The Recipe for a Sweet Success in Contract Negotiations

Imagine that instead of negotiating a contract you are baking a birthday cake for your client. Follow the recipe and you will have a sweet success every time. Successful negotiators follow a sensible and measured approach to achieve the best result for their client. As a baker, I have learned there is also no “winging it” in baking. A well thought out recipe with quality ingredients that work well together will result in a flavorful moist cake that will surely satisfy the sweet cravings of everyone at the party.   

Here are a few basic tips for negotiating a sweet success for your client:

  • Start by understanding the difference between the needs and wants of your client. I recently baked a birthday cake for my six-year-old niece. She wanted lots colorful sprinkles and loads of pink icing. That would be a great outcome for her. But this is based on her narrow demands that reflect only the surface-level “wants.” The thing is these overly specific requests rarely reflect their underlying concerns, interests, or motivations. What she really needs is a pink unicorn glitter explosion that will be the envy of all the other girls at her party. Do the research.  Understand fully your client’s desired outcome.
  • Know that every word in a negotiation counts – as does every ingredient in a cake recipe. Every ingredient has a function. The way in which the ingredients react together is what makes the magic happen. Flour, fat, sugar, and leavening agents interact with each other to produce cakes of varying density, texture, and taste. Too much or too little of any one ingredient can lead to a flat cake. Certain words or phrases in a negotiation can have the same effect. The seemingly innocent phrase, “This is a good deal,” can flatten any positive momentum in the negotiation. Their reaction may be “for who?”
  • The way in which the words – or bargaining points – are blended together is also critical for a positive outcome. Similarly, the ingredients you select for the birthday cake are not the only things that affect how it will turn out. The methods by which they are combined can be the difference between a beautiful tasty cake or total failure. If you over-mix the batter, your cake will not rise. Be deliberate about each step. And know when to stop negotiating – mix until just combined.

Being an effective negotiator can be as simple as baking a cake – if you follow the recipe. Even expert bakers follow a recipe. Why negotiate without one? Baking the perfect contract can be rewarding for you and your client. And earning your client’s confidence is just the icing on the cake.

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