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A contract negotiator works to reach agreement among all parties in a contract. This can include negotiating price or cost, if such factors are a part of the negotiation. It can also include terms such as delivery timelines, mediation, and severability. A contract negotiator may be a neutral party whose only goal is to reach consensus. He or she may also specifically represent one or more of the parties and be primarily interested in negotiating the contract in their favor.
Companies that process a lot of contracts may have in-house contract negotiators. Other companies may hire professionals. In many cases, such negotiators are attorneys or have a certain amount of legal training or experience. Some regulatory bodies offer certificates and certifications in negotiation.
When a contract negotiator is not representing one or more specific parties, he or she should be neutral. This allows a fair review of the terms and provides the opportunity to suggest compromises that work for all parties. In some cases, such neutrality is required, and violation of the neutrality rule, usually in the form of monetary payment or other recompense by one party, can be punishable by law.
In many situations, however, a specific party employs the contract negotiator. His or her job is to protect that party’s interests by “winning” as many of the negotiation points as possible. These points can range from striking entire contract terms to modifying wording to changing the rate of pay or deliverables timeline.
Parties to a contract often classify negotiation points by importance, and the contract negotiator needs to understand which points are critical and which can involve compromise. Often, a contract negotiator sacrifices one or more “nice to have” points in order to win a “need to have” point. For example, a purchaser might prefer a reduced cost, longer payment terms, and a faster timeline, but the most critical factor might be the timeline because of other commitments. The negotiator might ask for all three points but agree to let the cost and payment terms stand in exchange for the reduced timeline.
Much of a contract negotiator’s time is spent in meetings. These might be private meetings with his or her own client or multiparty meetings at which he or she represents a client. He or she might also attend multiparty negotiation sessions with the client.
In addition, the negotiator spends a certain amount of time documenting agreements and concessions. This might occur via e-mail but might also involve physical mail. Documentation of an agreement is extremely important in case of disputes in further meetings, so negotiators generally record very specific information about any discussions as well as times and dates.