At Gather we have a lot of different businesses and organizations under one roof -- from creative to consulting to financial and beyond! Linden Legal Strategies is the "legal" side of Gather's Community Partners and are this month's featured Community Partner. They specialize in offering legal counsel to businesses and we're delighted to share with you this blog they've written for our Coworkers and followers. Enjoy!
If you deal with contracts regularly, chances are you have found yourself negotiating on at least one occasion. Almost every day clients ask us, “can I ask for that?” or “Is that allowed?” when we talk about contracts, deal making, and creating policies and procedures for their business. And the quick answer is - “of course you can!” As long as your request is not illegal, we will work to find a way to include the terms you want. You can and should have input on the terms of any agreement you enter.
Too often, we see clients walk away from a potential relationship with a client, a vendor, a service provider, a consultant, or an amazing opportunity because they are too afraid to negotiate the few terms they don’t like. If you abandon the all-or-nothing mindset you can free yourself to get what you want. More often than not, the other side is far more reasonable than you envisioned and a bit of negotiating is all it takes to reach a deal.
Negotiation is a big word that almost immediately conjures up a dose of uncertainty and fear in our clients. We see the game of negotiating on TV and think it has to be like that. In reality, most people do not like conflict and do not have time for gamesmanship. They want to reach a deal that works for all and keep their business going. Perhaps they do not know you want something, or the term you do not like was left in an agreement from a prior deal. Communication is key. Negotiation is communication.
You can reduce your fear of negotiating by changing the way you think about the process. Instead of thinking you are creating conflict by raising issues, consider that you are trying to improve the relationship so it will work better for all parties. At their very core, contracts are formal documents that lay out the expectations of each party. They are not meant to trick or conceal aspects of the relationship. By viewing them agreements, a meeting of the minds, or a roadmap for how your relationship will work, you will be more successful in your negotiations.
Learn as much as you can about the other party. Start to think about the deal from their perspective. Understand why certain provisions or terms are there and determine how important each is them. This will help find middle ground, decide when you can live with a term you do not particularly care for, and infuse a bit of empathy and understanding into the process.
Have a list of the terms you absolutely must have. These are the “non-negotiables” so be sure you are clear on these in your own mind. Then, make a list of the things you would like to have and will work to get but are not necessarily deal breakers. Finally, jot down a few “give aways.” Think of aspects of the deal or contract the other side might like to see but that you are neutral on – offer them up at the right time during the negotiations to show you are acting in good faith and demonstrate you are reasonable.
Know the list of non-negotiable terms the other party has. If these are your deal breakers there may not be value in moving forward.
When you are negotiating, do more listening than talking. Too often we feel the urge to state all the reasons our point of view is superior when, if we stopped talking (to ourselves) and listened, we would learn more about the other side’s pain points, non-negotiable terms, and possible concessions.
Let the process work
Patience is a virtue and people need time to think. Most negotiations involve some back and forth, give and take, and TIME. Time for all involved to think, get creative, give a little, see the other side. As litigators, we attended many mediations. The ones that did not work out well were those in which the mediator or one of the attorneys had a deadline. They’d say something like, “If we are not finished in four hours, we won’t get it done and I am leaving. No point in continuing.” WRONG. The process takes time. Sometimes it moves fast, sometimes it does not. Letting the parties involved work through the process at their pace can end in much better results for all parties.
Sometimes a deal is not meant to be. It just is not going to work. That is OK. Be ready to walk away. You must know what will make you walk away (see the non-negotiable terms list above) and you must be willing to do so. Bravado, wavering, and then, caving in on the most important terms will leave you with a deal you do not want or like and that will, ultimately, need to be re-negotiated or terminated. Don’t give in because you are tired, stick to what matters, know what does not.
There are two points here. First, let go of little stuff that really does not matter in the end. Don’t sweat the small stuff as they say. Second, if you do not reach a meeting of the minds and have a deal, let it go. Perhaps it is timing or fit or something else that stood in the way. Remember there are other opportunities out there. Business is business. It is tough, but if you love what you do, it is worth it.
Ready to learn more? Join us on October 17, 2018 for a free webinar on Negotiation Tactics for Business Owners. You can learn more and register here.
Tanner Pilcher and Stinson Mundy are attorneys with Linden Legal Strategies PLLC, a Richmond, Virginia based law firm that works exclusively with businesses providing practical legal advice, strategic planning, and creative problem solving for today’s business challenges. Linden Legal Strategies is proud to serve as Gather’s Community Partner for legal services. You can learn more about who we are and how we work with our clients by visiting www.lindenlegalstrategies.com or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice nor does it create an attorney-client relationship. Always consult appropriate legal counsel for specific questions related to your business. Some states may consider this attorney advertising.