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Contract negotiation requests are product-development opportunities

At my former company (I was the solo general counsel), if a customer asked for X in contract negotiations, we made it a practice to consult the appropriate business-side execs to see if X, or some version thereof, could become our standard practice. If so, we added X, in a version we knew we could support, to our standard contract form.

In effect, we treated customer requests as “product development” opportunities. The “product” in those cases was our contract form. After all, we had to “sell” our contract form just as much as we did our software.

We took this approach even though in theory it increased some of our legal exposure. We accepted the trade-off because we thought our legal- and sales-rep time would be better spent closing other business, rather than arguing about legal T&Cs that, in all likelihood, would never affect us operationally in any material way.

(Inspired by a blog posting by Tim Cummins, founder of the IACCM: Turning Problems to Opportunities.”)

As time went on, we found customers’ lawyers singing the praises of our contract form as the best they’d ever seen. For example, one customer lawyer said, when I read your contract, I wondered whether someone had already negotiated it for us, because it had everything we typically ask for; another said, I told my business guys that if your software is as good as your contract, we’re buying a really great product. That was an enormous help in getting deals closed — especially during the end-of-quarter rush.

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