Professional Negotiator Services

Doc from United States asked:

"I am considering hiring a freelance negotiator to handle contract negotiations with my clients. Where might I find professional negotiators? How do I go about hiring a quality negotiator and paying them?"

A Negotiation Expert Answered:

While this article answers your question by sharing general advice on how to choose between the many companies offering you commercial negotiation consultancy services, you're welcome to call or email a Negotiation Expert to share more, and take our specific advice without commitment or charge.

Freelance negotiators are referred to as Agents. They are individuals who represent the interests of the principal decision makers. Agents act on the principals behalf with varying degrees of authority. The level of authority you extend to the agent is crucial and must be defined at the outset of the relationship. Professional negotiator agents are employed in negotiations because of their expertise, specialised knowledge and experience. Independent agents who specialise in business transactions or contracts usually designate themselves as "business consultants". Of course not all business consultants are expert negotiators. Lawyers who specialise in business contract negotiations can also be used as an agent. There are several key points to keep in mind when you consider employing negotiation consultancy services offered by a third party.

Whilst we are not in a position to advise on where you might find a professional contract negotiator, we hope that the below advice is useful to in you making your choices.

1. Establishing your role

Depending on your own needs and level of expertise, you have to decide what role you want to play in the negotiations. These roles boil down to being either Passive or Active.

We don't recommend our clients adopt a passive role. Your business objectives are best safeguarded by your taking an active participation in the negotiations. Your professional negotiation consultant works for you and not the other way around. There are pitfalls which you must be cautious about, especially if a professional negotiator is given too much free rein:

  • To some extent every independent agent is bound to have their own personal agenda. A commissioned agent may attempt to enhance their commission by negotiating a higher sale for example .
  • A specialised negotiating consultant may wish to enhance their reputation by doing whatever they can to make the deal happen. In the process the agent might be prepared to give away too many concessions at your expense.

The best approach is to take a direct hand in the negotiations to maintain control of the progress of the negotiations. Control will ensure the negotiation progresses in a manner which best suits your interests, time and skills constraints, and business objectives.

2. What is the negotiation style or approach?

How the negotiation is to be conducted is a crucial consideration. You must understand how compatible your professional negotiator's negotiation style is in relation to your expectations and the style being adopted by your clients. Positional negotiation (an example of distributive negotiation) styles can be confrontational. This style tends not to be overly productive or successful. Collaborative (an example of integrative negotiation) styles aim to reach a more productive agreement. The objective is to distribute the maximum available value to the satisfaction of both negotiating parties. Collaborative negotiations generally forge a stronger, more enduring and positive business relationship.

3. Knowledge and expertise

The extent of the agent's negotiation skills may not necessarily be enough. Depending on the scope and depth of the contract being negotiated, a certain expertise and knowledge of your industry can be of vital importance in choosing an agent to represent your business interests. The depth of knowledge required for the negotiation is clearly dependent on the extent of the issues at stake and their complexity.

4. Defining the agents role

In what capacity will you be employing the services of your professional negotiation company? A vital decision is to determine whether the negotiation agents role is to be very specific or general. Do you need professional negotiator to assist in structuring your proposal or offer? Do you need professional negotiator to act more in a consulting capacity to help you brainstorm ideas, or perhaps to design an effective contract? Will the agent be used to specifically negotiate the deal, offer legal or financial advice? Another decision is to define whether he or she will be directly involved in the negotiations, or play a support role.

By defining your needs clearly, your search for the most suitable professional negotiation services provider will be more focused.

5. How will the presence of a third party affect your clients?

How your clients will react to the presence of a third party negotiator is an issue which you must give considerable thought. How will you introduce the agent when you sit down with your clients? Will your clients react by becoming defensive and adopt a positional or confrontational negotiation style as a consequence? Or might the clients become intimidated or even offended by your bringing in a professional to conduct the negotiations on your behalf? The presence of a professional negotiator can also affect how the client perceives your own abilities, expertise and level of professional competence. Be very cautious in this regard and consider the reactions of your clients.

6. Payment

The manner of how payment will be made is variable and should be considered negotiable. Payment may be dependent on your objectives and the reason you require the agents services. The agent may also have their own payment criteria. An agent may expect a retainer upfront or might charge an hourly rate if they are acting in a support role as an adviser. An agent may ask or choose to share your risk and reward. This is usually done through the professional negotiator taking a percentage of commission based on how successful they in assisting you to achieve your sale or deal. The commission percentages typically ranges anywhere from 2% to 10% of the negotiated transaction - the risk or probability of success and time required to close the deal would be strong factors in determining the final number.

7. Time and Availability

Think through how much preparation and negotiation time you will require from your professional negotiator, how long it will take to close the deal, and when the critical periods will be. Your agent will need to be able to have the time and working schedule available to accomodate you. You would be advised to draw up a contract, with or without an attorney, and to specify your requirements in this contract. You may choose to reserve a specific minimum of time from your professional negotiator and pay them accordingly.

One final recommendation

Understanding and knowing how to negotiate is a vital skill every business executive or entrepreneur should spend time in acquiring. Negotiation skills are not just instrumental in contract issues but are also applied extensively in a multitude of business functions. Executives negotiate with buyers, suppliers, employees, service providers, leasing agents, and in many other day to day facets of their business. Negotiation skills teach us how to derive the best possible value from our business interactions and create more fruitful partnerships. Business professionals need to understand the negotiation process to learn how to confront unethical tactics and gambits and how to counter them. There is a great deal of literature available to enhance your knowledge. We also recommend you scope out one of the many negotiation training seminars or courses available to address your particular needs.

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