The following is a guest blog post by Helen Leah Conroy of Piedmont Law Partners. Ms. Conroy negotiates and drafts complex agreements for companies that provide internet-based services. She specializes in in-bound and out-bound service agreements, with extensive expertise in global outsourcing deals.
Most people, including many lawyers, simply don’t like to negotiate. This often results in hurrying through negotiations just to escape the pressure, at the expense of the best possible outcome. It doesn’t have to be this way. The next time you’re involved in a negotiation, review and keep in mind these seven tips and you’ll be much more effective and may even enjoy the process!
- Start by viewing your negotiation as an opportunity, not a confrontation. The most successful players in any field are the ones who see problems as opportunities. They do it by asking questions and listening carefully. Effective negotiating is no different. As you prepare, explore with your client all the potential benefits that closing the deal will bring to both parties. Understanding each side’s concerns and overall objectives will make it easier to find solutions to unresolved points.
- Think in advance about possible sticking points and how to respond. Privately or with a team member, talk through—even speaking aloud and developing a script for—the points you anticipate being the most difficult in the negotiation. This will boost your confidence, which in turn will make you more effective.
- Learn how to answer questions with questions, especially on difficult points. For example, “What is your concern there?” or “Can you help us understand what you’re worried about?” or, once you know the other side’s concerns, “Can you work with us to find some middle ground?”
- Find better ways to say, “No.” For example, “I doubt we can make that work,” or, for an atypical request, “Why should we agree to that?” A longer version of the latter might be, “None of our other vendors (or customers) ask for this; help us understand, why it is reasonable here?”
- Don’t allow yourself to be backed into a corner. If the other side is negotiating “hard” by demanding an immediate response, simply say that you must take the point back to your team and that you’ll be in touch within a day or so.
- Always ask for exactly what you want. This is no time to fear rejection or confrontation—the worst that can happen is that the other side will say, “No.” You may be surprised with a simple “Yes, we can do that.”
- Don’t allow silence to make you uncomfortable. Once you’ve made your point, stop talking. If you keep repeating yourself and rambling on, you’ll not only communicate your lack of confidence in your position but you’ll inevitably start giving in, to your disadvantage. If you find silence awkward, make your point once and then say, “What do you think?” or “We’re interested in hearing your thoughts on that.” Then stop talking.
And when you’re planning for and conducting contract negotiations, also make sure that:
- All risks have been considered and addressed;
- The expectations of all involved are consistent and fully expressed;
- The deal is seen as reasonable, under the circumstances, by all parties; and
- The documents clearly state the parties’ intent, while addressing all contingencies.
Apply these tips and you will have served your client well not just in protecting his or her interests, but also in helping your client create enduring and satisfying business relationships.
For more strategies and advice for effective negotiations, check out CEB’s California Civil Procedure Before Trial, chap 46. And learn more about negotiation planning in CEB’s CLE program Overcoming Settlement Impasse, available On Demand.
Other CEBblog™ posts you may find useful:
- 4 Tips on How to Be Both Assertive and Effective in Settlement Negotiations
- When Settlement Negotiations Hit a Wall
- 3 Problem-Solving Approaches to Negotiation
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