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4 Ways to Get Everything You Want in a Contract Negotiation

By |March 01, 2021

4 Ways to Get Everything You Want in a Contract Negotiation

Every negotiator wants the same thing: getting exactly what we want every time we sit down at the table.

Believe it or not, it actually is possible to make that happen. 

You just need the right approach, which starts with these four tactics.

1. Making Sure You Prepare the Right Way

In high-stakes negotiations, you don’t rise to the occasion. You fall to your highest level of preparation.

When we talk about preparing for a contract negotiation, we’re not talking about doing your research. There’s a clear distinction between preparing to communicate and preparing to collect data, which we discourage. Using prep time to collect data won’t hurt you, but the reality is it’s a waste of time. 

Stop making compromises.  Download our guide to negotiating contracts and learn  how to never settle »

No need to spend a month acquiring information from different sources that the counterpart will tell you in the first 20 minutes of the interaction. Making good use of your available time and that of your counterpart is a large part of negotiating well.

Preparing for a contract negotiation starts with a sequencing of events. Even if you take 20 minutes sequencing out how you want the conversation to go—and coming up with a list of go-to Labels™, Calibrated Questions™, and no-oriented questions™—you’ll be in good shape.

To take your prep to the next level, start to jot down what your Summary™ is going to look like. In order to really get what you want during the negotiation, you’ll have to get a that’s right from your counterpart. So, figure out the elements that need to be in your summary to elicit that reaction.

2. Opening with an Accusation Audit™

That leads us to our next step: the Accusation Audit™, which is your opening move. 

Come up with 10 or 12 negative sentiments you believe the other side is harboring that might prevent them from making a deal, and rank them in order of how important they are.  Especially the ones that pertain to us directly ie: trust, expectations, brand, and of course time.

When it’s time to talk, kick things off with the second one on that list, end with the first one, and sandwich the rest in between.

Why do we end with the most important one? Because people remember the last part of any instance the best. The last impression is the lasting impression.

3. Utilizing the Rule of Three for Implementation

In any negotiation, implementation is the most overlooked aspect. This is even more evident in the world of contract agreements.

Take commercial development, for example. Skyscrapers, apartment buildings, things like that. 

In every construction project you ever see, nothing goes as planned. There’s an endless amount of change orders, and the final invoice is always bigger than the agreed-upon price.

It’s nuts to me. The fact that it’s a premise in the industry to have so many change orders that a $2 million deal becomes a $5 million deal makes no sense.

Why does this happen? Because implementation is completely overlooked. Our natural human reaction to the initial commitment or confirmation feels good enough, so we leave the room because we think they might change their minds if we stay too long.

This is why the Rule of Three is such a critical tool in contract negotiations. Get your counterpart to agree to the same thing three times in the same conversation. 

For example, let’s assume you’ve got your first two yeses. You might say something like: Let’s go back to what happens if there’s a change order real quick. Then, they’ll reiterate their position, and you’re good to go.

Wondering how you can execute the Rule of Three? Learn the Negotiation 9™.

4. Knowing What Kind of Person Is Across the table

Though everyone is unique, every negotiator falls into one of three categories

Before you get to the table, you need to determine whether your counterpart is an Assertive, an Analyst, or an Accommodator. This will give you great insight into how you should sequence your communications.

If you’re talking to an Accommodator, you’re probably going to want to set some time aside for a common-ground conversation. How are you? How’s the weather? 

If you’re dealing with an Assertive, you need to cut through the fat and be more direct. Tailor the conversation and let them know they have the floor. Let them spew things, and wait your turn.

When you’re in front of an Analyst, have a conversation about how the facts fit together. These individuals don’t like to negotiate because they think negotiations lead to arguments. Allow them to feel comfortable enough to share all their research. Think: It seems like you did a great deal of work before we got a chance to sit down. It’s an accurate way to open the conversation. To keep it on track with analysts, avoid asking questions.

Satisfied with not getting everything you want in a negotiation?

Of course not. 

Use these four tactics to stop splitting the difference and settling for less.

But your learning shouldn’t stop here.

Check out our free guide, Never Split the Difference: Negotiating Contracts™, to acquire more skills and become a more effective negotiator. 

negotiating contracts