3 Primary Negotiation Methods: Phone, In-Person and Email
After using all three in a professional setting for a few years, I think these are some general notes that can help new government contract specialists.
First, I prefer phone negotiations. They’re usually faster than the alternative and don’t give either side much time to delay, meaning neither side overanalyzes its interests to death. But you must do your homework. Otherwise, you may say something you will regret. If a break is taken, then have a set time to call in again. Otherwise, delays and second-guessing creep in.
As a side note, it is vital to limit conference calls with just a few people. Otherwise you will get off topic. This is a certainty, so accept it.
In-person negotiation is the most intense method, and it has its place. I find it is usually best to use this if you are getting to know a contractor for the first time. It is a good way to feel out each other and establish mutual trust.
An in-person negotiation is also where things can go wrong the easiest. Tempers flare, especially if the negotiation is limited to dollars, and hours and terms & conditions are off the table. You simply have little room to trade off and maneuver, leading to emotions that can boil over.
I prefer to avoid email negotiations. There is a tendency to overanalyze and second-guess everything. Being careful is prudent, but overanalysis destroys creative negotiating that comes with proposing multiple solutions. Email negotiations are also tougher to document for the contract file. You simply have way too many emails, email chains and broken email chains. It becomes nearly impossible to string together the documentation. For these difficulties, email is best used a supplemental approach such as receiving formal offers and quickly exchanging signatures.
Combining Negotiation Methods
Combining phone with email is the best way to go. Phone is quick and reduces the miscommunication that comes with email. Tempers are also less likely to flair because phone negotiations are usually less personal because you don’t see negative body language. When you need to send documents like spreadsheets, emailing them makes it a snap plus you have the documentation. Being on the phone takes care of most communication, and you limit your documentation to the emails with spreadsheets.
If tempers do rise, meet in person. This puts a human face to the voice and emails. You see, the other side is not evil (not likely at least). Remember though, in-person should be your fall back. It’s tough to align schedules, especially if travel is involved.