The first part of this article focused on pre-meeting preparations ahead of a major contract negotiation. In that blog, I discussed the importance of making sure key participants and departments were represented in the preparatory phase. (See: Mastering the Art of Contract Negotiation, Part 1.)
In this concluding blog, we will look at the next stages in the process.
The venue or meeting place
Usually, a conference room free from outside interruptions needs to be reserved in advance, so make sure you have given the room administrator notice of your time and amenities requirements. Refreshments should be offered, and seating arrangements usually define themselves. Their group will sit on one side of the table, and yours will sit on the other.
Don't try to be overly friendly by sitting on their side. They may want to share papers among themselves during negotiations, and putting someone from your team among them may inadvertently create an awkward situation if they are sending confidential notes to one another.
Any AV equipment should be verified as working before the meeting begins.
In the pre-meeting, you already assigned an individual to introduce the members of your team and give brief descriptions of the role they play in your company. This can be very informal, or your team may have all the people introduce themselves while handing out their business cards. Their team will most likely follow suit. This is also a good time to indicate the proposed schedule or agenda. If you anticipate a long meeting, include comfort breaks and provide snacks or sandwiches on a buffet table close to the conference table. Make sure the coffee is hot.
Whoever initiated the meeting is now going to lead the discussion. If the visiting company wrote the contract and is bringing it to you, that company's team will present the contract and may ask if everyone has had the opportunity to review it and if there are any questions or issues. If your company initiated the meeting and wrote the contract, then your team spokesperson will extend a similar offer to your visitors.
Nobody on your team who has not already read the contract should be in that meeting. You do not want anyone on your team to be reading it while others are discussing issues. When a particular section is being discussed, the speaker waits until everyone is looking at that section.
Now, what I am about to say is probably the most important statement in this article. When you are engaged in active negotiations, leave your ego at home! There is absolutely no justification for using a negotiating venue to try to impress anyone with your superior negotiating skills. If you take any of the discussions personally, you may end up responding personally and unprofessionally.
One of the tactics of a skilled negotiator is sizing up the opposing team members, finding the weaknesses, and exploiting them fully. Also, assume that they have someone similarly well versed in these skills. Expect no contract you write to be accepted in whole at first pass. The contract should be biased in your favor to begin with. This leaves room for the negotiating give-and-take. Don't give up your buffer advantage too easily, or they will go for blood. Give up something, but only if you are getting some concession in return. If you find they are forcing you below your absolute bottom line, have a prepared response to which everyone on your team has already agreed.
You do not want your team members contending among themselves, so don't offer any surprises that may alienate your team members. Here is where you can respectfully ask if you may take your team to a place where you can discuss your collective response. When you re-enter the conference room, you will come back with a final statement or counter proposition.
Similarly, you may want to offer the other company's representatives the opportunity to discuss among themselves by taking your team out of the conference room for a brief time. After that time, knock on the conference room door, open it, and ask if they are ready to resume talks. These simple courtesies convey both professionalism and respect for your visitors and the negotiating process in general. Your courtesy alone may help gain a concession that could tip the contract back in your favor.
At the end of the negotiation, you will want to review any open-action items and the people and schedules required for follow-up. If all goes well, both parties will have generally achieved their desired outcomes and will be able to say, “We look forward to doing business with you.”