Intro

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.

Analogy

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.

debriefing after contract negotiationsSpend 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.

feedback after contract negotiationEven 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.

stop contract negotiationsTo 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.

Conclusion

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.

Click here for other articles on negotiation on this blog.

About AfiTaC

AfiTAC.com is the blog on commercial and contractual subjects for the Project Businesses (Construction, Infrastructure, Oil & Gas, Power & Renewable, Water Supply & Sanitation, etc). Its objective is to stimulate reflection, learning, convergence to balanced contracts and positive dispute resolution. You can subscribe to our newsletter by writing to “newsletter@afitac.com”. You can also connect to our LinkedIn page. Engagement with the readers is what keeps us going. So, don’t hesitate to exchange with us by commenting here below, liking our publication on LinkedIn and writing to us “info@afitac.com”. 


Jan Bouckaert

Jan Bouckaert is a FIDIC Certified Adjudicator (President's list) with 25 years of worldwide experience in negotiation of complex construction, renewable energy, power and infrastructure projects. He is also specialized in contract management, project controls and alternative dispute resolution. During Jan’s career path, he lived in France, Belgium, Egypt, India and Portugal and worked for GE Renewable Energy, Alstom Hydro, Besix/Six Construct. He is a Civil Engineer from the University of Leuven (Belgium) and has an MBA from ISEG (Portugal). He speaks fluently English, French, Portuguese and Dutch. Jan is the founder of AfiTaC, a company giving advice on international tenders and contracts. Be welcome to connect on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/afitac/

3 Comments

Liaqat hayat · 17 March 2018 at 17 h 18 min

It is an interesting article but the particular problem I have been asked is the difficulties experienced in selection of successful EPC contractor out of 4 prequalifed bidders after evaluation of bids received.For example you have received four bids a,b,c and d.Bid a is lowest evaluated and you call him for discussion and it appears contain some mistakes and price could be further reduced.My question is that the reduction in cost comes under purview of negotiations and so this price discussion has to be with lowestevaluated only or with all four bidders afresh?

Contract negotiation team, setting-up a balanced team - AfiTaC.com · 26 November 2018 at 8 h 05 min

[…] Observation is so important in negotiation. Therefore, while one of your team is talking through a subject, the others should actively listen and especially watch. So much can be derived from body language. And not only at the center of the table. After the meetings, share within the team what has been observed. See also the following article: “Contract negotiation: after a long day of negotiation… 6 essential things to do“ […]

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