The Negotiation Checklist For Architects & Designers
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The Negotiation Checklist For Architects & Designers

Today I want to share a negotiation checklist that includes 10 of the most useful fee negotiation tips for Architects and Design Professionals. Let’s start with a question – why improve your negotiation skills?

There is one very good reasons why you should take the time to become a more effective negotiator –  because negotiations are inevitable and, no matter what your profession, age, or gender, you can’t escape the negotiation process.

Here is my negotiation checklist after working as a Contracts Manager, negotiating on behalf of one of the world’s leading architectural firms (Foster + Partners) and after a decade of teaching Design Professionals around the world how to successfully negotiate design fees and contractual terms.

(Note: To help you with your fee proposal and negotiation strategy we’ve created a free Starter Kit packed full of useful resources):

Fee Proposal Starter Kit

Negotiation Checklist for Design Professionals:

1. Understand your objectives:

Make sure you have a clear understanding of your objectives before entering the negotiation. You need to be specific about what you’re trying to achieve and the limits of what you’ll accept.

2. Be aware of time constraints:

Time can be your best friend or worst enemy during a negotiation. Don’t rush the process, just because you’re keen to wrap things up – you’ll appear desperate! Instead, slow things down and be patient.

3. Communicate effectively:

According to Professor Albert Mehrabian, 1981 publication, (Silent Messages: Implicit Communication of Emotions and Attitudes, 2nd ed.), 55% of communication is conveyed by our body language, 38% by our voice, tone and inflections and 7% by the words that we choose to use. Take care to make sure your body language is positive; your tone is calm and reassuring, and your words are precise.

4. Listen:

You have 2 ears and 1 mouth so listen twice as much as you talk. Ask the right questions and listen actively to the response. Your goal during the meeting is to learn about the Clients interests so that you can create options for mutual benefit.

5. Create multiple solutions:

Never offer just one solution as a take-it-or-leave-it approach engages the ego and encourages a more hostile fee negotiation. Instead always propose a range of solutions for consideration, based around the Clients interests (options for mutual gain). A multi-solution approach will help open-up the dialogue while also demonstrating your commitment to finding a mutually acceptable solution.

6. Don’t be afraid of a “No”:

Remember that it’s just as important to discover what won’t work as it is to discover what will work. Don’t be afraid of a “NO” as that will help you define what a “YES” might look like.

7. Talk with the decision-maker:

Try to negotiate with the decision-maker; if this is not possible be prepared for tiered negotiation and allow yourself to be accountable to a third-party too.

8. Keep calm:

Never be too quick to accept an offer or counterproposal and be prepared to support your requests with constructive reasoning (objective criteria). This means adopting third-party examples or comparisons, such as industry norms, publications, statistics, legal/professional requirements, facts and/or figures to support your requests.

9. Name the elephant in the room:

When there is an elephant in the room, name it and you’ll tame it. This seems counterintuitive. However, by naming the problem you’re demonstrating that you’ve recognized the problem and you’re working on a solution, thus helping to diffuse the issue.

10. When to accept/reject:

Remember that accepting a project with sub-par terms and conditions can cause more problems than it solves. If you choose not to accept a project, be sure to leave the meeting on amicable terms by confirming that the door is always open for future discussions. 

Let us know what you think?

Did we cover your top 10 negotiation tips for Architects and Designers? Let us know in the comments section below with a “Yes” if we did, or a “No” if we didn’t.

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Ready to Improve your Negotiation Skills?

Here are 3 resources that are available right now to help you achieve success with your design fee and contract negotiations: 

1. Design Professionals Guide to Negotiating Fees + Contracts (eGuide):

2.The Ultimate Fee Proposal On-line Training Course (CE/CPD points available):

3. How to Avoid Giving Away Free Design Services (Blog):