I recently asked a few of my former colleagues in BindView’s sales department to sum up some of the real-world lessons they taught me about contract negotiations. Here’s sales exec Matt Miller‘s response, lightly edited, with his permission:
There is no magic bullet but from working with multiple attorneys I can tell what really separates the best from the mediocre are the following couple of areas:
1. Work with the business folks to outline a cohesive negotiation strategy. Especially when working with clients where their negotiator works on terms and language. A pre call meeting with the business is essential to an effective negotiation session.
2. Separate business and legal issues. Make sure the business folks understand the risks associated with making business decisions but at the end of the day the business folks really need to understand whether something creates a business risk or a legal risk. This line is grey and the weakest attorneys I’ve worked with define everything as a business decision so they aren’t on the hook for making a call.
3. Understand what is important in the contract and what is irrelevant and be aware of the impact of delaying signature vs agreeing on a point. I had a deal book in Q1 instead of Q4 when we got signed paperwork at 5 after midnight. At 11:30 pm my attorney was arguing with our outsourcing client over the word “client” vs “customer” for over ten minutes then said you know it really doesn’t matter. I almost killed him.
4. Learned this one from you: When you get to an impasse ask the other negotiator “what are you trying to accomplish?”. Then work to accomplish their goal without compromising the language you were defending.