17 Best Practices for Negotiating Contracts With Clients

While business leaders often face high-pressure situations, negotiating contracts with clients presents unique challenges. As a leader, you are tasked with navigating these difficult conversations while considering the needs and constraints of multiple parties and building a foundation for positive future business interactions.

Below, 17 members of Newsweek Expert Forum share best practices to keep in mind when sitting down at the negotiating table with clients. With their advice, you too can lead productive negotiations where each party feels heard, respected and satisfied with the results.

1. Prioritize Building Long-Term Relationships

Taking a long-term view is essential; leaving some things on the table is acceptable. Establishing relationships isn’t about one-off engagements but cultivating ongoing connections. The goal isn’t just the next interaction but a series of engagements, building a trusting relationship over time. – John Quinn, Quinn Emanuel

2. Remember That Business is Not a Zero-Sum Game

The most successful business relationships take place when both parties feel that they got a good deal. Business is not a zero-sum game—everybody can be, and should be, a winner. – Joseph Steinberg, CyberSecurity and Artificial Intelligence Expert Services

3. Find Ways to Meet Everyone’s Needs

Be creative. Leverage the “gives and gets” mindset so that both parties walk away from the transaction feeling positively about it. You may offer a discount, but in return, you might ask for participation in a case study or completion of an online review about your business. – Sabina Pons, Growth Molecules

4. Know Your Organizational Limits

Always do what is best for your company and your team. Never accept terms that would put you in a tough position and prevent you from delivering. When a prospect is unreasonable, walk away. Your business, your rules. – Krisztina Veres, Veres Career Consulting

5. Aim for Contracts With Mutual Benefits

The best relationships are ones that are honest and fair to both sides. When clients believe their business is valued and vendors feel trusted and appreciated, positive environments are created. The result is meaningful, long-term relationships between clients and vendors. – Jacob Kupietzky, HCT Executive Interim Management & Consulting

6. Err Towards Over-Communication

Please remember this: Crystal-clear communication is king. It must be crystal-clear and detailed so everyone is on the same page and meets expectations. If not, you’re setting yourself up for later detours, frustration and eventual failure. Be specific about the scope of work, deadlines, payment terms, critical path methods schedules and everything in between. – Alan Wozniak, Business Health Matters (BHM) Executive Consulting

7. Keep Going Until Everyone Wins

Always aim for a win-win outcome that understands and considers the client’s needs and objectives. At the same time, clearly communicate your own needs and objectives to reach an agreement that benefits both parties. – Britton Bloch, Navy Federal

8. Make Sure All Terms Are Understood

Always prioritize open communication and clarity in contract negotiations. Clearly define terms, deliverables and expectations to avoid misunderstandings. This practice fosters trust, minimizes disputes and sets a solid foundation for a successful client relationship, ensuring mutual satisfaction and long-term collaboration. – Anna Yusim, MD, Yusim Psychiatry, Consulting & Executive Coaching

9. Anticipate Your Client’s Needs

Learn to see things from the client’s perspective. Oftentimes, we want the contracts to reflect what we want, but neglect to figure out what the client would want. That often delays the negotiation. If we had spent the time to see it from their point of view, our negotiations might have become shorter. – Zain Jaffer, Zain Ventures

10. Remain Open to New Ideas

The best objective when I am negotiating is to keep an open mind. Be aware of what the client is saying and stay open-minded about the necessary amendments and/or changes they are asking for. If it’s obtainable to go forward with a contract, it’s never a bad idea to renegotiate. – Tammy Sons, Tn Nursery

11. Build Contracts With Room for Growth

Propose a growth clause or a provision for adjustments and reevaluation based on changing market conditions or mutual growth. It is a practice that acknowledges the dynamic nature of doing business and promotes a partnership mentality rather than a transactional relationship. Similarly, it is a strategic move that allows a business to scale and adapt efficiently to its clients. – Dr. Kira Graves, Kira Graves Consulting

12. Set Yourself Apart With Personalized Services

One of the best practices to keep in mind when negotiating contracts and terms with clients is to focus on value with unique benefits that differentiate solutions from competitors. Seek first to understand the clients’ needs and challenges, then seek to be understood by sharing customized value propositions that give clients a clear edge with innovative long-term solutions and efficient ROI. – Lillian Gregory, The 4D Unicorn LLC

13. Be Open to Compromise

Always aim to be flexible and ready to compromise in negotiations. It’s important to have clear and firm goals, but be open to discussing various ways to achieve them. This builds open communication and trust, which are key to successful negotiations that benefit everyone involved. Maintaining this approach makes handling complex issues easier and creates solutions that work well for all parties. – Gergo Vari, Lensa

14. Ask Questions to Deepen Your Understanding

Get curious. Negotiations can be emotional experiences that evoke a sense of winning and losing. Rather than provide solutions, ask questions. Questions make it easier to understand the motivators and perceived payoff of asks. One of the most powerful questions is, “Why does this matter to you so much?” That term, condition or concession is often hooked to a bigger psychological motivator. – Karen Mangia, The Engineered Innovation Group

15. Leave Yourself Room to Offer More

The best practice to keep in mind during negotiations is to never lay it all out in the beginning. That means don’t give them your rock-bottom price, all your discounts or bonus offerings upfront. People, anyone who negotiates, will always want more than what you are initially offering. If you put it all out there upfront, you’ve left no wiggle room to negotiate a better deal. – Baruch Labunski, Rank Secure

16. Find Opportunities for Mutual Success

There is always a symbiotic relationship to negotiations. Therefore, successful negotiations are mutually beneficial. – Darlene Andert, Accounting for Profitability LLC

17. Always Be Prepared to Name a Price

Never say “No.” Just price accordingly. – Warren Hurt, F&M Trust