Have you ever inquired about purchasing services, received the business’ standard contract and had questions or concerns about some of the provisions in the contract? Were you hesitant to ask questions or ask for clarification? Did you consider just signing the contract and hoping for the best? Or, on the other hand, did you go radio silent and decide not to sign up for the services altogether? Too many potential customers do not negotiate business contracts because they don’t want to come across as being confrontational or rude or rocking the boat.
But did you know that most service providers actually expect that you will have questions or concerns about their contracts? Don’t think of it as being confrontational or rude, think of it as a way to ensure that you understand exactly what you are entering into.
You are giving them a big chunk of money, the least they can do is to help you understand what to expect in return.
As a potential customer, the way that you approach the conversation can make a big difference. If you do not agree with certain provisions, don’t send out a hostile email writing all of the reasons why the provisions do not make sense and/or are unfair. Instead, politely ask them when they are free to have a call to discuss the contract and ask questions. Any reputable small business service provider should be willing to have this discussion. If they are not, they might not be the right service provider for you. Before the call, do your homework – review the agreement and make notes of sections that you don’t understand, that you don’t agree with and suggestions on how you think it should be improved. When you are on the call, don’t just point out everything that is not going to work. Come to the table with suggestions in order to show that you are willing to work together to make the contract work for both of you.
Always keep the conversation professional and cordial. You may get the answers you need and the revisions you want. Or you may not. One negotiating tactic is to understand beforehand what you absolutely need and what are “nice to have” revisions. If they will not budge on your deal breakers, then you have…well… a deal breaker. If you are able to walk away and get the services elsewhere, then do that.
Do not sign a contract that you are not on board with or, even worse, that you do not understand.
Once you have both agreed on the changes that will be made, decide who will actually make the changes to the document. If it is not you, when you receive the revised document, review it carefully to ensure that all of the changes have been made. There are programs (including Microsoft Word) that allow you to compare versions of documents. Use them. Everyone makes mistakes so your job is to be the second pair of eyes to ensure that everything agreed upon makes its way into your contract. If it is not revised the way that you agreed upon, point out the discrepancies. Often it may have just been a simple mistake.
Do not be afraid to negotiate contracts. As long as you keep the discussion professional and friendly, there is no reason to be fearful of this process. It is the best way to ensure that the contracts meet everyone’s needs. Admittedly, some people do not have the time or interest or specialized knowledge to negotiate certain contracts. That is when you can hire a lawyer to do this negotiation for you. I regularly draft, review and negotiate certain contracts. Sometimes you need to hire the big guns but other times, you are more than capable to do this yourself. Don’t let fear hold you back. And definitely don’t sign a contract that you do not agree with or understand.
Do you negotiate your contracts? If so, what sections lead to the most discussion? Please let me know in the comments!