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Negotiations often get stuck in a deadlock as both sides refuse to budge. 

The result? Delays, higher costs, damaged relationships, and missed opportunities. 

The pressure to secure favorable terms while avoiding pitfalls adds even more stress to an already complicated process.

This post dives into the art of contract negotiation, offering valuable insights and practical strategies for negotiators of all levels. 

What is contract negotiation?

Contract negotiation is a dynamic process where parties engage in thoughtful discussions and strategic bargaining to forge a mutually agreeable contract. 

It's all about finding that sweet spot where everyone's interests align, and the terms and conditions create a win-win situation.

Successful negotiation hinges on the ability to identify common ground and explore creative solutions. It's not just about getting what you want; it's about finding innovative ways to meet everyone's needs. This collaborative mindset fosters trust and lays the groundwork for enduring partnerships.

Preparing for contract negotiation

"Negotiation is 90% preparation, 10% talking."

~ Sterling Miller, CEO and Senior Counsel, Hilgers Graben PLLC
Ten Things: Business Skills All In-House Lawyers Must Know
Preparing for contract negotiation

Negotiating is a game where winners are made before they step onto the playing field. To come out on top, you must invest time and effort into thorough preparation.

#1 Understand the stakes

Before diving into negotiations, take a moment to learn the deal's significance. Consider its potential impact on your business, relationships, and overall success. This bigger-picture perspective will give you the clarity and focus needed to confidently navigate the negotiation.

#2 Conduct thorough research

Research here involves gathering information about the parties involved, understanding market trends and industry standards, considering legal and regulatory factors, examining market conditions and competition, and studying past agreements and case studies. Dive deep into understanding these elements, and you can customize your approach and anticipate the moves of the other party.

Then, analyze market trends, industry standards, and any legal or regulatory factors that may come into play. This way, you stay ahead of the curve by staying informed about current events and developments that can influence the negotiation. 

With this information, you'll be well-equipped to make informed decisions throughout the negotiation process.

#3 Define your goals

Clearly articulate your goals and objectives for the negotiation. 

  • What outcomes do you seek? 
  • What matters most to you? 

Setting these goals from the outset provides a guiding light for your negotiation strategy. It also enables you to effectively communicate your intentions to the other parties involved.

While it's important to aim high, maintaining realism is equally critical. Consider your desired outcomes in the context of the negotiation and industry norms. Striking a fair deal that aligns with your needs while appealing to the other side is the sweet spot you're aiming for.

Also read: Rethinking OKRs, KPIs, and Goals for In-House Legal Teams

#4 Assess your negotiation limits

Identify your negotiation limits – the lines you won't cross. Knowing these boundaries ensures you understand your non-negotiables clearly throughout the process. It allows you to strategize and prioritize your concessions, protecting your core interests along the way.

#5 Build a strong negotiating team

Negotiating is a team effort, not a solo act. Assemble a formidable negotiating team that complements your strengths and brings diverse perspectives to the table. 

Assign specific roles and responsibilities based on their expertise. Feel free to bring in legal advisors or subject matter experts to provide specialized knowledge when needed.

“At the end of the day, we want to see the right outcome for the business. There are a couple of ways to get there, and we should decide based on our business, our talent, our current resourcing, our current experience, which way we want to skin the cat. Assess these aspects carefully to figure out who's going to take the lead on a certain area of responsibility and who's going to follow. But those should be outcome-based decisions rather than ownership-based decisions.”

~ Megan Niedermeyer, Chief Legal Officer,
Aligning Legal's Limitless Potential to Business Goals

A robust team enhances your negotiation strategy by injecting fresh ideas, challenging assumptions, and broadening your insights. They become your trusted allies, contributing to more innovative and advantageous outcomes.

Establishing a positive negotiation environment

Establishing a positive negotiation environment

Establishing a positive negotiation environment is essential for successful contract negotiations. It fosters open communication, builds trust, promotes collaboration, and increases the likelihood of reaching mutually beneficial agreements.

#1 Set a positive tone

Begin with a collaborative mindset, emphasizing mutually beneficial solutions and a productive relationship.

#2 Foster open communication

Foster transparent and open communication, encouraging all parties to freely express their thoughts and concerns. Actively listen and respect different perspectives.

#3 Be respectful and professional

Treat all involved with respect and professionalism, avoiding personal attacks or aggression. Address issues courteously and constructively.

#4 Find common ground

Identify shared interests or goals early on, laying the foundation for cooperation and win-win solutions.

#5 Focus on interests

Encourage parties to express underlying interests instead of rigid positions. Explore solutions that meet those interests.

#6 Engage in collaborative problem-solving

Frame negotiation as joint problem-solving. Encourage brainstorming and collaboration for innovative solutions.

#7 Take a solution-oriented approach 

Maintain a forward-looking mindset focused on solutions. Prioritize positive outcomes and future opportunities.

Also read: 5 Most Negotiated Terms and Clauses in a Contract

Strategies for successful contract negotiation

Strategies for successful contract negotiation

Traditional approaches to negotiation have long centered on financial terms as the primary measure of success. While monetary considerations are undoubtedly important, focusing solely on financial aspects can lead to limited outcomes and missed opportunities. 

That's why you need to innovative and practical strategies that go beyond the conventional mindset of "winning" or "losing" in negotiations. 

#1 Foster collaboration

This strategy is all about fostering a collaborative mindset and seeking opportunities to create additional value. Rather than viewing negotiation as a zero-sum game, where one party's gain equals the other's loss, explore ways to expand the contract's overall value. 

“True negotiation is not ‘I win, you lose.’ There may be times when that could be the case, but the party on the other side will hate you and will look for ways to screw you over the first chance they get.”

~ Sterling Miller, CEO and Senior Counsel, Hilgers Graben PLLC

Ten Things: Business Skills All In-House Lawyers Must Know

This involves identifying complementary services or resources that can be bundled together to provide a more comprehensive solution. Thinking creatively and finding mutually beneficial add-ons enhances the contract's appeal for both parties.

#2 Consider non-financial aspects

In addition to monetary terms, consider incorporating non-financial elements to enhance the contract's value. These could be intangible benefits such as knowledge sharing, access to networks or expertise, or cross-promotion opportunities. 

For example, if you're negotiating with a software provider, you could request access to exclusive industry insights or training programs as part of the contract. By looking beyond financial aspects, you can create a more well-rounded agreement that goes beyond simple monetary exchanges.

#3 Engage in joint problem-solving

This strategy shifts the negotiation process from an adversarial stance to a collaborative one. Instead of trying to "win" at the other party's expense, focus on jointly addressing and solving the underlying problems or challenges. 

Encourage open discussions, active listening, and brainstorming sessions where both parties can contribute ideas and work towards innovative solutions. By adopting a problem-solving mindset together, you can foster a sense of shared responsibility and increase the likelihood of finding mutually beneficial outcomes.

#4 Consider breaking the contract

While unconventional, there may be situations where temporarily breaking the contract can create opportunities for renegotiation and improved terms. This approach should be approached cautiously and only in exceptional cases where the potential benefits outweigh the risks. 

Breaking the contract can serve as a wake-up call and highlight the need for renegotiation. It can open up discussions on unresolved issues or stimulate the exploration of alternative solutions. However, this strategy should be used sparingly and with careful consideration of its potential impact on the business relationship.

#5 Introduce performance-based incentives

Introducing performance-based incentives can motivate both parties to excel and achieve their shared goals. Consider incorporating bonuses, royalties, or contingent payments tied to specific milestones or performance indicators. This approach aligns the interests of both parties, encourages a focus on delivering high-quality results, and provides a sense of shared success. 

Performance-based incentives can be particularly effective when there are uncertainties or risks associated with the contract's performance, as they provide a tangible reward for achieving desired outcomes.

Also read: Finding Common Ground: How to Resolve Contract Disputes

#6 Bundle and unbundle

The bundling strategy involves combining multiple contracts, services, or products into a single package. This can lead to cost savings, increased efficiency, and a more attractive, more attractive, more comprehensive offering to both parties. 

Unbundling, on the other hand, involves separating components of a contract or service to provide more flexibility and personalized options. Unbundling allows for customization and the ability to tailor specific aspects of the contract to meet individual needs. You can create more tailored and mutually beneficial agreements by exploring bundling and unbundling options.

#7 Leverage technology and data

Technology and data analytics can provide valuable insights during contract negotiations. Leverage market trends, performance benchmarks, and cost-saving opportunities to strengthen your negotiation position. Use data-driven evidence to support your arguments and proposals. 

For example, if you can demonstrate industry benchmarks that support a specific pricing structure or present data on cost savings achieved through innovative approaches, it can bolster your position and enhance the credibility of your negotiation points.

Also read: Choosing the Right Contract Negotiation Software

#8 Take the reverse auction approach

Reverse auctions flip the traditional bidding process on its head. Instead of suppliers bidding up the price, they compete by offering increasingly attractive terms or benefits. 

This approach incentivizes suppliers to offer their best, encouraging competition and innovation. It can help you secure better deals and ensure that the selected supplier is truly motivated to deliver exceptional value.

#9 Walk-away with grace

Walking away from a negotiation can be a powerful strategy when terms are unsatisfactory or other opportunities present themselves. It demonstrates that you are serious about your objectives and have defined limits. 

By gracefully walking away, you create a sense of urgency and allow the other party to reassess their position and potentially come back with improved terms.

#10 Involve third parties

Bringing in a neutral third party or mediator can help facilitate difficult negotiations and move towards resolution. A mediator can provide an unbiased perspective, defuse tensions, and guide the negotiation process. 

They can help both parties understand each other's positions better and explore potential compromises. The involvement of a third party can bring fresh insights, encourage more constructive dialogue, and help overcome impasses that may have been difficult to resolve independently.

“Unfortunately, many in-house lawyers — or their clients – treat mediation like a poor cousin to arbitration and waste the opportunity.  This is usually because of either indifference or the idea that you can “just show up” and mediate. Wrong!“ 

~ Sterling Miller, CEO of Hilgers Graben PLLC
Ten Things: Getting the Most out of Mediation

Remember that these out-of-the-box strategies are not one-size-fits-all. Adapt and tailor them to your specific negotiation context, considering your objectives, the nature of the contract, and the dynamics between the parties involved. Be creative, flexible, and open to exploring new approaches to maximize the value and success of your contract negotiations.

Approaching the finish line: Successfully conclude your negotiation with SpotDraft

Concluding negotiations is more than just putting pen to paper; it marks the beginning of a deeper relationship. This is especially vital in today's interconnected business landscape, where connections and collaborations drive better business growth. 

Technology plays a pivotal role in fostering these relationships. Enter contracting tools. 

These tools help streamline your contracting process so you can smoothly close deals and get to work. But you don’t just want to close deals. You want to build meaning relationships that turn one time clients to loyal customers. 

For that, you need a contracting tool with integrated Customer Relationship Management (CRM) capabilities. We’re a bit biased on this but one of the best contracting tools you’ll find around is SpotDraft. 

SpotDraft makes your contracting workflow simpler, faster, and smarter. You can:

  • generate and send contracts in minutes
  • build and launch contract generation and approval processes in minutes without technical expertise
  • set up workflows that automate stakeholder approval so you can track approval histories for internal audit purposes
  • Automate repetitive contracting processes, create a single source of truth for contracts, and quantify the value legal adds to the business

The best part? You’ll never get an automated “We’ll get back to you within 48 hours” email response from us in the middle of an emergency. You get help when you need it. 

If you’re ready to forge stronger connections while bossing your negotiations, try out SpotDraft today. And no, you don’t have to commit immediately. Schedule a demo, check out the software, and let us know what you think. 

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