is one the few women who have found success as a top agent in the league.

Since joining Roc Nation Sports in 2013, Miale has represented some of the NFL's most well-known athletes including New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley, Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster and Baltimore Ravens offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley.

This past October, Miale helped Stanley secure a five-year contract extension with the Ravens that includes $98.75 million in new money, with a max value of $100 million. When adding in Stanley's 2020 salary, the extension deal comes to $112.866 million in max value, with a total of nearly $71 million in guaranteed money, according to Miale. Additionally, the star offensive tackle's new deal includes a $22.5 million signing bonus and $1.25 million in Pro Bowl incentives each year. Though Stanley's new contract of $19.75 million per year makes him the second highest-paid offensive lineman in the league, the details of his deal allows him to get the most guaranteed of any offensive lineman.

"That was important for us," Miale tells CNBC Make It, while explaining that a few days after signing his contract, Stanley suffered a season-ending injury that could have easily forced him to leave millions on the table if they didn't negotiate any guaranteed money. Stanley's deal, according to Roc Nation Sports, is the largest contract ever negotiated by a female sports agent in NFL history.

Below Miale shares the three negotiating tips she used to secure Stanley's massive contract, all of which she says can help you to receive more money at work.

NFL sports agent Kim Miale with New York Giants' player Saquon Barkley.
Photo credit: Roc Nation

1. Understand that timing is everything

When negotiating for more money, Miale says it's important to recognize that "timing is key," especially as companies become more conservative with their budgets due to Covid-19's impact.

"So you want to go in and ask for a raise after you've just had a huge win because it creates leverage," she says. Or, if you just finished a bunch of big projects for the company then you can go in and ask for a raise then. What you don't want to do, Miale says, is ask for a raise after you've had a mishap on an assignment or if you know your company is currently experiencing a downturn, because chances are they may not be able to meet your request.

For example, she says she believes Stanley's deal was so successful because it came at a perfect time. When looking at the landscape of the league this season, not only has Covid had a huge impact on fan attendance, but Miale says that there has been an "inordinate amount of injuries," which many experts link to a delayed start in off-season practice and no preseason due to the pandemic. As a result, she says, "the salary cap will most likely take a hit next season" and so "getting that deal done when we did felt like the most optimal time." Right now, the NFL has a salary cap of $198.2 million per team, which is the total amount of money a team can spend on all player salaries for the 2020 season.

For employees, Miale says, "capitalizing on your position at the right time," especially after a big win, can really "help you leverage everything."

2. Come armed with research and examples of past work

In addition to understanding timing, Miale says it's critical that you enter any salary negotiation meeting with ample knowledge about the pay range for your role, as well as concrete examples of the big wins you've had at the company.

"Go in prepared and make an argument for why you deserve the raise or whatever it is you want to ask for," she says. "And, be able to advocate for yourself by having very specific examples of what you've done."

For instance, if you helped your company secure a major advertising deal, then write that down and bring it up in your negotiation meeting. Or, if you helped your company increase its social media presence or expand its audience with a big project, then be sure to bring that up because you can't assume that your boss will automatically remember every major win you've had.

In the specific case of an NFL contract, Miale says that "knowing what the comp contracts are for the client and knowing what the team has done with other players" are key when negotiating a new deal. For Stanley, Miale was also negotiating a contract extension after the star player had a big year. In 2019, Stanley earned first-team All-Pro honors and played a huge role in helping the Ravens set a single-season rushing record, according to reports from NFL.com.

3. Be willing to negotiate more than just yearly salary

When negotiating your pay, Miale says it's important to think about not just your yearly salary, but other benefits that may be valuable to you.

"So in the Ronnie Stanley deal, for us the most important thing in terms of the contract was going to be the upfront money and the guaranteed money," she says. While the average per year salary is often what makes headline news, Miale says she knew it was important for Ronnie to not get caught up on that number, but rather for him to focus on the amount of guaranteed money he could receive even if an injury occurs.

In the case of an employee, Miale says it doesn't hurt to go into a negotiation meeting "being willing to give on something" in the event that you like your employer, but they can't match the full salary you're asking for. For example, maybe your boss can't give you the yearly salary that you want, but there is room to negotiate for a year-end bonus. Or, if finances are tight at your company and they can't offer you any type of compensation benefits, then maybe you can negotiate for more flexible working hours or paid time off.

Ultimately, Miale says, she believes that Ronnie's ability to "give on something like the average per year" is "what helped to get the deal done." And for employees, the ability to have wiggle room on one benefit in exchange for another important benefit could be the key to getting more of what you want at work.

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