How to get what you want: four handy negotiation tips

Posted on: July 18th, 2012

Have you been in new business meetings where the potential new client is trying to beat you down on price and impose all their conditions on you? If that sounds familiar, here are four tips on negotiation that will hopefully stop you from feeling steamrollered next time you’re in new business discussions.

1. Know what it is you want

Spend some time before your meeting working out what you want to get out of it. If your potential client is a large organisation, it’s easy to think – as a freelancer – that you are going to be in the weaker position. But that’s not necessarily the case. What if you have the exact skills they are looking for? That puts you in a strong position. So it’s important to stand up for yourself and think about the outcomes you want to reach.

2. Work out your own non-negotiables

If a client is driving a hard bargain, you need to prepare in advance what your limits are. Beyond which point are you not prepared to go? So, when they get to that point, you know you can’t agree to their crossing that line.

For example, what is the lowest price you are prepared to work for? (You have to make a living, after all.)

What are the least favourable payment terms you are prepared to accept?

What about deadlines – are they demanding an unreasonable schedule? If so, when’s the earliest you could deliver what they want?

3. It’s a case of give and take

If the client says they only have budget for four days’ work but you know it will take five, find areas where you can come to a compromise. For example, suggest they schedule in fewer meetings so you can spend more time on delivering the actual work.

Or, if they say: ‘We want you to reduce your rate by 10% in return for a guaranteed three days’ work a week’, your response could be: ‘If I am to reduce my rate, I would like a contract that guarantees three days a week for x weeks and I would like payment into my account on a weekly basis’.

For each demand they make, they also need to give a concession.

4. It’s OK to say ‘no’

If the potential client is trying to steamroller you, and you’re not happy with the situation, just say that you can’t accept the project on those terms. After all, you need to have a positive working relationship with your clients. You’ll probably find that, after you have declined this project, another (more favourable) opportunity turns up.

What are your experiences of negotiating with clients? How hard a bargain did they drive? Did you accept the work?

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