Contract negotiations can be frustrating and time-consuming. The problem? Many legal teams go into contract negotiations without a clear vision of their objectives and priorities. That lack of focus leads to unnecessary contract cycles, miscommunication with counterparties, and suboptimal outcomes.
The good news is that by beginning with the end in mind, you can turn contract negotiations from an operational weakness into a competitive advantage. If you’re not familiar with what contract negotiations are and how technology can improve your contract negotiation outcomes, start here.
1. Start with a draft.
Before authoring a formal contract to negotiate, ensure you and the other party agree on the main points of a contract. Use a straightforward term sheet. If it gets too complicated at this point, go back to the beginning and start on new terms.
2. Break it down into smaller pieces.
Getting one party to agree to wide swaths of a contract isn’t realistic. Break the contract into pieces that can be agreed upon separately. These smaller agreements will make up the larger contract, and this strategy will help avoid the “all-or-nothing” approach to contract negotiations.
3. Keep your initial terms simple.
Complex contracts with lengthy detail and nuance will further complicate negotiations. Start with simple and clear terms that everyone will understand, even if it avoids some of the more nuanced advantages of complex contracts.
4. Know your “why.”
Understand why you want to do business with the other party. Go beyond the competitive or aggressive mindset of getting the most out of the contract and aim to work collaboratively. How can this relationship benefit both parties?
5. Prioritize your key objectives.
Go into a contract negotiation process with a keen understanding of your top priorities from the arrangement, as well as how other risks or rewards rank after your initial needs are met.
6. Ask questions and understand your counterparty’s motives.
Get to know as much as you can about the other party’s interests and goals before starting a contract negotiation. By understanding that business’s motives and needs (or pain points), you can better align your negotiations with moves that support your company’s needs while still meeting the other party’s interests.
7. Come prepared with research.
Support your claims with appropriate data or testimonials from similar clients.
8. Don’t let emotions get in the way of a win-win outcome.
Business negotiations are just that — business. Avoid complicating the process with personal feelings. Eliminate “I think” or “I feel” statements and focus on facts.
9. Take a positive approach.
Express appreciation for the other party and what they bring to the table. Find points you can agree on. Set the tone for a contract negotiation process that will best serve both parties’ interests.
10. Take your time early on; don’t rush the process.
Take your time before, during and after the negotiations. Plan to complete research and required documents well in advance of any meetings or negotiations. Avoid making hasty decisions during the process. After negotiations wrap up, follow through on any questions or deliverables.
Becoming a Better Contract Negotiator
Interested in seeing how contract negotiations break down in the real world? Check out how Kenneth Carter, GC of BitMovin, thinks about the biggest contract negotiation hurdles for NDAs and how lawyers can work together to reduce them.
Negotiation processes can help you drive better outcomes, but they don’t address the process inefficiencies of contract. Contract management software can help streamline the redlining process. All parties can access a secure document and view changes in real-time. Learn more about how Ironclad’s contract negotiation and collaboration technology simplifies contract negotiations.
P.S. Check out our new guide to learn how to spend less time negotiating contracts, without exposing your business to unnecessary risk. Get your copy here.
Ironclad is not a law firm, and this post does not constitute or contain legal advice. To evaluate the accuracy, sufficiency, or reliability of the ideas and guidance reflected here, or the applicability of these materials to your business, you should consult with a licensed attorney. Use of and access to any of the resources contained within Ironclad’s site do not create an attorney-client relationship between the user and Ironclad.
- 1. Start with a draft.
- 2. Break it down into smaller pieces.
- 3. Keep your initial terms simple.
- 4. Know your “why.”
- 5. Prioritize your key objectives.
- 6. Ask questions and understand your counterparty’s motives.
- 7. Come prepared with research.
- 8. Don’t let emotions get in the way of a win-win outcome.
- 9. Take a positive approach.
- 10. Take your time early on; don’t rush the process.
- Becoming a Better Contract Negotiator
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