Contract Negotiation With Clients – It's a Hit!

You've just started out on your own and, yes, the big day is here! A large contract negotiation with clients in on the agenda, and you're shaking in your shoes just thinking about it. Chill, it's not that big a deal. Most clients are human, and if you do your homework right, you should be signing that dotted line real soon. Contract negotiation with clients is a bit of an art, but mainly it's a very learnable skill. See how you can overcome your stage fright.

A negotiation process is not very different from staging a play. There's a plot, there are characters and the whole thing is enacted out, hopefully to a standing ovation. While a great deal of preparation goes into it, there's always the unexpected development which calls for on the spot improvisation. And that's the story with negotiations as well, barring a few twists in the tale ….

Rehearsing is everything. Start by laying down your goals. What do you really wish to get out of it? Do you want the contract at any cost? That's like deciding the ending of the play, and therefore, everything that happens before must lead up to it. So, do you have your script ready? This is the part where you determine the position that you're going to take during the contract negotiation with clients. Since some of the characters (read clients) are likely to follow another script altogether, you will also need to prepare for an alternative scenario. Have you defined the characters? Do a background check on the people you're planning to do business with. Does their reputation precede them, and if so, what tactics can you expect? What's the setting like? Make the effort to understand current market realities, competitive positions and key influencers.

It's showtime, folks! Finally, you're at the negotiating table. You've learnt your script by heart, but remember that the other party is enacting their own set of roles. If, by happy coincidence, the situation unfolds as planned, say your lines the way you rehearsed them. Else, move on to plan B – that's when you respond according to what the other guy says, but try your best to steer the conversation back to the original plot. It's important to keep track of what you're saying, so that you do not contradict yourself later on. That's pretty much the same as with a contract negotiation with clients, when your word must be worth everything. Finally, do not hog the lines. You're only one part of a larger drama. Give the rest of the crew the chance to say their piece, and hear them out. You're on stage, remember, so body language is everything. Even if you're not doing the talking, make sure you do not look bored or wooden. At the same time, if there's a little bit of villainy that's crept into the plot, bring on the heroics. Say no, if you absolutely have to!

Curtain call. In the final analysis, concluding a contract negotiation with clients successfully is what really matters. And for that to happen, you must give the client adequate reason to say yes. Which means, you can not be the only hero; the client must shine as well. If you're gunning for a happy ending, you'll probably need to inject a healthy dose of harmony and agreement among the lead actors. On the other hand, if the plot has gone astray, bow out gracefully. There will always be another day, another show.

Finally, our most important piece of advice, if you'd like some more guidance on negotiating with clients, do not attend drama school; visit instead!