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15 Negotiation Best Practices for Consultants

Once in a blue moon a consulting prospect will sign a proposal without asking for any changes or concessions. When the moon is white, yellow, green or invisible to the eye, you’ll probably have to negotiate to win the project. Below, in their barest form, are 15 best practices that will help you close more projects at higher values with more clients.

15 Negotiation Best Practices for Consultants

1. Believe in your own value.

2. Walk in knowing you’re willing to walk away.

3. Always negotiate with the decision maker.

4. Get all objections on the table before you respond to any of them.

5. Fully understand the objection before responding.

6. Start with the easiest objections then move to the hardest.darwin_hurdles_objections

7. Be prepared for common objections.

8. Defend your prospect’s point of view first.

9. Be prepared with smart trades that add value for the client and you.

10. Protect the project’s requirements for success.

11. Start with the highest value and negotiate down.

12. Keep reductions in fees commensurate with reductions in value.

13. Never give different pricing to different parts of the same organization.

14. Don’t sacrifice business for “negotiation best practices.”

15. …what do you think?

I had a few more best practices in mind, but I want to hear from you to fill out the list. What best practice(s) do you always keep in mind when negotiating with a consulting prospect to win a project?

Add your ideas and experiences in the comments section below, and I’ll write back!

You may also enjoy these related articles:

Negotiation Best Practices (a couple of practices explored in more depth)

“The Fee is Too High” Objection



  1. Korel
    February 3, 2016 at 9:17 am Reply

    Tell the weakness first and then the strength.

    • David A. Fields
      February 3, 2016 at 4:33 pm Reply

      Korel, that sounds like an interesting strategy, but I’m not 100% sure I know what you’re suggesting. If you have a moment, can expand on that practice?

      • Korel Maral
        February 5, 2016 at 1:08 am Reply

        David, it is about establishing trustworthiness advertisers use with success: Before presenting strongest argument, they present a weakness.Then continue with “However”…Strong points overwhelm the weakness. In the context of credibility, it makes your strongest argument shine.

        • David A. Fields
          February 5, 2016 at 8:52 am

          Thanks for clarifying, Korel. Very helpful.

  2. Tom Borg
    February 3, 2016 at 10:15 am Reply

    Very solid guidelines to create a win-win negotiations.

    • David A. Fields
      February 3, 2016 at 4:35 pm Reply

      Thanks, Tom. “Win-win” is definitely a key. Oft said, but seldom pursued in the heat of negotiations. Knowing your prospect’s concerns and your potential trades in advance are the best ways to set yourself up for adding value to both sides during the negotiating process. And it’s very rewarding when you get to the final contract.

  3. Jaime Campbell
    February 3, 2016 at 10:54 am Reply

    Build in choices from the beginning so the client has room to move without jeopardizing the “requirements for success.”

    We recently created a nice win when we offered the core project at a flat fee and offered two add-ons that we thought he would greatly value. We priced it so all three together would be just above a round number.

    He wanted the core project most of all but asked if he could get all three for that round number so he could feel like he’s getting a deal. Why, yes, I said.

    • David A. Fields
      February 3, 2016 at 4:37 pm Reply

      “Why, yes, my friend, I’d be happy to do all of that for $100,000 rather than $101,230.” I like your style, Jaime! Plus, you’re absolutely right that offering alternatives in the proposal puts you in a much better place when it comes time for later discussions. Congratulations on the recent win.

  4. Diana
    February 3, 2016 at 11:14 am Reply

    To move beyond the tactics of negotiations to its strategy, I found “3-D Negotiation” by Lax and Sebenius a great help. One (of 3) strategies is to emphasize on the alternatives to reaching any agreement (BATNA) for both sides. They recommend spending time maximize your alternatives and minimizing your prospect’s. We do this naturally when we help prospects see how things will get worse if they don’t act soon. And, we can do #1 and #2 in your list more easily if we maximize our own alternatives to an agreement.

    • David A. Fields
      February 3, 2016 at 4:48 pm Reply

      Wow, Diana. It’s been a long time since I’ve encountered BATNA (best alternative to a negotiated agreement). Fisher & Ury were required reading back in the (long ago) days when I was in b-school. You’re right that if we know walking in that our best alternative is to walk out (rather than take a bad project) it’s much easier to walk away. That’s definitely a strategy worth keeping in mind. Thank you offering the reminder of that valuable approach.

  5. Mohamed Ghazy
    February 3, 2016 at 2:41 pm Reply

    Sound logical, sound good.

    • David A. Fields
      February 3, 2016 at 4:49 pm Reply

      If you can win on the logic (non-emotional) side and the good (emotional) side, then all is well, indeed. Thank you for the feedback, Mohamed.

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