Contract negotiation often means several consecutive days spent in a cold, air-conditioned, stereotype meeting rooms. Many times without natural light, speaking and listening for hours, getting an overdose of coffee or diet coke, eating sandwiches in the meeting room to save time etc. No doubt, we would all want to hear that, after a long day of contract negotiation, the best is to go out, eat some delicious food and have some drinks … because you deserved it. You did! But let us look at it a bit deeper to see if this is really the best approach.
From time to time, I go with some friends to have a long weekend of cycling in the Alps. We are just amateurs, looking to improve ourselves and stay fit in spite of ageing.
On such trips, what do we do in the evening before a big tour, planned for the next day?
Rather than celebrating, we try to get some healthy food to have enough energy for the day after. We talk about past achievements, the difficulties and upcoming challenges. We do this to be mentally prepared. We check our equipment. Last but not least, we get enough sleep. That overdose of food and drinks can wait, till the last day of our trip. And this attitude and preparation, we do it just for fun…
So, what to do after contract negotiation ?
Contract negotiation can be as intensive as professional sports.
Everyone expects a professional athlete to immediately “turn the switch” after a victory and think about recuperation and mental preparation for the next competition.
Face it, you are well paid to be a professional in contract negotiation and you believe you’re good at it! From my experience here are some things you should do, after the formal meetings, to make your contract negotiations a success:
1) Get enough sleep after contract negotiation
Many times, I’ve spent more than a week of consecutive days in contract negotiation with huge jet lag and hardly any sleep. After several days, fatigue made me loose my empathy, the ability to express my arguments in a positive way, to postpone a point when I could not conclude it.
Sleeping is essential and you should do it whenever you can. Eating light and healthy, without too much drinks, will help you get that sleep.
2) Debrief with your co-negotiators
Each member of your negotiation team will have noticed different things during that contract negotiation day: body language, side comments, deal-breakers, negotiation margin etc.
Spend some time together to go through what each of you has learned about your counterparts: Who is resisting on what? Why? Can you give in on that point and get something essential for your company in exchange?
After a long day, your team members may want to turn the switch immediately (and go for drinks) but this is oh so important.
3) Give feedback to your management and your back-office after contract negotiation
Management and back-offices are naturally curious to know the progress of the contract negotiation, day-by-day.
Even if you don’t have a lot of time, you must do the effort to keep them informed. It will keep the back-office teams motivated and the management engaged. And it will reduce your feeling of being “abandoned at the front-line”.
4) Launch those action points
You can’t answer everything immediately during contract negotiation.
Subjects for specialists have most certainly come up during the day. These require you to connect with the back-office.
Also fresh validations may be required if you will have to agree something beyond your empowerment.
If you did fulfill the previous point (continuous feed-back), you will be able to launch your action points quickly and get some advice or validation overnight.
Being able to provide replies asap is one of the best ways to prove your company’s reactivity. It will push all parties to a complex negotiation to do the same and find solutions quickly.
5) Prepare yourself for the next session
Contract negotiation involves a huge amount of information. You can’t have all of it in your active memory.
You should read, once more, those documents you will discuss the next day in order to refresh you memory, to establish the arguments you want to present in support of your case, to identify your fall-back positions.
6) Know when to stop formal meetings
Keep the actual negotiation time to a reasonable duration per day.
To reach a deal, many people believe you have to negotiate until exhaustion. Spending 16 hours a day, or more, in a meeting room will be counterproductive for achieving a balanced agreement. This, because you can’t do all the actions in the previous points. Furthermore, fatigue and irritation will unavoidably reduce efficiency. Explain politely to your counterpart that you have to go and work on these action points and he or she will understand.
We can say that, while it would be wonderful to enjoy life after a long day of negotiation, it is not to best way to be successful.
Contract negotiation is a challenge that can be compared to professional sports. It requires anticipation, recuperation, communication etc. These things take a bit of your precious time. Including the sleep, the first five points above will easily take 10-12 hours.
Maybe your fellow negotiators say “come on, lets have fun/some drinks until the early hours”. My recommendation is to resist a bit and have those drinks at the end.
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